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UFC 267 card: Islam Makhachev vs Dan Hooker full fight preview

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UFC Fight Night: Makhachev v Moises Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight contenders Islam Makhachev and Dan Hooker will face off this weekend (Sat., Oct. 30, 2021) at UFC 267 inside Etihad Arena on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Makhachev has risen into the Top 5 perhaps in part on the strength of his reputation, as the Dagestani combatant has dominated his competition, but that list does not include any foes ranked inside the Top 10. Of course, a fighter does not win eight bouts in a row by accident, but it’s a testament to the power of both his performances and hype that he’s such a massive favorite over the more proven contender. Hooker, meanwhile, returned from a pair of losses and long layoff to put on one of the most skillful performances of his career to deftly diffuse Nasrat Haqparast. When the opportunity to fight Lightweight’s scariest new contender on short-notice emerged, Hooker jumped at the opportunity, and we’ll soon learn if that was a smart decision.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

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Islam Makhachev

Record: 20-1
Key Wins: Arman Tsarukyan (UFC Fight Night 149), Drew Dober (UFC 259), Thiago Moises (UFC Vegas 31), Gleison Tibau (UFC 220), Nik Lentz (UFC 208), Davi Ramos (UFC 242)
Key Losses: Adriano Martins (UFC 192)
Keys to Victory: Makhachev is a solid enough Southpaw kickboxer, but his Combat Sambo skill is the force propelling him to the belt. Makhachev is incredibly tricky with his trips and takedown finishes, and once on the mat, his brand of top control is absolutely smothering.

Makhachev has a 95 percent win rate because the wrestler understands how he wins fights. He strikes just long enough to set up his takedown/clinch entry, at which point, he’s usually several levels above his opponent and stays ahead in the transitions. Hooker is a step up in competition, but he was out-wrestled as a Featherweight, and he hasn’t faced any elite grinders since then.

Even if he had, the only good preparation for Makhachev is probably fighting Khabib.

In short, the usual gameplan applies for the Russian. He has to be wary of Hooker’s step knees and shifting left hook, but that’s only true until he completes his first takedown. After that, Makhachev is in control, per usual.


Dan Hooker

Record: 21-10
Key Wins: Gilbert Burns (UFC 226), Paul Felder (UFC Fight Night 168), Nasrat Haqparast (UFC 266), Al Iaquinta (UFC 243), James Vick (UFC on ESPN 4), Marc Diakiese (UFC 219)
Key Losses: Dustin Poirier (UFC on ESPN 12), Michael Chandler (UFC 257), Edson Barboza (UFC on FOX 31), Yair Rodriguez (UFC 192)
Keys to Victory: Hooker is about as tough as they come, as he’s opportunistic as hell. Add a well-rounded skill set and knockout power to the mix, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand why Hooker has scored some big wins at Lightweight and proven himself among the division’s best.

This is, of course, a difficult match up for him. Hooker is primarily a striker, and Makhachev excels at smothering such fighters and making their lives utterly miserable.

Outside of just being so damn good at wrestling that one can easily stuff his takedowns or keep up with his scrambles on the mat — like a Gregor Gillespie, maybe? — the only way to defeat a wrestler like Makhachev is to earn his respect on the feet. Hooker has the distance tools to do so: the calf kick, snap kick, long jabs and hooks.

If those strikes are landing, even composed wrestlers are more likely to make mistakes, too shoot from too far away. A poorly timed shot is worlds easier to defend than an excellent entry, and one successful defense can really rally a striker and build up his momentum while doing the inverse for the wrestler.

If Hooker can land early and move his feet without hitting the fence, he gives himself the best possible chance.


Bottom Line

This is a huge fight for the Lightweight division.

Makhachev is the heir apparent to Khabib’s crown and legacy. If he goes out there and effortlessly handles Hooker like he has all the rest of his opposition, well ... we might really have to accept that Makhachev is as good as advertised. I don’t know if he receives a title shot with a win here — Lightweight’s title picture is still complicated — but it certainly wouldn’t be unreasonable.

As for Hooker, he has a chance to derail perhaps the most hyped fighter at 155 pounds! If “The Hangman” can knock Makhachev off his path to the belt, it immediately puts Hooker back in the title mix, perhaps with a match up versus the victor of Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler?

At UFC 267, Islam Makhachev and Dan Hooker will meet inside the Octagon. Which man takes another step toward Lightweight gold?


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 267 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, before the main card start time at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 267: “Blachowicz vs. Teixeira” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.