The Film Room: Dan Hooker

By Kevin Wilson Jul 18, 2019
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City Kickboxing standout Dan Hooker will see action inside the Octagon for the first time in 2019 when he takes on James Vick in a UFC on ESPN 4 lightweight showcase this Saturday in San Antonio, Texas. Hooker started his Ultimate Fighting Championship run 3-3 before a four-fight winning streak put him on the map. A technical knockout loss to Edson Barboza stalled his momentum in December, but the 29-year-old Kiwi now has a chance to thrust himself back into the Top 15 at 155 pounds.

Hooker supplies the material for this installment of The Film Room.



Hooker is longtime training partners with Israel Adesanya, and the similarities in their style and fighting philosophy are prominent. Their games are built around footwork and the ability to use their length to set the pace and range of the fight. The major difference is that Hooker moves around more and is constantly circling the cage to create angles for his left hand. He will circle to his right and step forward with his lead leg to take an outside angle and set up the left. Hooker will also occasionally stop in his tracks while circling to his right, hoping the opponent continues to follow, which allows him to take an inside angle to set up the jab or a reaching left straight. Vick has historically struggled with fighters who stay light on their feet and refuse to play into his plodding forward style, so he could be in for a long night with the always-active Hooker.



Hooker also uses his footwork on the defensive side and has become one of the best evasive fighters in the division. Outside of his UFC debut and his most recent fight with Barboza, Hooker has only absorbed 233 significant strikes in nine fights. To put that into perspective, he ate 126 significant strikes from Barboza in one bout. Although his ability to evade strikes with his footwork was exposed against Barboza, most opponents have a difficult time touching him.



Hooker has enjoyed success with intercepting knees but does not use them enough. Since he is almost always the taller and longer fighter, these knees have a shorter distance to travel and work well against attacking opponents. Hooker relies on setting the range of the fight and is often flustered with aggression, but these knees are the perfect weapons to dissuade aggressive fighters while keeping the fight at his range.



Since Hooker is known for his striking, his grappling is often understated. Early in his career, Hooker initiated grappling exchanges often, and half of his first 10 wins came via submission. These days, he chooses to keep it on the feet, but we know he has the grappling chops to hold his own on the ground or get back to his feet. We saw him get dominated on the ground early in his career but he has been favorably matched with strikers for most of his career, so no one knows how he will look against an elite grappler. Vick and Hooker are far from elite grapplers, so expect this fight to mostly take place on the feet. However, it will be interesting to see who has the advantage on the ground if the action happens to go there.



Hooker often overextends on his left straight and leaves his hips wide open, but only a few opponents have been able to exploit this weakness. Maximo Blanco dominated hooker on the ground for three straight rounds, and Jason Knight routinely ducked under his left hand and landed four takedowns, a tactic which ultimately won him the fight. Similar to Adesanya, Hooker is exceptional at getting back to his feet. However, he has yet to be paired with a serious grappler in a division full of them, so it is only a matter of time before we see someone test him on the ground. Advertisement

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