UFC: Classic in Sin City - NZ's Dan Hooker falls to Dustin Poirier in showstopper

New Zealand's Dan Hooker has fallen to a tight unanimous decision loss to Dustin Poirer in a bout for the ages at the UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas on Sunday (NZT).

The two lightweights delivered on the pre-fight hype by staging another spectacular contender for Fight of the Year at the UFC Apex performance institute, as Poirier prevailed on the judges' scorecards 48-47, 48-47, 48-46.

The Aucklander may not have had his hand raised but he did his stocks little harm, proving to those who questioned his credentials that he deserves to sit with the elite of the promotion's deepest and strongest division.

The former interim world champion has shared the Octagon with some of world's best and he was made to work for every inch by the dogged Hooker,  and with the ledger even, ultimately secured the decisive final round to clinch victory.

It was a jaw-dropoing showcase of the mettle of both fighters, as they traded numerous blows that would've ended lesser men to further add to their reputations as two of the sport's most entertaining combatants.

The loss snaps Hooker's three-fight win streak, although that pain will be somewhat eased by the $US50,000 ($NZ77,814) post-fight performance bonus - the fifth of his career - that he'll take back to Aotearoa. It's also his second consecutive Fight of the Night award, after his five-round epic against Paul Felder in Auckland in february.

'The Hangman' had the upper hand after the opening two rounds, using his calf kicks and knees to excellent effect in unison with his considerable reach advantage and landing consistently on the counter. Poirier also had success with his jab, as both fighters wore the bloody spoils of battle early.

At one stage late in the second round, Hooker looked close to forcing a referee stoppage, as he unleashed a torrent of shots on the fence-prone Poirier.

But in the third round, Poirier found his range and began to swing the momentum, as Hooker began to show the effects of the shots he'd worn. The American closed the distance on the larger Kiwi more frequently and was able to do damage at close range.

Displaying every inch of his experience in five-round fights, Poirier was able to shift into a higher gear in the final two stanzas against a waning Hooker, who was sporting a deep cut above his right eye.

The final moments of the contest were all Poirier, who took the impetus with his grappling to finish the bout strongly, landing shots from above against a spent Hooker as the final hooter sounded.

Both Hooker and Poirier were transported to hospital after the fight for further examination and will likely face lengthy medical suspensions.

Back in the winner's circle after a nine-month layoff, Poirier will now turn his attention to the imminent lightweight title unification bout between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim champion Justin Gaethje.

Given the emphatic nature of Nurmagoemdov's submission win against Poirier last year, the American's fastest path to a title shot lies in a Gaethje win.

That would set-up a rematch of their blockbuster bout back in 2018, which Poirier won with a fourth-round TKO, though the 'retired' Conor McGregor may have somehting to say about that.

For Hooker, there's no shortage of potential mouth-watering matchups. At the top of that list lies Tony Ferguson, while the likes of Kevin Lee and Charles Oliveira also wait in the wings.

 

 

 

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