MMA Ratings Podcast

February 25, 2020

UFC Auckland: With Paul Felder Victory, Dan Hooker Has Earned A Really Big Fight

By Adam Martin

The main event of UFC Auckland turned out to be one of the best fights of 2020 so far, as lightweight contenders Paul Felder and Dan Hooker went to war for 25 minutes, leaving everything in the Octagon. The two battled toe-to-toe and battered each other on every inch of their bodies, and at the end of the five rounds, Hooker emerged as the winner via split decision, sending the partisan hometown crowd home happy with their native son pulling off the biggest win of his career to date.

The win over Felder will move Hooker up in the UFC rankings, as he closes in on the elite of the UFC lightweight division. At this point, he's only behind UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor, Justin Gaethje, and Donald Cerrone in the rankings. That's elite territory for the New Zealand native. It's only natural, then, that Hooker will want to fight someone from the group of big names.

Nurmagomedov and Ferguson are already booked for a title fight at UFC 249 in April, and Hooker hasn't done enough yet to earn a lightweight title shot at this point. McGregor is too big of a name and is waiting for a title shot, so Hooker won't be fighting him. That leaves Poirier, Gaethje, and Cerrone as the most likely options for who Hooker will fight next. If I were a betting man, I'd fully expect Hooker's next opponent to be one of those three men. No one else makes sense at this point.

Poirier vs. Hooker would be a really fun fight between two of the most violent and exciting lightweights in the UFC, but Poirier might consider Hooker too much of a step down in competition. Poirier has made it clear in recent months that he wants either McGregor or Nate Diaz next. At this point, though, it seems unlikely he will get either of those opponents. Hooker would make sense, but Poirier still seems more likely to hold out for a bigger name his next time out.

Cerrone vs. Hooker would also be a fantastic fight between two fighters who love to put on a show for the fans. The problem with this matchup is that both fighters are on the opposite ends of their careers right now. Cerrone has lost three straight fights while Hooker is on a three-fight tear. Cerrone, quite frankly, needs to fight someone who he can beat so he can get his confidence back. And Hooker deserves someone who is riding a winning streak, not someone on a bad losing skid.

That brings us to Gaethje. The human highlight reel is, like Hooker, riding a three-fight win streak at the moment, and he is coming off of an impressive win over Cerrone. He badly wants to fight McGregor, but the Irish superstar has no interest in that fight at the moment. With McGregor next in line for a title shot, Gaethje won't be fighting for the belt either. He hasn't fought since last September and at this point, he needs a fight. Hooker would be the perfect opponent for Gaethje to stay busy against.

After beating Paul Felder, Dan Hooker called Justin Gaethje out and said he wanted to fight him. Gaethje hasn't said anything about that yet, but the UFC would be smart to try and book this fight. The fans seem to want it, and at least one of the fighters want it. It would be an incredible matchup between two of the most exciting lightweights on the UFC roster today, and the winner would be well-positioned for a title shot down the road. Let's hope the UFC feels the same way and books this fight soon.

UFC Auckland
Paul Felder vs. Dan Hooker: Paul Felder def. Dan Hooker via split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47).

UFC Fight Night Auckland: Felder vs. Hooker took place February 22, 2020 at Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand.

Click HERE for more UFC Auckland Post-Fight Analysis

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