#KiwiUFC: UFC 243 (Wednesday's Dan Hooker Focus)

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There is no shortage of #KiwiUFC intrigue for UFC 243 in Melbourne and lightweight Dan Hooker may be the funkiest kiwi fighter on this card. Hooker will fight Al Iaquinta in the co-main event/the fight before Robert Whittaker vs Israel Adesanya and this fight feels as though Hooker has been fired straight into a cluster of highly ranked lightweights, where Iaquinta awaits.

It was almost a year ago when Hooker lost to Edson Barboza in a fight that was tough to watch as a #KiwiUFC fan and I can't imagine what that experience would have been like for those close to Hooker. Straight up; Hooker was made to look like a human punching bag. Barboza consistently blasted Hooker with all sorts of strikes and while Hooker did end up as a bit of a punching bag, the kicks from Barboza didn't make for a pleasing viewing experience.

Hooker bounced back strongly though, defeating James Vick in glorious fashion. This KO win came with Hooker faking via his left hand, then coming over the top with his right and this resembled piece of MMA art - the type of art that City Kickboxing is now world-renowned for. Since moving to lightweight, Hooker went on a four-fight win streak before meeting Barboza and then bounced back with a win, so Hooker is now 5-1 in his last six fight and while there are some good names who have fallen victim to Hooker, Iaquinta represents a different challenge.

Iaquinta has fought Khabib Nurmagomedov, Kevin lee and Donald Cerrone in his last three fights with losses to Nurmagomedov and Cerrone either side of his win over Lee. Iaquinta also fought Jorge Masvidal in 2015 and fought Lee a first time back in 2014, all of which has put Iaquinta among the best in the lightweight division. While Iaquinta has established himself in the upper echelon of the lightweight division, Hooker is trying to move into that space and the last time Hooker made such a move, Barboza lit him up.

Hence, I'm fascinated by Hooker's performance vs Iaquinta. Even a strong showing in losing to Iaquinta will put Hooker in a good spot in a similar sense to how Iaquinta's solid performance in losing to Nurmagomedov gave Iaquinta a platform from which to progress. There is a wave of momentum behind CKB and this could boost Hooker as he would have been training at a high level in recent weeks, especially with a Australia's Alexander Volkanovski helping his CKB homies out with training; Volkanovski and the CKB coaches will be helping Hooker deal with Iaquinta's wrestling.

Given the striking prowess at CKB and that wave of momentum behind Hooker via CKB, Hooker's confidences and prowess with his striking should give him plenty of opportunities to cause damage on Iaquinta. Hooker's last three wins have all come via KO and the precision with which he dispatched Vick in his most recent win, points to Hooker being supremely confident in his skills.

Here's a bunch of Hooker content to enjoy...

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