MMA

Hooker and Chandler have huge chance to steal the show at UFC 257

Dan Hooker and Michael Chandler have a HUGE chance to steal the show at UFC 257… all eyes might be on Conor McGregor but the winner of the co-main event can earn a title shot with a statement victory

  • Dan Hooker and Michael Chandler have a real chance to shine at UFC 257 
  • All eyes will be on card as Conor McGregor draws in huge pay-per-view numbers 
  • If Kiwi or American can make major statement they could be in line for title shot
  • Khabib Nurmagomedov wants to see something special, it could be in co-main 

Dana White claimed retired champion Khabib Nurmagomedov was looking for something ‘spectacular’ from his lightweight challengers at UFC 257. 

And although the pound-for-pound king has gone on to downplay those remarks, insisting he has no hunger to compete, there’s every chance a new contender could emerge on his radar this Saturday night. 

The fireworks, the showmanship and highlight-reel finish are expected to come from Conor McGregor in his rematch with Dustin Poirier headlining the Fight Island event. 

Dan Hooker (left) fights Michael Chandler (right) in the co-main event on Saturday night

Hooker narrowly lost out against Dustin Poirier in a five-round war last time out 

But what if the main event fails to truly catch fire? Granted, that’s highly unlikely with ‘The Notorious’ taking centre stage, but there will be two fighters desperate to steal the limelight. 

Even if McGregor fights to a decision win, Dan Hooker or Michael Chandler could steal the show in the co-main event. 

Regardless of whether Khabib is inspired to return, the winner of this fight will be in a sensational position for a lightweight title shot. 

Chandler is making his UFC debut but will already be familiar to plenty of MMA fans having impressed in Bellator for so long.

Chandler is a strong wrestler with powerful strikes and a good pedigree from Bellator 

A two-time lightweight champion he is vastly experienced and although his record is dotted with five losses, there is plenty of hype behind him and interest about how he will fare against the world’s best in the UFC. 

He certainly talks the talk too, which certainly helps when chasing the likes of McGregor and Khabib. 

But the 34-year-old is wary of overthinking the need to finish Hooker in spectacular fashion. On Thursday he said: ‘A lot of times when you’re focusing on something it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that ends up not happening.

‘You focus so much on “I gotta be spectacular, I gotta get a knockout, I gotta get a submission – oh wait, Khabib’s a wrestler so maybe he wants a wrestling challenge, let me go out and wrestle Dan Hooker so he thinks I’m a good enough wrestler for him to challenge”. 

‘I don’t want to think about that. I want my performance to speak for itself, I want to go out there and beat Dan Hooker in whatever way possible and, truthfully, I know I can trust myself because I always go for the spectacular.

Hooker has really progressed as a fighter and says he wants the reward for fighting Chandler

Khabib Nuramgomedov may or may not be coming back to defend his lightweight title

He added: ‘I had a lot to lose against a lot of guys where I was supposed to beat guys in the first round,’ Chandler added. ‘There’s a lot more pressure when you’re going out and fighting a guy who you’re supposed to finish in the first round, and doing anything less than finishing him in the first round is a let down to a lot of people. 

‘Whereas now, now I just gotta go and fight the No 6 guy on the entire planet in my UFC debut? There’s not a lot of pressure in that because I’ve already cemented a great career, I’ve already enjoyed a great career and I want the fight to be able to take care of itself.’

Chandler could immediately endear himself to casual fans on Saturday but faces a stern test against Hooker, who narrowly lost out to Poirier in a brutal war last time out. 

And it seems the New Zealander wants to be rewarded for taking on the risk of facing Chandler when others in the top 10 turned the fight down. 

Hooker believes his style will prove to be difficult for Chandler to combat in the co-main event

At the pre-UFC 257 press conference he said: ‘It is not a good style, I bet if he (Chandler) could’ve picked anyone else it wouldn’t have been me.

‘Long, tall guy, my build, my game is built around defending wrestlers. The only reason I’m here is because everyone ahead of me turned the fight down. They didn’t want to take the risk. They didn’t want to risk their spot.

‘They come up with a bunch of excuses. Old ‘Charlie Olives’ (Charles Oliveira) saying he can’t make the weight,’ Hooker continued. ‘Dana, you believe ‘Charlie Olives’ can’t make the weight? I’ve got broomsticks thicker than that boy. I’m here. I’m taking the risk. That means I reap the reward.’

Hooker is a fighter who has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, earning wins over the likes of Paul Felder, James Vick, Al Iaquinta and Gilbert Burns. 

As with Chandler, his record is punctuated with a number of defeats too but in MMA, records can often be misleading. 

The old truism that styles make fights certainly applies here and as Hooker mentioned above, he believes the reach and defensive grappling he has could thwart Chandler. 

The American likes to put enormous power into his punches and bursts forward aggressively to do so. 

Chandler was the reserve for Khabib vs Justin Gaethje but will make his UFC debut on Saturday

Footwork and range will be key for Hooker and his precision and calf kicks may well end up being vital. If he can land a few solid blows to the leg of Chandler as he comes in, the ex-Bellator man will be far less effective as the fight goes on. 

For Chandler, avoiding those incapacitating low kicks can only happen with feints and timing of his assaults. 

It is an intriguing tactical battle and one that on paper at least, suits ‘Hangman’. 

With a Khabib shaped void to fill at the top of the division, the winner of McGregor vs Poirer has almost been guaranteed a title shot next and Hooker or Chandler need to make sure it’s them next. 

Dana White could put the victor of the co-main event in for a title opportunity next

Justin Gaethje is still to get back in the mix and Oliveira made a statement with his win over Tony Ferguson. 

So where Hooker or Chandler need to deliver is on the mic after victory. Everyone will be tuned in and an effective call-out would go a long, long way.    

Dana White will be cage-side plotting where to take the 155-pound division next so the powers of persuasion with fists and mouth will be equally important and worth tuning in for.  




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