Kiwi UFC star suffers submission setback

Author
Christopher Reive, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 31 Oct 2021, 4:12PM

Kiwi UFC star suffers submission setback

Author
Christopher Reive, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 31 Oct 2021, 4:12PM

Dan Hooker has been unable to halt the momentum of rising Russian UFC lightweight Islam Makhachev, falling to a first-round submission defeat in Abu Dhabi. 

Hooker knew what he was coming into against Makhachev, who had smothered his last eight opponents with his heavy wrestling game. The No6-ranked Kiwi looked good early, moving around and feinting kicks and punches while flashing the jab to keep Makhachev at range. 

However, Makhachev, ranked at No5, got the opportunity he needed to get the fight to the ground about a minute in. The Russian used a right hand high, which Hooker countered with a leg kick. That opened the door enough for Makhachev to change his level and catch the unbalanced Kiwi's legs. 

Once the fight got to the canvas, Makhachev got on top and began to weigh on Hooker. Although he wasn't doing any damage in the position, Makhachev went looking for areas to attack. While Hooker defended well initially, Makhachev was eventually able to isolate his right arm and lock it up in a Kimura armbar to earn the submission win. 

Despite taking the bout on just 35 days' notice, it will be a frustrating loss for the Kiwi given the way things unfolded. While he knew where Makhachev's strengths were, he was unable to stop the Russian from imposing his game plan - with one opening all Makhachev needed to get the fight down where he wanted it. 

While he won't move up the rankings, the loss is not a major setback for Hooker by any means. Still ranked inside the top 10 of the deepest division in the UFC, there remain plenty of high-profile match ups on the horizon for him. 

It puts an end to a wild couple of months for Hooker, who spent the majority of his fight camp training alone in his garage ahead of his September bout against Nasrat Haqparast - which was further interrupted by visa issues that saw him arrive in Las Vegas less than 24 hours before he was due to weigh in. 

After winning that fight, he was offered Makhachev on short notice as the Russian's original opponent was forced out with injury. Accepting the bout meant he would have to forgo his MIQ spot for late September in order to remain Stateside and train without restrictions. 

Hooker will now head back to Las Vegas where he will continue to base himself for the time being due to New Zealand's MIQ system, with the UFC expected to be flying his wife and daughter out to meet him there. 

He won't be the only New Zealand fighter whose family will be relocating to the US for the immediate future, with fellow UFC stars Brad Riddell and Kai Kara-France set for bouts in December in the US and both unable to secure MIQ vouchers to return home afterwards.