Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler, full breakdown + betting prediction

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Michael Chandler (+124) vs. Dan Hooker (-146)

Weight Class: 155 lbs (Lightweight)

It goes without saying that a Conor McGregor pay-per-view and build up will be dominated by one name. However, the highly anticipated UFC debut of former Bellator champ Michael Chandler has generated plenty of interest as well. Chandler will be making his first UFC appearance against a very tough opponent in City Kickboxing’s Dan Hooker, who always finds himself in entertaining fights.

Headed into UFC 257, the promotion has spent a great deal of time on promoting Michael Chandler. The 34 year-old made weight and was on hand as a potential replacement for either Khabib or Justin Gaethje back in October. This was shortly after Chandler signed with the UFC, so this more than illustrates the expectations at the sport’s highest level.

A pro fighter since 2009, Chandler was the face of Bellator over the past decade and has racked up wins over many of the promotion’s best. He last secured a quick KO win over late stage Benson Henderson back in August, clipping him with an overhand left en-route to a ground-and-pound TKO. Other than a bad stoppage against Patrico Pitbull, Chandler’s lone loss since 2015 happened due to an ankle injury against Brett Primus. The stoppage in the Pitbull fight wasn’t bad from the referee’s perspective, because Chandler clearly looked out, but he didn’t appear to be out in any way upon further review.

Chandler ended up avenging his loss against Primus via unanimous decision, so other than some unlucky losses, he’s been on a roll since 2015. Granted, the competition level isn’t quite as high as the UFC, but the drop-off isn’t nearly as step as the casual observer might think. Michael Chandler is an elite fighter, which is why he’s getting a top 10 opponent right off the bat.

As for Dan Hooker, he heads to Fight Island following a grueling decision loss to Dustin Poirier back in June. A wildly entertaining brawl, Hooker had his moments in the fight but ultimately got outclassed by Poirier. Prior to the Poirier loss, “The Hangman” had picked up two very impressive victories over Paul Felder and Al Iaquinta respectively.

As stated above, it’s never a boring fight with Dan Hooker. He pushes relentless pace and throws stinging shots. He does more or less just attack from start to finish, but it’s far from coordinating spamming. Hooker manages distance expertly and has shown that he can point his way to a decision by keeping his opponents at bay with his crisp jab. He will also throw a high volume of very debilitating low calf kicks that limit mobility as the fight goes on.

On the flip side, Dan Hooker is certainly “hittable” as they say. He has insane durability and will fight until he can’t anymore (quite literally if you watched the Barboza fight). Hooker has shown that he can wear heavy shots from some of the division’s more powerful punches and has taken so much damage to the point where I’m going to start worrying about it in a fight or two. Offense can be implemented against Hooker and he has been KO’d before, but he generally out-lands his opponents by a healthy clip.

As for Michael Chandler, he will have some physical edges over Hooker and probably had the edge on the ground. Chandler has heavy wrestling and I think a ground heavy attack is his best path to victory. He can certainly trade on the feet and has heavy overhands, but his punches aren’t as crisp as Hooker’s. He’s a bit sloppier with his technique, which is something a fighter like Hooker will pick apart.

Ultimately, this has the potential to be a very close fight that could go either way. I do like Dan Hooker to win, however, and I think he will get it done by points.

Hooker is quite good on the ground himself and certainly isn’t a fish out of water there. He can threaten submissions and uses his long legs to get out of tricky positions. If Chandler is able to land a take down or two, I doubt he’ll be able to hold Dan Hooker down for full rounds. When the fight is standing, I expect Hooker to pull away rather easily. Sure, he could crash forward too brazenly and get clipped, but I don’t see it. City Kickboxing game plans very well and I’m sure they’ll be looking out from heavy overhands down the middle. Hooker also has great knees that he can throw, or at least feint in order to fend off take downs.

From a betting perspective, Dan Hooker by points at (+310) is a great value. Hooker is more of a “break you down” knockout fighter rather than a “take your head off with one punch” type. So I’m not sure why he’s projected to get the finish against Chandler. At the very least, I expect a highly motivated Chandler to dog his way to a decision.

Since this a volatile fight and we’ve yet to see Chandler in the UFC, I wouldn’t recommend laying a whole lot on this one. A parlay of McGregor by KO (now at (-195 via FanDuel) and Hooker by points yields great odds of (+520). I put $25 on that and $25 on Hooker by points straight up. I also had another parlay of Hooker vs. Chandler to go the distance combined with Ottman Azaitar to win by KO, but that fight is now off. Still, it serves as a good hedge.

Prediction and play: Dan Hooker by points (+310)

RELATED: Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier, full breakdown + betting analysis

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