UFC Fight Night London: Fight Focus

For three long years UFC fans in the UK have had to wait for a live event, that wait is finally over. An absolutely stacked card with an abundance of talented fighters goes down this Saturday, March 19th at the O2 in London.

It has probably taken me longer to pick a fight to talk about on this fantastic card than it will to write this article, but nonetheless I’ve chosen to focus on the featherweight co-main event between Arnold Allen and Dan Hooker this week.

This in an incredible fight, and would be worthy of a main event status on any other card easily. Dan Hooker (21-11) will make a return to the 145-pound division. The last time we seen “The Hangman” down at featherweight was in 2016 when he was defeated by Jason Knight. That loss prompted a move up to 155-pounds and he picked up some solid wins over the likes of Al Iaquinta, Gilbert Burns & Paul Felder. The New Zealander fell short against elite level competition in the lightweight division. Recent defeats to Dustin Poirier, Mike Chandler and Islam Makhachev saw Hooker move back down to the division where he kicked off his UFC career.

Arnold Allen (17-1) fought his first professional fight as a bantamweight but quickly moved up to 145 pounds where he made a name for himself on the regional scene, then Cage Warriors and the UFC. The Felixstowe man never got the chance to fight for gold at Cage Warriors but notched up four finishes in a row upon his arrival in on of Europe’s biggest promotions. His only defeat of his career came at Cage Warriors 69 when Marcin Wrzosek beat him on the judges scorecards.

Allen made his octagon debut way back in 2015 on a Fight Night card in Berlin and Allen started of his UFC tenure with a third round submission win, the perfect start. Solid wins over Mads Burnell and Makwan Amirkhani proved that Allen truly belonged in the UFC player and now the talk was if he could put together a title run. Spoiler alert, he could!

Allen has not been super active in recent years and victories over Gilbert Melendez in 2019, Nik Lentz in 2020 and a win over Sodiq Yusuff last year cemented his status as a top-ten ranked featherweight in the UFC. Allen can’t be too far away from securing a title shot, undefeated inside the octagon and a win over Dan Hooker on Saturday night would see him amass a nine-fight win streak. You have to feel that if Allen was to get his hand raised on Saturday night that he would have to be considered for a title elimination fight with a top five 145 pounder.

This is, in my opinion, Allen’s toughest test on paper. Hooker has been around the block, he has been standing across from some of the very best inside the octagon and you would have to think that he really fancies his chances to spoil the party on Saturday night. We know where Dan’s strengths lie, he is a phenomenal striker, his knees and elbows are lethal and Hooker has the ability to knock anyone out in the featherweight division. The clearest path to victory for the New Zealander is by using his length and reach to keep Allen at bay. Hooker can dictate this fight with his jab, I feel that he will be his most dangerous in the first half of this fight and I’m wondering will his cardio hold up in the latter stages. That is what I’m super interested, how the gas tank of Hooker will hold up. It should be good if Dan Hooker can dictate the pace while the fight is standing. I think that will be defined by what gameplan Arnold Allen brings to the table.

What should that gameplan be? Arnold Allen has some solid striking. We seen the power he has and all you have to do is go back and watch the Sodiq Yusuff fight. Allen dropped Yussuff with a straight left and then beautifully hid a left high kick behind that left hand to once again hurt his Nigerian opponent later in the fight. I don’t feel that he is going to have the same opening against a striker with the skill that Hooker holds. If Allen chooses to stand and bang with Hooker, especially in the early stages of this fight, I feel he will find himself in some sticky situations.

Arnold must use his grappling in this co-main event, it’s as simple as that. Allen is deceptively strong and it will be interesting to see if he will be stronger than Hooker in the grappling exchanges. What method Allen chooses to take this fight down will be important. He must not telegraph his attempts or shoot for the takedown from afar, that will leave the Englishman wide open for knees and uppercuts, shots that Hooker loves to throw. I feel closing the distance with strikes, securing a bodylock and pushing the fight to the cage will provide Allen with his best chance to take the fight down the the mat. Forward pressure is key, Hooker does not like to be on the back foot. I think if Allen can set a quick pace early and use a grapple heavy gameplan at the start of this fight that he will secure the win on Saturday. I’m so excited to see how this fight unfolds, it’s a real cracker in the featherweight division.

See the official fight card below.

Main card (BT Sports / ESPN+)

Heavyweight: Alexander Volkov vs. Tom Aspinall
Featherweight: Arnold Allen vs. Dan Hooker
Lightweight: Paddy Pimblett vs. Kazula Vargas
Welterweight: Gunnar Nelson vs. Takashi Sato
Women’s Flyweight: Molly McCann vs. Luana Carolina
Lightweight: Jai Herbert vs. Ilia Topuria

Preliminary Card (BT Sports / ESPN+)

Featherweight: Mike Grundy vs. Makwan Amirkhani
Heavyweight: Shamil Abdurakhimov vs. Sergei Pavlovich
Light Heavyweight: Nikita Krylov vs. Paul Craig
Bantamweight: Jack Shore vs. Timur Valiev
Women’s Strawweight: Cory McKenna vs. Elise Reed
Flyweight: Muhammad Mokaev vs. Cody Durden

Ian O'Neill is the host of the SevereMMA UFC Preview show and one of the co-hosts of The Auld Triangle - Irish MMA podcast. You can find more of Ian's work on the SevereMMA Patreon where he co-hosts The Chasing Pack and The Contender. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram @ioneillmma

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: