UFC on ESPN 12, the fourth consecutive card to be held at the UFC Apex, capped off with a phenomenal main event worthy of contending for “Fight of the Year.” Headliner Dustin Poirier eventually emerged as the victor against Dan Hooker. In hindsight, the excitement and ferocity of the fight shouldn’t have come as a surprise, given the track record of both gentlemen, and particularly Poirier.

Poirier, ever since his 2016 loss to Michael Johnson, has nearly been unstoppable at lightweight. Apart from his first fight against Eddie Alvarez, which ended in a controversial manner, he has only taken part in main events since then. He has defeated a number of top contenders in the division, including Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway. It’s not just that he beat these men, which is impressive on its own, but it’s the way in which he beat them. Every win that Poirier has earned since the loss to Johnson came with a side of bonus in the form of either “Fight of the Night” or “Performance of the Night.”

Saturday’s contest was no different. The fact that Hooker was Poirier’s dance partner for the night didn’t hurt, either. “The Hangman” likes to be aggressive, whether the fight is on the feet or on the ground, which is reflected in his finishing percentage. This most certainly showed against Poirier. At certain points in the fight — most memorably at the end of round two — it looked like Hooker was going to get Poirier out of there had he been given a few more seconds.


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This fight between two top lightweight contenders proved something else, too. It proved something about someone who wasn’t even in the cage. It proved just how good Khabib Nurmagomedov is.

Remember, Poirier has looked nearly unstoppable. Nobody has been able to beat him since his loss to Johnson, let alone dominate him. Nobody, that is, but Nurmagomedov.

While Poirier had his moments in the fight, it was yet another contest where Nurmagomedov simply imposed his will on his opponent. The pressure that he put on Poirier in the grappling department eventually led to a rear-naked choke in the third round and a second successful title defense for the Russian phenom.

Poirier may very well be the second-best lightweight in the world at the moment. If that’s the case, then how his previous fight with Nurmagomedov went is even more impressive to consider.

The champion’s upcoming title-unification bout against Gaethje is interesting, to say the least, and the most compelling fight of both men’s careers. However, the battle between Poirier and Hooker is a good reminder that Nurmagomedov is currently on a different level.