UFC 281 Preview: Dan Hooker – Claudio Puelles

Daniel Cunningham
Mar 19, 2022; London, UK; Dan Hooker (blue gloves) before his fight against Arnold Allen during UFC Fight Night at O2 Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

Kicking off the PPV main card of UFC 281, will be a battle in the lightweight division. Dan Hooker (21-12) moves back up to 155 pounds after a brief detour at featherweight where he will take on grappling expert Claudio Puelles (13-2).

This is a must-win fight for Dan Hooker. Just a couple of years ago, Hooker was on the verge of a lightweight title shot. In a headliner at the UFC APEX, Hooker was getting the better of Dustin Poirier through two rounds. However, Poirier rallied and won the final three rounds.

Following that loss, he suffered a knockout loss to Michael Chandler. He did score a win over Nasrat Haqparast, but then was finished by Islam Makhachev prompting his move to featherweight. However, he was stopped in the first by Arnold Allen which made him move right back up.

Claudio Puelles is the one meeting him there Saturday night. Puelles enters riding a five-fight winning streak and there’s no secret about where he wants the fight. Puelles wants this fight on the ground. In his five-fight winning streak, three wins have come via kneebar.

UFC 281 Prediction

It’s very clear in terms of the game plans of both men. For Hooker, he needs to keep this fight standing and he needs to keep it at range. Range will be his friend here. Even if they are striking, close quarters aren’t ideal because Puelles is capable of diving on his legs.

For Puelles, it’s all about getting Hooker to the ground. If he can do that, he’s going to be in a great position to win the fight. Hooker has long legs and there’s a lot of areas to attack for Puelles once they are on the ground.

So what will happen? If Puelles gets it down, don’t be shocked at all by a submission. However, I think Hooker keeps it standing enough to win a decision. I think it goes all three rounds and Hooker’s striking wins him the fight at UFC 281.