Hooker dominated Iaquinta via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26) in the co-main event of UFC 243 in front of more than 57,000 fans in Melbourne, Australia. Hooker used his 5-inch reach advantage against the willing Iaquinta brilliantly for all three rounds. By the end, Iaquinta's right eye was nearly closed and he was bleeding profusely from his nose. Hooker's low leg kicks forced Iaquinta to switch stances beginning in the second round.
"It was a dominant performance," Hooker said. "Man, he's a tough guy. Credit to him. He took shots that would have put out a lot of guys.
"There was no point over the fight that I was in any trouble. I'm very happy with the performance. Before the fight, he was saying we were just two tough guys, but he was going to prove he's the better fighter. So I had a chip on my shoulder. So instead of out-toughing him, I outclassed him."
It was perhaps Hooker's best career victory, considering the fashion in which he did it and the quality of competition. Iaquinta came in ranked No. 6 in ESPN's MMA lightweight rankings.
Afterward, Hooker called out former interim champion Dustin Poirier in his post-fight interview with Jon Anik.
"Dustin Poirier, I'm gonna smash your face in," Hooker said. "Meet me in New Zealand, 2020. And I'm gonna end you."
Poirier wasn't too enthused as he tweeted out that he's hoping to face Connor Mcgregor next.
I'm fighting the Irishman next. You're close but not yet buddy keep punching @danthehangman— The Diamond (@DustinPoirier) October 6, 2019
Hooker hurt Iaquinta with those leg kicks starting from the first round. His jabs kept Iaquinta at bay. In the second, Hooker dropped Iaquinta with a right hand. Iaquinta managed to survive and recover, but he struggled to get inside Hooker's range.
Iaquinta landed three hard right hands in the second and third rounds. But Hooker landed two good right hands of his own in the third, and by the third Iaquinta's face was covered with blood. Hooker landed a standing left elbow with Iaquinta coming in during the third and dropped him again with a leg kick.
Hooker (19-8) has now won two straight and six of his last seven. The New Zealand native finished all of his UFC victories up until Saturday. Hooker, 29, is now 6-1 since moving up from featherweight to lightweight. Iaquinta (14-6-1), a 32-year-old New Yorker, has dropped two straight and three of his last four.
Spivac took Tuivasa down at will, bloodied him with an elbow and then choked him out using an arm triangle at 3:14 of the first round. Tuivasa threw hard in the opening minutes, hurting Spivac with his hands and dropping him with a leg kick. But Spivac took over as Tuivasa slowed down, putting him down with a variety of takedowns and throws.
Late in the first round, Spivac tossed Tuivasa to the ground with a head-and-arm toss and had what appeared to be a tight bulldog choke. Tuivasa escaped, but Spivac took him down again to end the round. In the second, it was more of the same. Spivac landed a double-leg takedown, worked to mount and the finish came soon after.
Spivac (10-1) earned his first UFC victory after dropping his debut in May. The 24-year-old Ukraine native seems like one to watch in the future in the heavyweight division. Tuivasa (8-3), a 26-year-old Aussie, has dropped three straight.
Spivac cashed in as a +320 betting underdog.
"It was a very fun fight for me," Spivac said. "There is a lot of pressure on you when you fight someone in their territory. But these are the types of fights that are worth more than anywhere else."
Very quietly, the younger fighting Lima brother has put together a nice run. Lima, using his family's trademark hard leg kicks early and often, beat Jumeau by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28) in one of his best performances to date.
Lima's older brother, Douglas, is a former two-time Bellator welterweight champion and one of the world's best welterweight fighters. Douglas was in his brother's corner on Saturday.
Dhiego Lima pounded Jumeau's leg in the first round and dropped him with a kick to the calf in the second round. Jumeau hurt Lima with an uppercut in the second, but Lima countered with a left hook that wobbled his opponent. In the third, Lima stayed with his leg kicks and landed nice punching combinations to cement the victory. Lima (15-7) has won three straight after snapping a three-fight losing streak. The 30-year-old Brazilian, who lives and trains in Georgia, was cut by the UFC in 2015 but returned two years ago and has found his footing. Jumeau (13-5), a 31-year-old New Zealand native, is 2-2 in his past four fights.
"I'm more technical, but he had really good distance with his boxing," Lima said. "That's why I went to the kicks. I was landing my kicks and had to keep throwing them. I kept jabbing to make him back up and kick him, because he had really good distance with his hands. I knew that coming in, but he still surprised me.
"This is the most confident I've ever been before they announce a decision. Then they go and say 29-28 Luke and I'm like 'Come on!' I've got to start finishing more fights. It sucked. I thought I clearly won."
De Castro breaks down KO win
Yorgan De Castro says it was either him or Justin Tafa that would be nailed with a big punch at UFC 243. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Tafa trains with Mark Hunt, but it was De Castro who landed a walk-off knockout befitting of Hunt, the MMA and kickboxing legend.
With Tafa blitzing on attack, De Castro landed a vicious right hook that put Tafa out before he touched the ground. The fight was stopped at 2:10 of the first round.
"I might look like I'm a little bit chubby," De Castro said. "But I got power in my legs. I got power in my hands."
De Castro (6-0) came into the UFC after knocking out Alton Meeks on Dana White's Contender Series in June. The 31-year-old Massachusetts resident said he wants to fight again in December so he can continue to make money for his family. Tafa (3-1), a 25-year-old Australia native, was making his UFC debut.
"This is my time," De Castro said. "I'm born for this. When I was walking to the Octagon, I just wanted to cry and thank God at the same time. Not many people get to live their dreams. I'm living mine right now. I want to fight again in December. I want to fight again soon. Whenever, against whoever -- I want to fight."
No, it wasn't the prettiest performance, but surely Matthews will take it coming off a loss. Matthews secured a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) win over Akman despite playing Akman's own game. Matthews told Jon Anik in the post-fight interview that his initial plan was to take Akman down, but he heard the announcers say he was a good striker, so he decided to stand up with him.
"That's just what we Aussies do," Matthews said.
Matthews did out-strike Akman throughout a relatively uneventful bout. Matthews scored a takedown in the third to all but seal the outcome. Matthews (15-4) has won four of his past five fights. The 25-year-old is still attempting to fulfill the potential many thought he had when he debuted in the UFC in 2014 as a 19-year-old. Akman (6-2), a 27-year-old from Sweden, has lost two straight to start his UFC run.
"It's hard for the fans to understand, but if he was a top-10 fighter, I would have swung for the fences," Matthews said. "This was a very dangerous fight for me. He's a relative newcomer, and I've been here for 12 fights. I had to show that maturity and experience. I felt completely in control. Most of my fights are a blur, but this one I was aware of everything going on. I'm very happy with that. I got the win, which is the main thing.
Potter and Pitolo do some phone booth fighting
Callan Potter and Maki Pitolo tee off on each other with an epic series of punches in Round 1. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
In a fight that featured plenty of uncontested punches to the head, it might have been wrestling and grappling that won it. Potter sealed a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) win over Pitolo with a pair of big takedowns in the third round of a welterweight bout. Pitolo landed some big punches in the first, and Potter rallied in the second with some hard shots against the cage.
In the third, Potter landed blows on the ground after getting Pitolo to the mat. The second takedown was a slick lateral drop to counter a Pitolo single-leg takedown attempt.
"If I get on top of people, normally it's over," Potter said. "He was good to defend the submissions."
Potter (18-8) earned his first UFC victory after dropping his debut at UFC 234 in February. The 35-year-old Australia native is 2-2 in his past four fights. This was only his second win via decision. Pitolo (12-5), a 28-year-old Hawai'i native, was making his UFC debut after impressing on Dana White's Contender Series in July.
"Even though I'm getting older, I'm showing I have the skills to fight at the top level," Potter said. "I'd like to have a bit of a rest, but my last two fights have been in Melbourne. I'd like to travel the world and maybe get that Vegas experience in my next fight."
Riddell levels Mullarkey from his knees
With both fighters on their knees in the final seconds, Brad Riddell hammers Jamie Mullarkey with a right hand. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
It was a good start to the card for New Zealand's City Kickboxing.
Riddell, Adesanya's training partner, earned a unanimous decision (30-26, 30-6, 29-27) victory over Mullarkey in a back-and-forth brawl. In the third, both men were rocked, exhausted and threw just about everything at one another. By the end, both were bleeding from their faces, and Mullarkey's left ear was so swollen it looked like it would pop if a blow landed to it.
Riddell, 28, did most of the damage throughout. He had the sharper striking, landing beautiful combos, including some very nice left hooks to the body. Mullarkey was able to get Riddell down and do damage from top position in the second. In the third, Mullarkey dropped Riddell with a left hook. But Riddell recovered and poured it on with huge punches. At one point, Riddell landed a nasty left-hook-to-the-body-right-elbow combination.
Riddell (7-1) has won four in a row. This was the New Zealand native's UFC debut. Mullarkey (12-3), a 25-year-old Aussie, had a four-fight winning streak snapped. He was also making his UFC debut.
"This is the best debut I could have ever had, on the best card I've ever been on," Riddell said. "He's pretty tough. It definitely wasn't my best performance, but I got a win."
Anderson gets emotional after big home soil win
Megan Anderson shows the Marvel Stadium crowd just how much it meant to return to fight in Australia and pick up an impressive submission win.
Apparently, Anderson, a 6-foot Australian, saves her submissions for her home country. The last time Anderson earned a submission victory was in 2014 -- also the last time she fought in Australia. It was only the fourth triangle choke finish of the year in the UFC.
Fairn closed the distance aggressively to start. Anderson pulled her into a clinch, took her down and got into full mount. When Fairn attempted to sweep, Anderson transitioned into a nice triangle from the bottom. Anderson (9-4), the former Invicta FC women's featherweight champion, was coming off a first-round submission loss to Felicia Spencer and is known for her striking, not her ground game. The 29-year-old slugger has now won two of her last three fights. Fairn (6-3), a 32-year-old France native, was making her UFC debut.
"I feel amazing," Anderson said. "I know I haven't fought to my potential in my last couple fights. I wanted to show who I am. I'm a well-rounded fighter, and it's amazing to come home to Australia. I needed to prove to myself that I'm one of the best in the world. I can't wait for what's next.
"This is amazing for me to have a clean-cut finish, especially from a position a lot of people thought I wasn't good at. I've worked so hard and am excited to show who I am. I'm more than just a striker."
Ref pauses fight after Kassem loses mouthguard
Yi Jeon Jim unleashes a series of punches that cause Nadia Kassem to lose her mouthguard, and the ref pauses the fight briefly. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
From ESPN Sports & Information Group: It was the second career KO/TKO win for Kim and the first since May 2015. She has won two of her last three UFC fights. Kim was the -175 favorite. Kassem lost her second consecutive fight, both by stoppage.
Taha clips Silva early in fight
Khalif Taha nails Bruno Silva with a right and left combo that sends Silva to the mat briefly in Round 1. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
"He was very good on the ground," Taha said. "He has good control, but he wasn't that dangerous. I knew I was going to finish him. In the third, I started to land ground-and-pound. I felt he was done. He moved and gave me the side choke. I trained it so much and got him.
"I don't want to call out anyone, but I would like to fight anyone who moves me up the ranks. So I'll keep that for my management and the UFC. I just want to say thanks."
From ESPN Sports & Information Group: It was the third-career submission win for Taha, extending his win streak to two after losing his UFC debut in July 2018. Silva had a three-fight unbeaten streak snapped in his UFC debut, and it was his second loss by submission. Taha cashed in as a -240 favorite.