Dan-Hooker The opening preliminary card bout at UFC Fight Night 52 is a three-round featherweight matchup between Maximo Blanco and Daniel Hooker. According to the current betting lines available at 5Dimes Sportsbook, Blanco is a -180 favorite (bet $180 to win $100) while Hooker is a +150 underdog (bet $100 to win $150). MMA linesetter Nick Kalikas opened up Blanco at -215 and Hooker at +165, and action so far has been on the dog Hooker. I agree with the action on Hooker as I’m also picking him to win the fight. Here’s why. Blanco (10-6-1, 1 NC) was once one of the most feared lightweights in the world after a successful stint in Sengoku, but since moving over to the U.S. and competing in Strikeforce and the UFC he has been very mediocre. He’s 2-3 overall in the UFC with wins over Andy Ogle and Sam Sicilia and losses to Felipe Arantes, Akira Corassani, and Marcus Brimage. The 30-year-old Venezuelan still has the vicious striking that once made him so feared, but without the ability to throw soccer kicks and knees to the head of a downed opponent he hasn’t been as effective with his attack. It’s also cost him numerous times, as he was DQed against Corassani and also had points taken away in numerous other fights. He’s a talented fighter for sure, but he’s clearly got some mental issues and it makes it very hard to back him as far as a bet goes. Hooker (11-4) picked up a win in his UFC debut in impressive fashion, defeating Ian Entwhistle via first-round TKO. The 24-year-old New Zealander is currently riding a six-fight win streak and in his career has won 10 of his 11 fights by T/KO or submission. He is an improving talent, and in my opinion has a lot of potential at 145lbs. Hooker hasn’t fought a great level of competition in his career so it’s hard to get a true gauge on where he stands, but based on what I’ve seen he’s pretty good and I think he has a chance of pulling off the upset here against Blanco as long as he doesn’t get finished in the first round and as long as his cardio holds up. Just like the rest of Blanco’s fights, you never know what this guy is going to do once he enters the cage. I think Blanco is a more talented mixed martial artist than Hooker, but he always makes horrible mistakes in his fights and I think his cardio is really bad too. Fighting in Japan for the first time since his Sengoku days, it wouldn’t shock me at all if Blanco forgot he can’t use soccer kicks or knees to the head of a downed opponent and gets himself DQed. Of course, it’s hard to outright pick a DQ, but in this case I think it’s one of Hooker’s paths to victory. More times than not though, I think Blanco gasses himself going for the finish early in the fight and I think Hooker will be able to survive the early onslaught and finish Blanco himself. I’m not super confident in Hooker here because Blanco is such a wildcard, but at +150 this is clearly a dog-or-pass situation, and I think Hooker could be worth playing as part of a little round robin.


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