UFC superstar Nate Diaz is getting ready to make his return to the Octagon later this year, and the perfect opponent emerged for the 35-year-old American at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi.
Dan Hooker suffered a first-round knockout defeat to Michael Chandler on Saturday night at Etihad Arena in the co-main event of UFC 257.
But Hooker remains one of the top lightweight contenders in the sport, and that makes him the perfect opponent for Diaz’s first fight in over half a decade at 155 pounds.
More About Diaz’s Perfect Opponent
Hooker, 30, from New Zealand, is a product of the famed City Kickboxing gym in Auckland.
In some ways, “The Hangman” is similar to that gym’s most famous superstar, UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. Hooker is a long, lean, and mean striker who would rather kickbox his way to wins over getting down and dirty on the ground.
Despite his loss on Saturday, Hooker remains one of the toughest outs in the UFC’s 155-pound lightweight division. He stands six feet tall and is adept at using his long limbs to kick and punch his way to wins.
Now that the dust has settled at UFC 257, Diaz can set his sights on making a proper entry into one of the deepest divisions in the UFC.
Diaz Coming Off Loss at UFC 244
Diaz lost his last fight against UFC welterweight contender Jorge Masvidal at UFC 244, but that controversial stoppage happened over a year ago.
In 2021, Diaz is hoping to make the lightweight division even deeper and more special than it already is by putting himself into megafights against some of the top stars in the UFC’s stacked 155-pound division.
Diaz has done that before, and the latest footage of the American training suggests he could be on his way to doing it again.
Overall, Diaz went 11-6 as a UFC lightweight. He won his last fight in the division, beating Michael Johnson back in 2015, but the fighter went 2-3 over his last five contests at 155 pounds, including his title fight loss to Benson Henderson back in 2012.
Still, Diaz remains one of the most popular fighters on the planet. Pitting him against any of the big names at 155 will draw tons of interest, and he has the talent and ability to make a run at gold.
What About Conor McGregor?
Short of putting Diaz inside the Octagon against Conor McGregor again to complete the epic trilogy between two of the most popular fighters in the world today, getting Diaz into any fight against a top lightweight is one of the best things the UFC can do.
Getting Diaz re-established as a ranked contender at 155 pounds should be one of the company’s immediate priorities.
Hooker might have suffered a loss at UFC 257 on Saturday night, but at least that setback puts the fighter into the coveted position of being the lightweight contender that might make the most sense to welcome Diaz back into the fold later this year.
Diaz might want to fight McGregor again as soon as humanly possible, but he’ll likely need to add a solid win to his ledger at 155 to make it a legit possibility.
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