Chase “The Dream” Hooper, still only 24, will make his 8th walk into the UFC octagon on Saturday night. Thus far, Hooper holds a 4-3 record with three wins inside the distance.
Jordan “The Monkey King” Leavitt, 28, will, in turn, make his 7th walk into the UFC octagon. He holds a 4-2 record also with three finish wins.
- How to watch: Watch every fight live this weekend on ESPN+
- How to bet: Sign up to BetUS and get a special welcome bonus worth up to $2,500.
Hooper is a sizeable favorite over Leavitt.
There are certain fighters with the reputation of an elite skill because of outside the UFC success; but, when they get into the UFC, that skill isn’t as elite as advertised or the fighters don’t have the other skills necessary to implement it. Chase Hooper has the reputation of high-level grappling and a dangerous submission game, yet, he only has one submission win and all four of his wins have come against fighters no longer on the UFC roster.
The primary indicator for Hooper’s unrealized potential is his wrestling. He only averages 1.4 takedowns a fight at a middling 22% clip. Because he is often incapable of getting the fight to the mat, Hooper is unable to showcase his submission skills. And, in the rare occasions where he has been in a position to implement his reputationally excellent submission offense, Hooper has struggled to hold position long enough to secure the submission.
Instead, what typically happens in Hooper fights is a sloppy, dirty, and gritty clinch fight against the cage where Hooper’s knowledge of grappling position gives him an edge but his undeveloped striking and strength create issues. It is important to emphasize that Hooper is only 24 and should continue to improve significantly fight after fight. Additionally, he should continue to grow into his body and increase his strength. But, so far in his career, Hooper’s fights go one of two ways.
If he is fighting a non-UFC caliber opponent unable to deal with Hooper’s persistent clinch game, Hooper can use cardio, volume, and some grappling to win. However, if an opponent has been UFC-caliber capable of keeping Hooper off the cage, even with a basic jab or leg kick, then Hooper’s lack of striking keeps him from find much if any success.
Most concerningly, though, is Hooper’s lack of defense and his dependency on his chin to absorb shots. His most recent loss was finally via knockout. After years of taking damage without going down, Hooper’s chin finally gave out. Hooper is young, growing, and supposedly has a high level grappling game, but the jury is still out on whether “The Dream” has the full MMA skillset to consistently win at the UFC level.
A bit of a cult-hero because of his…unique…personality and celebration, Leavitt has found his way to put his name on the radar of the UFC brass despite also only 1 win over a fighter currently on the UFC roster. Leavitt is primarily a wrestler who uses awkwardly timed striking and sound defense to close distance where he can engage in the clinch against the cage. His striking offense is basic and slow but varied.
He’s a southpaw striker who is capable of throwing and often landing boxing combinations and a solid back kick. However, his striking output is low; and, while his feints help him close distance, his ability to execute in the pocket is minimal. Instead, Leavitt will typically feint forward, look to trap his opponent, and then clinch against the cage. He too wants to get the fight to the mat but has minimal wrestling to do so.
Leavitt averages 2.3 takedown attempts per fight at at 26% success rate. Leavitt’s main goal is to fight with enough of an off-beat style that he can put his opponent into an unfamiliar position, force them to make a mistake, and then capitalize on said mistake. He has fairly high fight IQ, knowing what he does well, but doesn’t always have the requisite skills to execute once he gets the position he wants. Instead, Leavitt’s success most commonly comes through forcing mistakes while he struggles if opponents are cautious enough to avoid them.
Both of these fighters are fun because of their out-of-the-cage personalities and unknown performances in the cage. People like betting on the potential of a fighter because, if it clicks, it’s impressive and satisfying to be able to say, “I called it.” We’ve been waiting for four years for Hooper to realize his potential and it’s only happened once in the UFC.
Meanwhile, Leavitt is someone the public tends to fade because he doesn’t often put a stamp on his fights and his style is awkward. However, he often finds ways to win. Styles make fights and Hooper may finally get to dance with a willing grappling partner; but, even in that instance, I don’t like his lack of strength against Leavitt.
Typically, I don’t rush to the window to bet either of these fighters but I love the odds in this one. Given the inconsistency in both fighters and that, of their combined 8 UFC wins, only one is over a fighter on the UFC roster, I handicapped this fight near a pick’em. Therefore, I’ll take a dog shot at +200 in a fight that I expect to be near even.
Best Bet: Leavitt to win (+170 at BetUS)