This past weekend at UFC San Antonio reiterated one thing for Robert Whittaker — a good left hook is the key to defeating a tall fighter.
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Dan Hooker returned to the win column with a left hook that dropped James Vick in their lightweight clash on the main card. Hooker proceeded to land follow-up shots before the referee called an end to the fight.
Vick is a huge lightweight standing at 6 feet 3 inches. So in theory, it would be hard for a traditional-sized 155er to land a knockout punch on him. And yet, Vick has been knocked out thrice in the UFC by smaller fighters.
Hooker is a tall lightweight himself, standing at six-foot-tall and with just a one-inch reach disadvantage to Vick. But because Vick regularly uses his height to lean back to try and parry strikes rather than keeping his hands up, he becomes susceptible to the left hook, which Hooker executed perfectly according to Whittaker:
“I thought he [Hooker] just read him,” Whittaker said on a recent episode of Grange TV. “He had an excellent gameplan going in. He knew that left hook, especially for the taller fighters, is going to be key, going to be money. James Vick is used to using his height to his advantage, much like a [Luke] Rockhold. With the shorter fighters, he leans back, uses his height as a defensive mechanism more than head movement.”
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Rockhold, of course, has been knocked out twice in his career to left hooks, most recently to Jan Blachowicz at UFC 239 earlier this month. Vick, meanwhile, suffered his first defeat via knockout to Beneil Dariush which all started with a left hook that rocked him.
That left hook would be his downfall yet again and it wasn’t the first time he absorbed that strike on the night either:
“…He’d [Hooker] go in, throw the left, or throw the right to set up the left,” Whittaker explained. “Honestly, he threw like 20-30 left hooks in that first round. Not all of them landed but you could see he was aiming for it… James Vick, because he’s a tall fighter, he fights like a tall fighter. He leans back and tries to catch hands with his long arms. Keeps him out of range.
“But like I said, Hooker’s got the same amount of reach. So when Hooker came in with that right hand, James Vick went out to parry and then he feinted the right hand, left hook, boom. You could see Hooker’s left hook, the length of the arm, it’d come around like this and clipped him right on the chin. It was done. You could see, he was setting it up the whole fight.”
One could imagine Whittaker may try and employ the same gameplan on the 6-foot-4 Israel Adesanya when they meet at UFC 243. However, to his credit, “The Last Stylebender” generally tends to use head movement more than rely on his height.