Hooper (13-3-1 MMA, 5-3 UFC) quickly dispatched of Leavitt (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) in Saturday’s lightweight bout at the UFC Apex, locking up a rear-naked choke in the opening round to advance him to 2-0 since moving up from featherweight earlier this year.
The grappling exchanges between the pair were fast and furious from the outset, but Hooper was one step ahead and managed to catch Leavitt in a mistake and get the finish.
“I was expecting a lot longer of a fight, a lot of tougher of a fight,” Hooper told MMA Junkie and other reporters at the post-fight news conference. “But I snaked it up early, and that’s a win, obviously. … I always surprise myself when I come out with a finish, or a win in general. I always go in kind of more pessimistic and then like to surprise myself by having a good outcome. (I) can’t really get a better outcome than that.”
Although pitting two grapplers against each other can sometimes lead to stalling, or an underwhelming standup fight, Hooper said he’s not afraid to engage with anyone on the mat. He wants to see if he can find more success with these matchups, and that’s why he sees Claudio Puelles (12-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) as a fitting next opponent, because both men would have to exercise caution with their limbs.
“I’d like someone like a Claudio Puelles,” Hooper said. “He beat Jordan, I believe, by decision. Then he also has a kneebar win over Clay Guida. I just beat Jordan tonight, and I’ve got a calf slicer over Clay in a grappling match. But still, I would love to fight another guy that’s big into leg locks – another big jiu-jitsu guy in the division. Tonight is the perfect example. Those are fun matchups, and I think they’re fun to watch. It’s a style of grappling people can get down with.”
Even if he doesn’t get Puelles next, Hooper said it’s his goal for 2024 to compete as frequently as possible. His wife is pregnant with their first child with the due date looming, and Hooper said the responsibility of supporting another life has boosted his motivation to bring in more paychecks.
“I’ve got to start making a little more of that dad money,” Hooper said. “I’d like to be a little bit more active, especially here at ’55 where I don’t have to cut as hard. I’d like to get three fights in.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 232.