All the Cage: Worthy a legit threat at 155; Hooker's mandatory quarantine

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
A weekly look at MMA’s hottest topics.

He’s Worthy

Five of the 15 fighters in the UFC’s current pound-for-pound rankings are lightweights, the most of any division. The UFC has lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov ranked No. 2 pound-for-pound, followed by No. 8 Conor McGregor, No. 9 Dustin Poirier, No. 11 Justin Gaethje and No. 12 Tony Ferguson.

Khama Worthy hasn’t done enough to even be included in the lightweight ratings, let alone the pound-for-pound standings. He’s showing enough, though, that he should be added to the list of threats in the 155-pound class.

Worthy scored a sensational guillotine choke victory over Luis Peña in the third round of their bout Saturday at UFC Apex, making him 2-for-2 in the UFC and running his overall winning streak to seven in a row.

He is 33 years old and on the normal clock, doesn’t have a lot of time left, but he felt he made a statement with the win over Peña.

“I wanted to come out there and not just get another fast win,” Worthy said after defeating Peña. “I wanted a hard fight. I wanted it to be even, or even be down two rounds, and then pull it off to show I’m official. It took me a minute to get here, but I'm a threat to any 155er in this weight class. I can go out there and handle anyone. I don’t have to punch you in the face. I can choke you out, as well.”

Worthy got what he wanted. He was impressive in the first round, controlling the 6-foot-3 Peña throughout and winning the round on all three scorecards. 

But Peña took him down in the second and spent much of the round working for submissions. Worthy stayed calm and worked his way out. When an opening came his way in the third, he quickly capitalized.

There was plenty of hype on Peña, and much of it is deserved. But the hype also needs to follow Worthy, who has shown he is no pushover.

“He had my back, but never got anything solid,” Worthy said. “I figured he was just trying to contain me, like most people. I fought out of Pennsylvania and Ohio, where there are some of the top wrestlers in the world and I’m a striker. So my entire career has been people trying to contain me, trying to keep me in one place and not let me hit them. I’ve built up a style for that.”

He’s built up a fan-friendly style and is, like many of his peers at lightweight, making himself a can’t-miss attraction.

Mandatory quarantine for Hooker

It was bad enough for Dan Hooker that he dropped a decision to Dustin Poirier in the main event of Saturday’s card at UFC Apex in what may well turn out to be the 2020 Fight of the Year.

But it was even tougher for Hooker when he returned home to New Zealand after the show. There is virtually no COVID-19 in New Zealand, and officials there are determined to keep it that way.

Because Hooker was in the U.S., the world’s hotspot for the virus, he knew when he returned that he’d be in a mandatory two-week quarantine, so he couldn’t be with his family right away.

He posted a photo on social media of his daughter behind two barriers:

It will ultimately be worth the wait, because Hooker proved himself one of the elite in the world with his performance. As interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje tweeted, Hooker proved he “deserves a seat at the big-dog table.”

Coker working out Bellator return

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Bellator hasn’t staged a card since Bellator 240 in Dublin on Feb. 22. It hasn’t had a show in the U.S. since the day earlier when Bellator 239 was held at WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma, on Feb. 21.

That is about to change. Bellator president Scott Coker said he is working toward a late July return to action. Coker said he is in discussions with several venues, including in California, where Bellator is based, about hosting the show.

Since the pandemic began, the only shows in the U.S. have been in Florida and Nevada.

Bellator canceled its March 13 show at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, on the day of the fight because of the virus and hasn’t gone on since.

Hill vs. Waterson set for August

Angela Hill will return to action on Aug. 22 when she meets Michelle Waterson on a UFC Fight Night show at Apex in Las Vegas. It will be an important bout in the strawweight division, as the loser will likely drop from the rankings while the winner will move up.

Hill last fought on May 16, which is like an eternity for her. She dropped a split-decision to Claudia Gadelha that was hotly disputed. Yahoo Sports scored that fight for Hill.

It snapped a three-fight winning streak, but she was impressive enough that she broke into the rankings.

Allen’s win comes at a cost

Brendan Allen scored an impressive unanimous decision victory over Kyle Daukaus on Saturday at UFC Apex in a bout that might have been considered for Fight of the Night had Dustin Poirier versus Dan Hooker not happened.

It was a great back-and-forth bout in which the grapplers each had moments of control. 

The victory, his seventh in a row overall and his third in as many UFC fights, came at a cost. According to his manager, Brian Butler-Au, Allen will miss the remainder of the year.

Butler said Allen suffered fractures in the nose and orbital floor.

ONE set to return

ONE Championship will resume competition on July 31 in Bangkok, Thailand, it announced on Monday with ONE: Surrender. So far, two Muay Thai bouts and a kickboxing bout have been scheduled for the show. MMA bouts will soon be added.

In its typical over-the-top fashion — ONE recently announced a cash infusion in the same news release it announced layoffs — chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong confirmed the promotion’s return.

“The world is suffering from the worst global crisis in a hundred years,” he said. “Most national borders remain closed in Asia, and this has posed unique logistical and operational challenges. However, our superstar team at ONE Championship continues to work hard to deliver fans the authentic martial arts experiences they crave. Our athletes are ready to showcase their skills and tell their stories.”

He said it

“Me, Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn and all my training partners at JacksonWink in Albuquerque pretty much had a three-week crash course. We crammed for a test. It was very last-minute for me to go out there due to changes in my personal life and changes in my training. We got the job done.” — Maurice “Crochet Boss” Greene, on fighting with his job on the line Saturday coming off back-to-back losses. He submitted Gian Villante in the third round with an arm triangle from the bottom.

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