The Severe Spotlight: Chase Hooper

Progress is never linear, in MMA that’s more ever present than in other facets of sports and life. Chase Hooper found his way to the UFC at 19 years old. Having amassed 6 amateur wins from 6 fights, and a professional record of 8-0-, 6 fights being finishes. That is a rarity on multiple plains. It is rare for a human to have the commitment to a sport that has such depth in its skill acquisition from such a young age, but secondly to have followed through to amass that level of experience. Even rarer for the UFC to invest in a prospect that young, and that green.

Since debuting for the promotion Hooper has made the walk to the octagon 9 times, Saturday night making his UFC record 6-3 in the UFC. 5 of those wins coming by way of finish. As always with stats and records, those don’t paint the full picture. Often in those fights Hooper was forced to rely on his toughness, his grit, and his tenacity to make up for the skill gaps in elements of his MMA game. When he reached his wrestling and specifically his top control, his output is lethal. The question even after his debut against David Teymur, is what about the bits that get him to those sequences, and those positions?

Viacheslav Borshchev, amongst other things is a kickboxer. A man with some vicious body work, and significant power in his hands. His 3 wins under the Endeavour banner have come by ferocious stoppage. His losses, however, have come when athletes were able to mix all the elements of MMA against him. Saturday night was yet another test for Hooper to ask where he is on the path of acquisition of the requisite level of skill to compete in what is a stacked UFC 155lb division.

Chase Hooper answered with more conviction than we have seen in his UFC career thus far.

Right out of the gate, Hooper sits into his knees, taps the lead left hand of Borshchev to draw it down from its defensive position and throws a left of his own down the pipe. Follow that up with a spinning roundhouse kick, and follow that up with a reset, a distance management shift, on an angle, and a counter left right down the pipe with his head off the centre line as Borshchev throws a jab.

This opening 15 seconds of the fight, is the most mature we have seen Hoopers striking, the most confident we have seen him in the application of his striking, in his 5 years in the UFC.

Make no mistake, its not perfect. Right after he rushes in with a lead right hook, head protruding looking to enter the clinch and gets tagged. However, Hooper of 3 years ago continues on that same path, does not reset and attempts to force his way to the hips of Borshchev. 2024 Chase Hooper resets, paws at the lead hand and launches a body kick to the right side of Borshchev, forcing him to circle out.

Hooper doesn’t get overzealous in this opening minute, his plan is evident. Pull on the lead hand of Borshchev, force the lead hand shot and counter with his left, offer the left high kick, and manage the distance. He is rewarded after merely 42 seconds into the fight. He dips his level to his right, selling what looks to be a shot on the hips. Borshchev respects this by dropping his hands for a moment, but instead comes the overhand left, the top two knuckles of the Hooper left hand connect perfectly on the connection between the top and bottom jaw of Borshchev, who crumbles like a paper bag.

Immediately Hooper dives on the back, like a serpent around pray. Using damage to force his way from the back to top mount. As the damage lands, Borshchev does a good job of bumping Hooper up his body and begins to turn in. Hooper seamlessly transitions back to a high ball ride, with chest to back connection, and uses a claw grip to insert his second hook. From the back mount he forces top mount again and the shots keep flying.

Full credit to Borshchev for continuing to fight from the bottom position and not allow himself to be finished, but the rest of the round is a dominant one for Hooper. Transitioning between full mount, leg drags, side control and north south, mixing in damage consistently as he goes. A rare reverse triangle was sighted, using a toehold threat mixed in to find his way back to the top and finish the round there.

With Borshchev very defensively aware of the shots coming from Hooper, the entrance to the takedown are much easier. Hooper opens the second with the same sequence as the first, left hand, spinning roundhouse but the dip to the hips this time is successful. He grounds Borshchev and uses a high crotch to turn the corner and expose the back that he gladly jumps on. Borshchev ensures that both hooks don’t come in and attempts to build to his feet, Hooper uses a crucifix to ground him and transitions from there right into the mount.

The relentless pursuit of damage and the effortlessness with which Hooper retains and transitions back to the mount in the next few minutes is captivating, the use of the gift wrap to open up shots is terrific, and when Borshchev does eventually force butterfly hooks back, Hooper already knows the option of the d’arce is available.

Borshchev attains and underhook but doesn’t do anything to off-balance Hooper above him so that he can build height. Hooper gives him ample time, but when he felt nothing come back, laces the choking arm through the armpit and across the neck of Borshchev, using his left elbow to attempt to bend the neck enough to secure the choke. Borshchev reacts by building height, Hooper follows him to front headlock, locks the choke and gator rolls his man through and begins to squeeze.

Borshchev then appears to tap the back of Hooper, causing Keith Peterson to step in and wave the fight off, much to the immediate protest of Borshchev. Regardless of the ending, the performance is what matters, and Chase Hooper made significant strides in this performance. He is not the finished article, but this is proof that with the right attitude and the right team, significant improvements can be made in the fire.

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