Fighters On the Rise: UFC 250 Edition

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Hooper scored a developmental deal following a quality victory over Canaan Kawaihae as an 18-year-old on Season 2 of the Contender Series, then receded into the background as he continued to hone his skills on the Pacific Northwest regional circuit. But after going unbeaten in three additional starts following his Las Vegas audition, Hooper was called up to the UFC late last year and made a splash in his debut, submitting Swedish heavy hitter Daniel Teymur at UFC 245.

It was a breakthrough week for the Enumclaw, Washington native, whose profile exploded when he paired his in-cage performance with a tour de force effort on social media where he roped veteran welterweight Ben Askren into his online shenanigans.

This weekend, Hooper makes his sophomore appearance in the Octagon in a matchup that should provide a great deal of clarity about where he stands in the featherweight division as he takes on 27-fight veteran Alex Caceres, who made his UFC debut when Hooper was just 11 years old.

The former Ultimate Fighter contestant has occupied this role before, having served as the experienced hand tasked with taking on a promising newcomer in bouts against Jimy Hettes, Sergio Pettis, Yair Rodriguez, and Kron Gracie in the past. Last time out, “Bruce Leroy” earned a unanimous decision victory over Steven “Ocho” Peterson, continuing a run of alternating results that stretches back six fights.

Hooper has a lot of things working in his favor at the moment, including tremendous height and reach for the division, slick scrambling abilities and the fact that he won’t turn 21 until September, and this weekend’s bout with Caceres will be a great measuring stick for where he’s at in his development.

The future is bright for “The Dream” and a victory on Saturday should cement him as one to keep tabs on in the featherweight division going forward.

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