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The Weekly Takedown: Chase Hooper poised to climb UFC's featherweight division

After earning 'Performance of the Night' honors, the 22-year-old prioritizes slow and steady progress in an effort to reach long-term success.
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Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated's in-depth look at MMA. Every week, this column offers insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.

Springtime means prom season. But that never happened for Chase Hooper.

While Hooper's high school classmates were slipping on tuxedos, finding prom dresses, or crowding into limousines, the baby-faced fighting prodigy was at a jiu-jitsu camp honing his craft.

"It wasn't really on my priority list," Hooper said. "I loved spending that time training. Going to a party or drinking couldn't compare with fighting a dude in a cage. That's a crazy high. It's hard to compare that with anything else."

Only 22 years old, Hooper (11-2-1 MMA, 3-2 UFC) has found a home in the UFC's featherweight division. He is only days removed from a "Performance of the Night" showing, which took place last Saturday when he defeated Felipe Colares by TKO. This marked the first time that Colares (10-4 MMA, 2-4 UFC)) had ever been finished in a fight, and the victory was critical for Hooper after coming off a loss last June.

"That's the longest I've ever had between any of my fights," Hooper said. "That was too long, so it was great to get the finish. I've really been working on confidence building, and that was a confidence-builder. That was me trusting myself. I know how to do it and trust my body and instincts. I felt ready to walk straight through this guy, and that's what I did."

Hooper controlled the opening round before Colares seized some momentum in the second, but he relentlessly wore down his opponent in the third until the referee was forced to stop the fight.

"He had decent size, but I felt him trying to pull back at the end of the first round," said Hooper, who clearly possessed a distinct cardio advantage in the fight. "I got a little overconfident in the second, and when I got off the stool, my arms were heavy. So I revved it up and put him away in the third.

"I don't even look like I got in a fight. I've already been back in the gym. It was a pretty good weekend overall, and getting that ($50,000) bonus made it even sweeter."

A black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, there is no ceiling for Hooper's future success. He is intent on proving he belongs on the UFC stage, and one of his greatest attributes is his patience. For now, Hooper is willing to wait until his body fully develops before he accepts bouts against top-15 ranked opponents, opting instead to work his way through the entire division.

"The guys in the top 15 are in their prime physically," Hooper said. "Look at Max Holloway's career or Charles Oliveira's career. It took them a second to adjust and have their body physically mature. You need your body at your peak in combat sports. I'm still building myself up to that. So I'll take this fight by fight and keep putting the time in on my technique.

"I want to work my way up the division, nice and slow and one-by-one, and have a long career in the UFC."

The Enumclaw, Wash., native – who sacrificed his senior year of high school to enroll in a diploma program that provided him the time to train three times a day – is powered by a solitary drive to attain greatness in the cage.

"I missed out on a lot, but I have no regrets," Hooper said. "This is what I'm here to do."

After enduring a stretch of 11 months without a bout following his last fight, Hooper revealed he is ready to step back in the cage as soon as this fall.

"September, October, November, December, whenever it is, I'm definitely excited to get back in there," Hooper said. "The UFC probably knows who they want to match me up with, and I trust them. I am happy with my progress, but I need to keep it going forward."

Breaking: ONE 159 co-main event pits Janet Todd against Lara Fernandez for interim atomweight muay Thai title

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The co-main event for ONE 159 on July 22 will be Janet Todd against Lara Fernandez for the interim atomweight muay Thai world title, Sports Illustrated has learned.

A two-time Pan-American muay Thai champion, Todd has steamrolled through her last six fights, finishing three of those with her vicious array of kicks. She holds a master's degree in aerospace engineering, as well as a 38-11 record in kickboxing/muay Thai. She is also the reigning ONE atomweight kickboxing world champion, so this would make her a two-sport champ if she is victorious against Fernandez.

Fernandez, who is 40-13-3 in kickboxing and muay Thai, is a rising star for ONE. A win here would elevate her to an entirely new realm, and her technique and durability will pose problems for Todd.

The Pick ‘Em Section:

This is a rare quiet weekend from the top promotions. After a winless showing from me last weekend, the picks will return next week.

Last week: 0–5

2022 record: 62–32

This story first published at SI.com/MMA.