Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Arnold Allen needed to make a statement at UFC London after a slew of decision wins and an undefeated 8-0 start to his octagon career failed to propel him into title contention.

Consider that statement made.

Fighting in front of his English countrymen, Allen scored the biggest win of his career on Saturday with a savage first-round knockout of Dan Hooker in UFC London’s co-main event.

“It’s huge,” Allen said after the bout. “To be honest, I know I’m a finisher. I know I’m a decision guy really, I’m pretending now, but I’ve got the power in my hands. All my coaches tell me I hit hard, I put people down with body shots in sparring. It just doesn’t come out in the fight. I think the kind of style of opponents I’ve fought haven’t allowed me to fight that way. I nearly had it in the last fight, but then I broke my baby hands and that didn’t happen.

“I’ve always said, the better guys I fight, the better I’m going to show up. And [Hooker] is the best guy I’ve fought, he’s the most dangerous guy by a country mile — like, physically, his skill set, he’s as long as anything — and I showed my best there.”

Allen has now won all nine of his UFC appearances and his TKO finish of Hooker was his first knockout since 2014. It’s been a slow rise for the 28-year-old featherweight — injuries and bad luck have prevented Allen from fighting more than once a year throughout the entirety of his octagon run, which has made it difficult for “Almighty” to gather the momentum needed to make a real push to face the division’s elite. But Allen is hoping 2022 can be the year that changes that — and he’s already eyeing a matchup against Calvin Kattar next.

“I want to be in the top five and I think he’s top five, and that’s the fight to put me there,” Allen explained. “And we got offered that fight for a main event spot last year, or earlier in the year I think, but I was out with injury.

“I think [that stylistic pairing] works really good. He’s less tall than this guy [Hooker], so that works out. But yeah, he’s predominantly a boxer, I’m predominantly a boxer, so it’s fan friendly fight and I think I’m the better boxer.”

Allen is currently MMA Fighting’s No. 11 ranked featherweight in the world, while Kattar is ranked at No. 8. In terms of the UFC, however, Kattar is indeed a top five contender.

Hooker, on the other hand, will likely face some hard questions with himself after suffering his fourth loss over his last five fights. The last three of those setbacks have been first-round finishes, and the drop down back to 145 pounds wasn’t the remedy he was hoping for.

“I personally didn’t think it was the best choice,” Allen said of Hooker. “If anything, someone like that, going up [in weight] maybe again would be a good idea, but he knows his body, he knows how he feels. But yeah, I think his best work’s at lightweight. Not a knock at him or anything obviously, but I don’t think making that extra cut is a good choice.”

Looking ahead, Allen suggested that he may be ready to go again as soon as June. He also gave an early prediction for next month’s title fight between UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung at UFC 273.

“I think Volkanovski’s going to dominate that,” Allen said. “I think he can even get a finish.”

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