The always-exciting UFC lightweight contender Dan Hooker is reportedly set to return at UFC 266 against rising prospect Nasrat Haqparast, multiple sources have told BJPenn.com.

Hooker, who hasn’t fought since UFC 257 when he suffered a first-round knockout to UFC newcomer Michael Chandler, is looking to get back in the thick of things in the UFC lightweight division. Hooker’s former rival, Dustin Poirier will fight the champion Charles Oliveira later this year, and the lightweight title picture continues to get more stacked with rising contenders such as Islam Makhachev and Rafael Dos Anjos.

Hooker is currently listed as the eighth-ranked lightweight contender in the UFC and holds big wins over Paul Felder, Gilbert Burns, and Al Iaquinta, among others. He also had a five-round war with Poirier in a razor-thin margin of defeat in a UFC Fight Night headliner.

Hooker will face Haqparast, who has plenty of positive momentum after earning back-to-back unanimous decision victories over Alex Munoz and Rafa Garcia. His lone losses in the UFC have come against Drew Dober and Marvin Held.

Hooker vs. Haqparast will serve as one of the lead-up fights to a trio of big five-round fights, with Alexander Volkanovski headlining against Brian Ortega, and women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko defending her belt against Lauren Murphy. Hooker will also fight on the same card as the returning Nick Diaz against former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler.

Before his recent string of tough losses against Poirier and Chandler, Hooker had been one of the biggest rising stars in the lightweight division with three straight victories, including an exciting split-decision win over Paul Felder at UFC Auckland.

A win over Haqparast would put Hooker right back in the title discussion and would more than likely earn a Top-5 opponent for his next UFC outing.

Do you think Dan Hooker is still a factor in the UFC lightweight division?