UFC lightweight contender, Paul ‘The Irish Dragon’ Felder, is steadily approaching championship contention among his division peers. The Philadelphia born striker has notched five victories consecutively at 155-pounds, and looks to make a huge leap toward the ranks top-five with a win over hometown-hero, Dan Hooker, in Auckland this weekend.
The Roufusport trainee nabbed a split decision win over Brazilian Muay Thai ace, Edson Barboza in their UFC 242 rematch last September, earning him the #6 rank at lightweight in the process. The kickboxing ace ventured to welterweight for a short-notice pairing with Mike Perry and suffered a broken forearm on his way to a close split decision defeat. Other than that contentious decision, ‘The Irish Dragon’ has appeared poised for eventual lightweight success in the not too distant future.
Under the tutelage of Duke Roufus, Felder has developed into a calculated, accurate and incredibly dangerous fighter who is willing to exchange in the pocket – almost similar to a Muay Thai practitioner who will attempt to throw offence of his own after their opponent’s attack. Like Saturday’s opponent, Hooker, Felder is also incredibly durable, and gritty. Hooker has only ever been finished once, via an endless onslaught of body-aimed offence from Barboza – while Felder has never been stopped with strikes or submissions in any of his four professional defeats.
The main event tie is largely expected to take place solely on the feet, give both men’s creative striking ability. Hooker is primarily a boxing-based striker under the tutelage of the renowned Eugene Bareman, while Felder has a wide array of kicking variations, stemming from his kickboxing background and time with former kickboxing world champion, Duke Roufus.
This fight becomes incredibly interesting during those promised striking exchanges though. Felder managed recent wins against Barboza, and James Vick, but was narrowly outstruck in the process. His durability has allowed him to withstand some legitimate punishment, and ultimately, take a large number of shots. Hooker managed to completely negate the offensive pressure from Al Iaquinta recently – landing almost double the number of total strikes in the process. Simply put, Hooker’s output is much more telling and once he manages to time an opponent, he usually never looks back.
As noted previously, the ability of both men to take an abundance of damage is unrivalled at lightweight in my opinion, so don’t expect an early finish from this headlining clash. A blueprint has been somewhat set by common opponent Barboza as to slowing Hooker down – and Paul Felder was on commentary duty that evening. A consistent barrage to the body had Hooker completely shot by the third and final round – although I’m not convinced Felder has that explosive ability, and even less convinced if his performance against Hooker involves marching forward through strikes as we’ve seen recently.