UFC Auckland: Paul Felder vs Dan Hooker Preview

UFC Auckland: Paul Felder vs Dan Hooker Preview

By Jack Rainbow

Saturday night brings with it a huge fight for the ever-evolving lightweight division, which could set up the winner with a Khabib Nurmagomedov showdown at some point in the near future.

Both Paul Felder and Dan Hooker are in career-best form, with Felder winning 5 of his last 6, most noticeably beating Edson Barboza in September, and Hooker has also won 6 of his last 7 since moving up a weight-class.

Both are well rounded fighters who tend to prefer to strike but equally are adept on the ground. Felder utilised his wrestling ability to nullify the stand up of Barboza very competently and Hooker has finished multiple fighters with his dangerous guillotine.

Expect this fight to take place predominantly on the feet however, with Hooker referring to the pair of them as “brawlers [who] love to throw down.”

Hooker’s improvements since moving up to 155lbs have been astronomical. After a mixed time at featherweight, Hooker has been on an absolute tear at lightweight, finishing 5 of his last 7 opponents.

The ‘Hangman’ will bring undeniable knockout-power, as well as hugely improved technique and confidence. Felder’s famously dangerous elbows are also likely to be a hugely significant part of his path to victory, finishing three fighters in a row in 2017 through his power and accuracy in this department.

This fight has implications many wouldn’t have believed possible a few years ago. Hooker has reached levels many did not think he was capable of when at 145lbs, and Felder has shown remarkable improvements as well, proven by him being able to gain revenge over Brazillian Barboza who beat Felder in 2015.

However, this is nevertheless a must-win for both fighters if there is any aspirations of a title shot. Both have multiple losses on their record, and therefore are likely to need more to gain a shot at the title than an younger, more marketable phenom such as Islam Makhachev.

The winner will have the platform and the momentum to call out any of the main veto-players such as Conor McGregor, who lacks an obvious opponent for his likely comeback in the summer. The winner will have huge leverage and in stark contrast the loser will be back to square one, in arguably the most lucrative division in the UFC.

The stakes therefore could not be bigger, and stylistically the fight is likely to be a striking spectacle with neither man shy to trade heavy-leather.

Adding to this the simmering bad blood, fuelled by Felder expressing his “excitement” to knock out Hooker in front of “his friends and family” means this fight could easily be a fight of the year contender, and is a cracking main event for the Auckland MMA fans. Expect a spectacle, and the winner to call out a very big name.

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