Paul Felder to Fight Former Champion Rafael dos Anjos on Short Notice

In the main event of UFC Vegas 14, Paul Felder will step in on six days’ notice to face former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos this Saturday in Las Vegas.

Updated: Nov. 12, 2020 • 6:16 PM ET


Las Vegas will host this weekend's UFC Fight Night event.

In the main event of UFC Vegas 14 this Saturday, former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos will fight gritty veteran Paul Felder at the Apex in Las Vegas.

Dos Anjos, the UFC’s No. 12 ranked welterweight, will move back to lightweight for Saturday’s bout after his last eight fights came at 170 pounds. He was scheduled to fight surging lightweight contender Islam Makhachev this weekend, but a staph infection forced Makhachev to pull out of the event.

This wasn’t the first time the two fighters had a bout canceled with one another, as Dos Anjos and Makhachev were originally expected to meet at UFC 254 in October. A positive COVID-19 test, however, removed Dos Anjos from that fight. Yet, with Makhachev removed this time, Felder has stepped in on six days’ notice to not only save the main event, he’ll attempt to add another marquee win to his solid resume — perhaps his biggest to date.

Dos Anjos will ride two straight losses into Saturday’s fight, and he’s only 1-4 in his last five fights overall. However, while he is in the midst of a losing spell, those losses came to welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, former interim champion Colby Covington for the interim welterweight title, as well as top contenders Leon Edwards and Michael Chiesa.

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The 36-year-old Dos Anjos went into the fight with Covington on a three-fight winning streak following a strong welterweight debut with impressive wins over Neil Magny and former champion Robbie Lawler. The Brazilian won the lightweight title in 2015 with a unanimous decision victory over Anthony Pettis and successfully defended the title once against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone later that year.

In his career, including Pettis and Cerrone, Dos Anjos has victories over Kevin Lee, Nate Diaz and Benson Henderson. A win over Felder could re-awaken the veteran in the lightweight rankings and potentially set him up for a fight with another top 10 opponent in one of the UFC’s strongest divisions.

Felder, the No. 7 ranked lightweight in the world, is coming off a close, split-decision loss to Dan Hooker in February — a fight that many thought he won. The Philadelphia native is 7-3 in his last 10 fights, and while he has wins over Edson Barboza and James Vick, securing a victory over a former champion would represent the biggest of his career.

“I know I’m nearing the end of my career soon,” the 35-year-old Felder said this week on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show. “This, I think, it’s win-win for me, because if I go in there and I can finish and beat RDA, a former champ, then it gives me a lot of selling points to be getting these bigger fights, which seem to have been eluding me at the top five of the lightweight division here in the UFC. How do you not give me something big after this if I go in there after stepping up?

“And, if it doesn’t go my way, then I saved the day. I’m going in there to try to win, so we’ll see.”

Felder also feels like stepping in on short notice was the right decision to make.

“I thought about it, and then I decided with everything going on in the world and all the sad things going on in people’s lives and losing their jobs and suffering and we just lost Alex freaking Trebek to pancreatic cancer, I was like, ‘Man, you know you’re still 36. You’re young. You’re in shape. Save the date. Let’s go get paid. Let’s have fun. You’re fighting a legend,’” Felder said. “What do I have to lose?”

The biggest concern for Felder taking a fight on such short notice is his ability to make the 156-pound limit. He’s a bigger lightweight, but isn’t worried about missing weight.

“I’m much leaner and lighter than I ever would normally be taking a fight on short notice,” Felder said. “Normally this wouldn’t even be in the cards to even think about, because I’d be 195, 198. I’m nowhere near that.

“I’m well under 80. I’m in the 70s. So, I’ll give you that. I’m in the 70s. With some time and water-loading and dehydration, I’ll be fine.”

• Start time/how to watch: The main card of UFC Fight Night: Felder vs. Dos Anjos can be seen on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. this Saturday.