UFC Fight Night: Felder vs. Hooker Preview

UFC Fight Night: Felder vs. Hooker Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, set to take place in Auckland, New Zealand.

Updated: Feb. 20, 2020 • 12:45 PM ET

Auckland, New Zealand will host its third-ever UFC event this weekend.

The UFC will return to Auckland, New Zealand this Saturday for UFC Fight Night, featuring a lightweight bout between title hopefuls Paul Felder and Auckland native Dan Hooker.

Since losing a split-decision to Mike Perry in July 2018 at UFC 226, the No. 6 ranked Felder (17-4 overall, 9-4 in UFC) has won two straight decisions over James Vick and Edson Barboza. Including Vick and Barboza, the 34-year-old has key victories over Charles Oliveira and Josh Burkman on his resume, not to mention 11 finishes.

Felder plans to spoil Hooker’s main event feature in his native New Zealand.

“I’m invading into his country,” Felder recently said via MMA Junkie. “My whole plan is to knock his ass out in front of all his friends and family and take that money and get out of there and go on to a title shot.”

If Felder can achieve his second three-fight winning streak in the UFC by defeating Hooker, he’ll be one step closer to a title shot. However, after Conor McGregor defeated Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 last month, Felder felt that he was on a list of fighters being called out by McGregor.

“I was not ready for that one,” Felder recently told Niall McGrath. “But if he is talking about me, that’s what I am talking about. I want that.

“I want this guy to think that I am on his radar. If he thinks I’m an easy fight, he wants to get some more brush up fights before he gets one of these big fights, I am willing and ready dance partner. I’ll be wearing my red panties all over the place if he wants me to. Let’s go.”

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A title fight may not be in Felder’s immediate future, but if he were to fight McGregor, it would be the biggest fight and payday of his career.

The No. 7 ranked Hooker is riding two straight wins after suffering a hard-fought loss to Barboza in December 2018. Most recently, he defeated Al Iaquinta by unanimous decision at UFC 243 in October. The 30-year-old is also 9-4 in the UFC and holds notable victories over Gilbert Burns and Jim Miller.

Hooker feels he’s ready for the big moment of headlining in his hometown.

“To come and headline in Auckland, it’s all been a progression throughout my career to bigger fights, pay-per-views, then co-main event, then main event, it’s just the progression.” Hooker said via Kumite TV. “So it’s been easy to handle, because of the slow increase in experience.”

Hooker is taking this fight with Felder personally.

“You know, after the Iaquinta fight, he [Paul Felder] puts up like a meme on his page of someone picking up a prostitute,” Hooker said. “I couldn’t have been more respectful when I called Paul out face-to-face like a man. I call him out like that, and that’s his response to that is to insult my family name.

“So I said I was going to smash his face in when the fight gets announced. Then after that, he responds with the same kind of thing, like putting a meme out [that says] ‘backhands are good enough for a Hooker.’ I don’t know what the culture is like in America, maybe it’s a bit different, but where I’m from in New Zealand, especially in Maori culture, to insult someone’s family name is to insult the whole line. I would never even think to do a photo back. Look, I get it ‘Hooker.’ Great. You say it to my face, I’m going to chin you. Even now as a payback, I would never insult a family name because you’re insulting a whole line of people. For me, that was too far.”

Both fighters are skillful strikers with great ground games to match. Felder likely holds the power advantage in the clinch, where he has been known to take fights. Hooker will need to counteract Felder’s clinch attempts by keeping his distance and using his reach. If Hooker can get the fight to the later rounds and continue to score from the outside, he could experience a decision win on his home soil.

 

The rest of the main card on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. EST

Light heavyweight bout - Jim Crute vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk

Women’s strawweight bout - No. 14 Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Yan Xiaonan

Heavyweight bout - Ben Sosoli vs. Marcos Rogerio De Lima

Lightweight bout - Brad Riddell vs. Magomed Mustafaev

Featherweight bout - Kevin Aguilar vs. Zubaira Tukhugov

 

ESPN+ Prelims at 4 p.m. EST

Lightweight bout - Jamie Mullarkey vs. Jalin Turner

Welterweight bout - Jake Matthews vs. Emil Meek

Welterweight bout - Callan Potter vs. Song Kenan

Flyweight bout - No. 8 Kai Kara France vs. Tyson Nam

Women’s strawweight bout - Loma Lookboonmee vs. Angela Hill

Welterweight bout - Maki Pitolo vs. Takashi Sato

Women’s flyweight bout - Priscila Cachoeira vs. Shana Dobson

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