Grays Ferry native and Ridley High School graduate Paul Felder will be headlining UFC on ESPN+ 26 against Dan Hooker. A lightweight bout, the winner of this fight could very well find themselves in a title eliminator with Justin Gaethje next. Ranked 6th and 7th respectively, this is sure to be a close affair and the lines reflect that. BestFightOdds currently has Hooker as a slight favorite (-122) while Felder is a (+113) underdog.
Arguably the biggest fight of his life, this will be a challenge for Paul Felder on multiple levels. For one, the bout will be taking place in Dan Hooker’s hometown of Auckland, New Zealand. Hooker is coming off a dominant, unanimous decision win over Al Iaquinta in the co-main of UFC 243 in Australia.
Hooker – who will be 30 come fight night – trains out of City Kickboxing in Auckland. City Kickboxing was arguably the most successful UFC gym of 2019 with Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski both seizing belts at Middleweight and Featherweight respectively. Kai Kara-France, Shane Young and Luke Jumeau also train out of City Kickboxing. There is a-lot of optimism surrounding Hooker’s gym right now and MMA is surging in popularity in both Australia and New Zealand.
The build-up to the fight has also turned negative and there is now bad blood between Paul Felder and Dan Hooker. After Felder vowed to knock Hooker out “in front of his friends and family”, Hooker says that the fight is personal. “It’s definitely crossed that line for me” Hooker said to MMAJunkie. “I don’t think it was necessary, but if he wants to start throwing those things out there, I’m not going to sit back and take it. I’m going to retaliate, I’m going to bring the heat and yeah, it’s definitely crossed the line for me, gone into a very personal nature” he added. Hooker also stated that he would fold Felder “like a deck chair” in retaliation for his comments.
Even if Felder wasn’t a Philly guy, I’d still be insanely hype for this one. It has all the makings of an absolute war.
Breaking Down the Fight
City Kickboxing is starting to become known for a high volume of leg kicks, especially in the early rounds. Volkanovski successfully executed this strategy against Max Holloway and was able to slow him down and negate his stance switching style. Hooker has also shown that he isn’t afraid to throw a large volume of leg kicks either, particularly against Edson Barboza and Al Iaquinta.
Hooker’s kicks are certainly helped by his reach, an area in which the hometown fighter will have a five inch advantage over Felder. He is able to land his kicks with precision and fight off an accurate jab, making Hooker an excellent points fighter. Hooker has the edge over Felder in strikes landed and a slight edge in strike defense. If the fight goes to the cards, it’s tough to see Felder winning, especially given his more patient style. Paul Felder has gone to a decision in his last three fights, albeit none of them were five rounds.
Felder’s kickboxing base means that he will likely have an easier time defending Hooker’s barrage of kicks should he choose to go that route. One solid checked leg kick is all it takes to totally and completely change the dynamic of the fight.
Paul Felder is a calculated kick-boxer who looks to return fire with power rather than overwhelm his opponent with volume. This could play into his hands against Hooker, especially if Hooker let’s the fight hype and hometown spectacle get to his head. Felder is also quite good when it comes to octagon control. The Philly native will likely look to close the distance and get into kickboxing range with Hooker. Both fighters have excellent knees and elbows, which makes this fight so intriguing.
As for the ground game, Hooker has the advantage in all grappling stats but Felder has shown an ability to do damage from the bottom. Devastating elbows from the bottom that cut Barboza are what I think won him the close decision at UFC 242. Felder will likely look to keep the fight standing up but if it does go to the ground, this an aspect worth keeping an eye on.
It should also be noted that Edson Barboza is a common opponent between the two, with Felder fighting the Brazilian twice. He is 1-1 in that match-up while Hooker lost via TKO.
This is going to be a great fight and needs to be talked about more in the Philly/Delco area. Who needs Rocky when we have Paul Felder?