Three Free Picks For UFC Fight Night 168: Felder vs. Hooker

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The UFC’s competition for the highly anticipated Fury-Wilder rematch is honestly quite the card. More or less a showcase for City Kickboxing, the card features several New Zealand and Australia natives. Dan Hooker, Kai Kara-France and Brad Riddell all fit this mold and get to represent their gym in their home city.

The main event between Hooker and Felder projects to be a bloodbath, with both fighters very even in overall ability with some slight advantages either way. It’s a perfect match-up on paper, that’s been aided by an intense build-up and high enthusiasm in Auckland. Outside the main event, there is more than one fight that could be a banger and several pick-em’s. Brad Riddell will be making his second UFC appearance following an impressive debut victory at UFC 243. Magomed Mustafaev is no slouch, however, and many are expecting this fight to be a war that could go either way.

This card is also looking much easier to navigate from a betting perspective than last week’s event in Rio-Rancho. I’ve doubled my research this time around and have been able to identify three straight picks. Let’s get to it.

Tyson Nam (+190) vs. Kai Kara-France (-240)

New Zealander Kai Kara-France will be looking to get back on track following a tough loss against Brandon Moreno at UFC 245. The loss marked the first for Kara-France at the UFC level and although he had his moments in the fight, Moreno kept pressing forward and clearly pulled ahead in the latter rounds.

Tyson Nam on the other hand has just one fight at the UFC level, a loss to the formidable Sergio Pettis. Don’t let that fool you, however, because Tyson Nam has a dearth of pro fighting experience to his name. Nam is 18-10 overall and hasn’t been stopped since being KO’d by Marlon Moraes in 2013.

While Nam is certainly no slouch, I think Kai Kara-France wins easily here. Brandon Moreno is as tough as they come at the flyweight level and many see him as a #1 contender. Moreno came at Kara-France with relentless volume and wasn’t phased by some of Kara-France’s earlier shots. While Tyson Nam has some power, he doesn’t throw the volume needed to wear down Kara-France. The City Kickboxing prospect has also demonstrated elite head movement, which will make Nam’s likely game-plan tough to execute.

The line could be better, but Kai Kara-France is as close to a lock of the night as they come and could be a solid pick to parlay.

Prediction: Kai Kara-France

Kevin Aguilar (-110) vs. Zubaira Tukhugov (-120)

Most books have this fight as close to a pick em’ as they come, with Tukhugov opening as an underdog and clawing his way to a near even favorite. Featured on the main card, this is a fun fight between two featherweights who still have plenty to gain.

Aguilar is coming off a tough loss to Dan Ige. This was a very entertaining fight in which Aguilar did lots of things well, but Dan Ige was ultimately able to pull away with one of his patented third round surges. That said, Aguilar’s striking still looked very good in the Ige fight and it looked even better in his prior bout against Enrique Barzola. In that fight, it was Aguilar who was able to pull away as the fight dragged on. The Texas native was able to get into quite the striking rhythm and cruise to a unanimous decision victory.

As for Tukhugov, he is coming off a controversial draw against Lerone Murphy at UFC 242. Many thought Tukhugov should have won the fight after a dominant first round that stood out. Before that, Tukhugov’s last fight was in 2016, a loss to the very tough Renato Moicano. This was due to a suspension stemming from his role in the infamous McGregor-Khabib post fight brawl at UFC 229.

This is a very tough fight to pick, but ultimately I like Tukhugov’s path to victory. My first lean was Aguilar but Tukhugov typically generates overwhelming pressure, which is something Aguilar struggled with against Ige. Tukhugov should be able to overwhelm Aguilar early in the fight and prevent the Texan from getting in a rhythm, which is key to his success.

There are gas tank concerns given Tukhugov’s fade at 242, but these are overblown. A long layoff plus unbearable heat in the arena no doubt played a role in Tukhugov looking gassed. The Chechen born Tukhugov also has a wrestling edge that should aide him should the fight go to the cards, which I think it will.

Kevin Aguilar is a very good fighter but this is a tough match-up for him.

Prediction: Zubaira Tukhugov

Paul Felder (+120) vs. Dan Hooker (-150)

The much anticipated main event features Philly native Paul Felder against Dan Hooker, who will be showcasing his gym and hometown of Auckland, New Zealand. Two kick-boxers, this is an insanely fun fight style wise. Hooker possesses the reach advantage where as Felder has the power, Hooker has the wrestling edge where as Felder does slightly more damage from the clinch. Both have top of the line kicks.

For Hooker to win, he will have to manage distance and hope to pick Felder apart. For Felder to win, he’s going to have to close the distance and win the kickboxing exchanges. This is why the fight is so fun, because it could very easily devolve into a close as possible bloodbath featuring plenty of knees and elbows.

It is for this reason that I really like Felder in this fight. Hooker looked outstanding picking apart Al Iaquinta, but Felder has shown throughout his career that he can advance forward and dole out damage. Felder advanced the entire time against Edson Barboza and though he took some damage, he was still able to pour on some heavy shots. Hooker has less power than Barboza.

Paul Felder also has quite the chin, his only stoppage loss coming via cut above the eye against Francisco Trinaldo. He is also unbeaten since coming back to lightweight and can check leg kicks about as well as anyone on the roster. Felder should be able to break down Hooker’s game-plan and dole out damage as Hooker begins to fade.

Dan Hooker has quite the chin himself, but it more or less worked to his detriment when he was absolutely pounded by Edson Barboza. I also think his ground advantage is overrated in this fight given his frame compared to Felder’s. I don’t see him being able to hold Felder down, especially in the later rounds.

I’m picking the Felder money-line, but am also parlaying a Paul Felder TKO with a Kara-France moneyline victory and a Myles Jury win in Bellator.

Prediction: Paul Felder via knockout

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