The UFC’s Paul Felder is being underestimated. “The Irish Dragon” saved Saturday’s UFC Vegas 14 main event by accepting a fight with former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. He did so on five days’ notice after Islam Makhachev had to pull out due to a staph infection. Felder has not fought since losing to Dan Hooker last February.
Yet, I like him in this one. If you missed the previous update announcing Felder as the new opponent, he is in phenomenal shape as he’s been training for a triathlon. I expect him to have cardio for days. However, at the time he spoke to ESPN, his weight was in the 170s so it could be a rough cut (more than usual anyway) but he is already lean, so who knows?
As far as the odds go, RDA is the favorite at -210. This is most likely due to: Felder’s last fight being a loss, the five days’ notice, and RDA’s status as a former champion. However, RDA is 1-4 in his last five fights at welterweight following a 3-0 surge.
The 3-0 run led to an interim title fight at 170 pounds against Colby Covington. That Covington fight was one of those four losses, and the other defeats were all at the hands of top contenders so maybe now is the time to move back down to 155 pounds.
RDA’s status as a former champion is misleading. He deserves respect forever for reaching the top of the mountain and defending the belt at least once, but it was just once, and it was against Donald Cerrone. He lost two straight and the title before the move to 170.
How Much Will the Irish Dragon’s Weight Cut Alter the UFC Vegas 14 Odds
Weight cutting was the entire reason RDA moved up in the first place. He told MMA Fighting in 2017, “I don’t think 15 pounds will make such a big difference,” dos Anjos said. “The other guys are bigger and stronger, for sure, but I’m used to training with guys that big.
I also think that they are big, but they cut weight. They will go through something I won’t. I’ll have to cut weight for 170, but I’ll cut less. I fought well at 155, but I don’t think I ever came close to my best at 155. I think I’ll get to my best at 170 pounds.”
I feel like RDA is headed back to lightweight because he’d be in the middle of the pack at welterweight and 155 is the only option on the table with a few years of his career left. The lightweight division is also filled with sharks too and it seems like he’s just treading water.
As MMA Fighting’s article notes with continued comments from RDA himself:
According to the former champion, cutting down to 155 pounds became such a difficult task that he passed out multiple times before his UFC Fight Night 90 clash with Alvarez in July 2016.
“My body changed between 2014 and 2015,” he said. “I fought five times in 11 months, during that run for the title. I don’t see anyone doing this. I see Cerrone doing this, but I don’t see other doing this. I walk around with 187, 198 pounds, easy, and to cut this weight five times in 11 months was too much.
“I eat well, but after that I felt that my body got bigger. I was holding the weight more. It was tough to make weight against Cerrone, and I passed out three times making weight for the Eddie Alvarez fight. One day you get to the limit.”
UFC Vegas 14 Betting Pick: Can the Irish Dragon Pull Off the Upset?
As for the match-up itself, it should depend on Felder’s ability to keep this standing up and use his kickboxing. UFC stats indicate Felder wins by KO/TKO 59% of the time and by decision 35% of the time. It depends on how much of an impact the short notice will make. Meanwhile, RDA wins by decision 48% of the time and KO/TKO 17%
Felder has an average fight time of about 12 minutes and RDA is just under 14 minutes but, for obvious reasons, I see this going the distance. Despite being the underdog, Felder should take this one on points.
Prediction: Paul Felder defeats Rafael dos Anjos by decision