In a Lightweight rematch for which no one really clamored, top-ranked Lightweight contenders Edson Barboza (No. 7) and Paul Felder (No. 10) looked to re-create the magic of their “Fight of the Night” more than four years ago this afternoon in UFC 242’s pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event from inside The Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
Felder, who dropped a hard-fought unanimous decision to Barboza in their first match, was out for revenge. And that’s exactly what he got, edging out Barboza on the judges scorecards to earn a close split decision win.
Barboza — who has dropped three of his last four bouts — opened up the action with a low kick, which compelled Felder to respond with a spinning backfist that was blocked. Barboza continued to attack Felder’s legs so he decided wisely to close the distance and mush Barboza into the cage momentarily. Felder start to sling heavy leather, but nothing of consequence landed early. Barboza fired back with more kicks as blood began to drip down from Felder’s hairline from an apparent accidental headbutt. The action was briefly stopped and the two went straight back to exchanging hard shots in the center of the cage. Felder stalked Barboza for the remainder of the round, pressuring the Brazilian but not scoring with any significant shots.
The pair wasted no time getting busy to start the second stanza, with Felder landing a solid left hand out of the gate. Barboza, naturally, responded with hard kicks to the legs and body. Felder over-committed on his striking and Barboza took full advantage, scoring a solid takedown in the middle of the Octagon. Felder, though, was able to sneak in a hard elbow off his back that split open the Brazilian. Barboza got lazy with his ground-and-pound and Felder was able to threaten with an armbar attempt. Barboza stood up and flung Felder off of him to escape the hold and the pair went back to brawling. Barboza scored with a hard counter left hook that knocked Felder off balance, but he continued to push forward regardless. Felder tried a takedown of his own at the end of the round, but Barboza sprawled and stalled until it came to an end.
It was a close fight heading into the third and final frame; however, Barboza’s corner informed him that he had won both rounds. It was far from certain as both fighters came out of their corners and embraced before the final five minutes. And it was more of the same — both fighters going toe-to-toe, with Felder applying the pressure and Barboza countering with dynamic kicks ... and some spinning shit. Felder was clearly the fresher fighter down the stretch, landing hard shots upstairs as Barboza began to fade. It was a super close, competitive and bloody rematch — these two dudes are fun to watch inside the cage together.
And we might get to see them do it again in a trilogy match down the road. For now, though, Felder has won five of his last six bouts and is poised to crack the Top 10. He’s a solid fighter who just happens to be an even better fight commentator.
“Irish Dragon” has some career decisions to make.
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