Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has somehow managed to rescue its UFC Vegas 14 lightweight main event, thanks in no small part to the last-minute heroics of 155-pound veteran Paul Felder. “The Irish Dragon” steps in for the ailing Islam Makhachev to battle former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos in the five-round headliner tomorrow night (Sat., Nov. 14, 2020) inside the promotion’s APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In the UFC Vegas 14 co-main event, former middleweight Abdul Razak Alhassan — not to be confused with the guy who got pretzel’d by “The Robot” back in ‘08 — continues his welterweight work against once-beaten 170-pound sophomore Kalinn Williams, who to date has lived up to his “Khaos” moniker (just ask Alex Morono).
Before we dive into the main and co-main events, be sure to check out the complete UFC Vegas 14 preliminary card breakdown, expertly deconstructed by Patrick Stumberg here and here. Resident MMA champ Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the main card right here. For the latest “Felder vs. Dos Anjos” odds and betting lines click here.
Let’s get to work ...
155 lbs.: Paul Felder vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Paul “The Irish Dragon” Felder
Record: 17-5 | Age: 35 | Betting line: +150
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 4 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.67 | Striking accuracy: 43%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.40 | Striking Defense: 49%
Takedown Average: 0.25 (25% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 61%
Current Ranking: No. 7 | Last fight: Split-decision loss to Dan Hooker
Rafael dos Anjos
Record: 29-13 | Age: 36 | Betting line: -175
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 10 SUB, 14 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 10 DEC
Height: 5’8“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.47 | Striking accuracy: 45%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.18 | Striking Defense: 62%
Takedown Average: 1.82 (39% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 58%
Current Ranking: No. 12 | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Michael Chiesa
Like most MMA fans, I stood and cheered when lightweight veteran Paul Felder was sent to wardrobe in the same way Captain Freedom was asked to suit up after Killian ran out of opponents for Ben Richards. But now that we’re out of the honeymoon phase and ready to face reality, we have to be honest with what we’re getting from “The Irish Dragon.” Any fighter who comes off the bench and can make weight in less than a week is clearly taking care of his body inside the gym, but keeping yourself fit and surviving the rigors of fight camp are two different animals, particularly for an athlete on deck for a 25-minute affair. We also have to recognize that Felder has been merely “good” and never great, which is why the part-time commentator, even at the peak of his career, was never able to crack the Top 5 at 155 pounds. It never really mattered because Felder was an all-action fighter who delivered and selfishly, I would rather have this version of “The Irish Dragon” than a paint-by-numbers replica who fights safe to preserve his spot in the division title chase.
It will be interesting to see how Rafael dos Anjos adjusts to his new opponent, though I can’t imagine the Brazilian is anything but elated. It’s been more than four years since the former champion held gold and as we’ve seen in the second-half of his career — at welterweight as well as lightweight — the wins don’t come as easy as they used to. That’s what happens when a natural 155-pounder tries to wrestle with 170-pound monsters like Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington who combined, scored 19 takedowns against Dos Anjos. Not surprisingly, he also gave up another 15 takedowns across his next three welterweight fights so no question Felder is a welcome change. I get it, cutting weight sucks, but getting taken down and beat up by bigger opponents sucks even more, which is why Dos Anjos bit the bullet and said goodbye to fight-week dinners, among other things. And let’s not forget he’s still the same fighter who choked out Kevin Lee at last year’s UFC Fight Night 152 event in Rochester.
As you can see in the above stats, there isn’t a clear advantage in striking and each combatant sports a 70-inch reach. Felder and Dos Anjos also boast a pair of durable beards so a lights-out finish, particularly in the early going, would be unexpected. I do think the Brazilian is the better offensive wrestler and unless his trainers are absolute morons, a pressure-heavy offense with clinch work and takedowns is the fastest way to burn out a short-notice fighter who hasn’t seen a camp in over nine months. That’s really what this fight boils down to because Felder has to overcome both a brutal weight cut and Planet Fitness-level cardio to survive all five rounds. I wouldn’t be surprised if “The Irish Dragon” looked strong early (a benefit of not being punished in camp) but there’s no way he performs as well as Dos Anjos in the latter half of the bout. Assuming the Brazilian fights to win and not to prove a point, he should coast to victory on all three cards.
Prediction: Dos Anjos def. Felder by unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Kalinn Williams
Abdul Razak “Judo Thunder” Alhassan
Record: 10-2 | Age: 35 | Betting line: -235
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 5’10“ | Reach: 73” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.54 | Striking accuracy: 48%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 5.05 | Striking Defense: 53%
Takedown Average: 0.73 (28% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 42%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Mounir Lazzez
Kalinn “Khaos” Williams
Record: 10-1 | Age: 26 | Betting line: +185
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 77” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 22.22 | Striking accuracy: 58%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.22 | Striking Defense: 75%
Takedown Average: 0.00 (0% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 0%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Knockout win over Alex Morono
There was a time in the not-too-distant past when Abdul Razak Alhassan was 4-0 with four straight first-round knockouts — two of them for Bellator MMA — and yet somehow Scott Coker and Co. let “Judo Thunder” go on his merry way. The end result is a 4-2 record under the UFC banner with another four first-round knockouts and I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the promotion was able to land Alhassan at age 21 instead of 31. Regardless, the Texan has made the most of his opportunities and you can make a case for scoring his two decision losses the other way. Anyone out there not entertained by his war against Mounir Lazzez? For a guy who uses “Judo” as part of his nickname, he sure knows how to drop some bombs. His defensive wrestling, however, could use some work, part of the reason he lost the Omari Akhmedov fight.
I don’t know how much of a factor that will be against Kalinn Williams, who didn’t make his pro debut until April 2017 and doesn’t have a background in collegiate sports. “Khaos” has just one fight inside the Octagon and it was a doozy, obliterating veteran welterweight Alex Morono — on short notice — in less than 30 seconds. That performance goes a long way in legitimizing Williams who came into the promotion with a six-fight winning streak, though only two of those opponents have winning records. Alhassan has recycled a few cans in his day (like the 9-14 Matt Jones) but he’s also got six bouts for UFC to prove he belongs. We don’t yet know what Williams is capable of but at age 26 with a string of impressive victories under his belt, it appears the sky is the limit. That said, this fight should give us a pretty good indication of where “Khaos” fits into the bigger picture.
If we’re judging this contest on the merits of their last two fights, then Alhassan and Williams are going to light the APEX on fire. I know I mentioned the ground game earlier in this preview but I doubt we’ll see much of it from either fighter. In fact, I doubt we’ll even see a second stanza, because these two are going to come out swinging and chins will be tested. When picking a winner, it’s hard to overlook the body of evidence (and trail of bodies) Alhassan has provided across the last four years. With so much still unknown about Williams, this night should end — rather quickly — in favor of “Judo Master.”
Prediction: Alhassan def. Williams by knockout
Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 14 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 14 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 7 p.m. ET.