Paul Felder has a prime opportunity to spoil Rafael dos Anjos’ lightweight return at UFC Vegas 14 and put himself in a position to hunt down a title shot in 2021.
Felder, who is coming off a decision loss to Dan Hooker this past February, has had only five days to prepare for dos Anjos as “Irish Dragon” steps in for Islam Makhachev. It isn’t the most ideal way for Felder to make his return to the cage but one that provides him the chance to regain significant momentum in the division entering next year.
With current UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov expected to retire and relinquish his 155-pound strap, the division is currently boiling with contenders itching for a shot at UFC gold. While UFC could use an upcoming Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier rematch to crown a new champion it’s also possible that the promotion could stage its first tournament in a very long time.
Of course, this one would happen at 155 pounds, and provide other contenders like Felder, Tony Ferguson, Justin Gaethje, Michael Chandler, Dan Hooker, Islam Makhachev and Charles Oliveira, the opportunity to fight their way to a title.
“I think that tournament idea is really cool, honestly, because it gets all of us busy and active right away and it kind of forces everybody to be like, ‘All right, there’s no hand-picking this,” Felder told reporters earlier this week. “We set it up, and there’s a bracket, and you fight, and we get there – and then once we get there, and there’s a champion, then that can be gone.
“But when you’ve had a champion like Khabib, and then he’s gone, you’ve got all these contenders who are all bouncing around wins and losses with each other and there are some guys that are really trying to squeeze into that mix – (Charles) Oliveira, (Dan) Hooker, myself, Michael Chandler in the mix now. I think it makes sense to make this big eight-man tournament or something like that and have us work our way up toward that belt. I like that idea.”
While an eight-man lightweight tournament would set the Octagon ablaze in 2021 it’s unlikely to happen. That’s mostly due to McGregor and his massive value to the promotion. UFC would be ill-advised to subject “Notorious” to a tournament to crown the next lightweight champion instead of just giving the Irishman the title shot in the first place.
Of course, we’ve seen crazier things happen in the world of MMA and McGregor is almost wild enough to partake in such a tournament, especially if it happens on UFC’s renowned “Fight Island.”
UFC Vegas 14 will go down this evening (Sat., Nov. 14, 2020) live on ESPN+ from inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, as Felder attempts to capture his first lightweight win in over 14 months.
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+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ 7 p.m. ET.