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UFC Fight Night 168 predictions: ‘Felder vs Hooker’ undercard ‘Prelims’ preview - Pt. 2

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., Feb. 22, 2020) when UFC Fight Night 168: “Felder vs. Hooker” storms Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC Fight Night 168 “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Auckland bruiser Dan Hooker will attempt to defend his home turf this Saturday (Feb. 22, 2020) when he takes on fellow striking standout Paul Felder in UFC Fight Night 168’s ESPN+-streamed main event. Also in store is the return of Light Heavyweight prospect Jimmy Crute against Michael Oleksiejczuk and a clash between former women’s Strawweight title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz and fast-rising Yan Xiaonan.

We’ve got three more UFC Fight Night 168 “Prelims” undercard bouts still left to preview and predict (check out the first batch here). Insert clever segue here ...

155 lbs.: Jalin Turner vs. Joshua Culibao

Jalin Turner’s (8-5) injury finish of Max Mustaki wasn’t enough to get him a contract on “Contender Series,” and though he ended up getting a shot as a late replacement, Vicente Luque gave him a rough welcome. He returned to Lightweight with a 53-second knockout of Callan Potter, but couldn’t do the same to Matt Frevola, losing a decision in Atlanta.

“The Tarantula” has never gone the distance in victory, knocking out seven.

Joshua Culibao’s (8-0) unremarkable amateur run gave way to a fast-rising professional career that’s seen him claim titles in multiple Australian promotions. His last two fights have seen him knock out well-traveled veteran Rodolfo Marques and win the Superfight MMA Featherweight belt with a first-round finish of Josh Payne.

He steps in for Jamie Mullarkey on less than three weeks’ notice.

To my frustration, there isn’t much recent footage of Culibao to sift through, which sucks both because it stymies my analysis and because he’s loads of fun to watch. A patient, pot-shotting striker with impeccable head movement, Culibao has the look of a top prospect at 25 years old. More specifically, a top Featherweight prospect, which is where the issues lie. Turner’s been knocked out before and showed some ugly technical deficiencies against Frevola, but he’s also 6’3” and boasts remarkable power.

Were these two the same size, I’d bite the bullet and pick Culibao despite the dearth of tape. With how rangy Turner is and how dire the consequences of misjudging distance are, though, I saw Turner reverses the roles of his debut and smokes the smaller man.

Prediction: Turner via first-round technical knockout


170 lbs.: Jake Matthews vs. Emil Meek

Jake Matthews (15-4) — who ended his UFC Lightweight run with a controversial split decision loss to Andrew Holbrook — is 4-1 since his return to 170 pounds. The run includes a “Fight of the Night” decision over Li Jingliang and, most recently, a win over Rostem Akman in “The Celtic Kid’s” native Australia.

He has scored seven submission wins as a professional, five of them via rear-naked choke.

Emil Meek (9-4) punched his ticket to the Octagon with a 45-second mauling of Rousimar Palhares, then continued his odds-defying ways by beating Jordan Mein in his UFC debut. He’s yet to taste victory since, dropping decisions to Kamaru Usman and Bartosz Fabinski.

This will be his first fight in 19 months.

I genuinely don’t like being reductive in my analysis, but come on. Meek’s given up 14 takedowns in his last two fights and Matthews — despite being a former Lightweight — is skilled enough to toss even wrestling-savvy Welterweights around. Meek’s power and tenacity don’t mean much when Matthews can put him on his back essentially at will.

Barring a Palhares-style elbow finish, Meek’s means of stopping Matthews from grinding him into the dirt are few and far between. The more interesting question is how long this lasts. That’s because Matthews is more submission focused than Kamaru Usman or Bartosz Fabinski, so expect him to drag “Valhalla” into Hel with his signature rear-naked choke.

Prediction: Matthews via first-round submission


170 lbs.: Callan Potter vs. Kenan Song

Callan Potter’s (18-8) Octagon debut left a bit to be desired, as his short-notice step-up against Jalin Turner resulted in a swift knockout defeat. A return to Welterweight seemed to cure what ailed him, however, as he upset “Contender Series” product Maki Pitolo in Melbourne eight months later.

“The Rockstar” has seen the judges just twice as a professional, scoring 10 submissions and six (technical) knockouts.

Though he joined the world’s largest fight promotion on a loss, Kenan Song (15-5) rewarded UFC’s gamble by smashing Bobby Nash and Hector Aldana in his first two Octagon bouts. He soon hit a stumble in the form of Alex Morono, though he walked away with a “Fight of the Night” bonus and scraped past Derrick Krantz in his next effort.

“The Assassin’s” 13 stoppage wins include seven by form of knockout.

Potter went far above and beyond my expectations against Pitolo, displaying not only his customary grappling prowess but some highly effective standup as well. Still, the 35-year-old looks like he’s in for a rough night. Even if the takedowns are there for “The Rockstar,” Song has shown the ground savvy necessary to stay alive until he can return to the feet, where he hits more than hard enough to punish Potter’s shaky defense.

With zero submission losses to his name and a proven ability to get back to his feet, Song has all the tools necessary to shut down the Aussie’s ground game and bring his heavy hands to bear. He hands Potter the fifth knockout loss of his career partway through the first round.

Prediction: Song via first-round knockout


UFC Fight Night 168’s main event is guaranteed violence, as is a decent chunk of the supporting cast — don’t miss it! See you Saturday, Maniacs.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 168 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 168: “Felder vs. Hooker” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2020: 13-12