clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UFC Auckland preview, ‘Felder vs Hooker’ predictions

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will feature an important lightweight showdown between Paul Felder and Dan Hooker atop the UFC Fight Night 168 mixed martial arts (MMA) event, which airs exclusively on ESPN+ this Sat. night (Feb. 22, 2020) inside Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand.

The winner will emerge as a legitimate contender for the 155-pound throne.

In the UFC Fight Night 168 co-main event, light heavyweight sluggers Jimmy Crute and Michal Oleksiejczuk collide for a chance to break into the division Top 10. The Australian “Brute” is 2-1 under the UFC banner with a pair of nasty finishes, while the Polish “Lord” recently scored a pair of knockouts of his own to improve to 14-3.

Before we get to the main and co-main event breakdown, be sure to check out the complete UFC Fight Night 168 preliminary card breakdown, expertly deconstructed by the jet-setting Patrick Stumberg here and here. Fighter-turned-writer-turned-fighter again, Andrew Richardson, did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the main card right here. For the latest odds and betting lines click here.

Let’s crunch some numbers.

155 lbs.: Paul Felder vs. Dan Hooker

Paul “The Irish Dragon” Felder

Record: 17-4 | Age: 34 | Betting line: +130
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Orthodox
Striking accuracy: 499 of 1136 (44%) | Takedown attempts: 3 of 9 (33%)
Current Ranking: No. 6 | Last fight: Decision win over Edson Barboza

Dan “The Hangman” Hooker

Record: 19-8 | Age: 30 | Betting line: -150
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 7 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 5 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Switch
Striking accuracy: 416 of 966 (43%) | Takedown attempts: 3 of 8 (38%)
Current Ranking: No. 7 | Last fight: Decision win over Al Iaquinta

Paul Felder vs. Dan Hooker is one of the better lightweight matchups in recent memory, stylistically speaking, and I’m a bit surprised it hasn’t happened by now when you consider their similar trajectory. Felder is ranked No. 6 in the 155-pound division, just one spot above “The Hangman” at No. 7. Conversely, “The Irish Dragon” has captured five of his last six, as opposed to six of seven for Hooker. This is going to be a close fight and I’m glad I don’t have to be the one to score it. Both fighters come into this contest on the strength of back-to-back wins, including mutual victories over James Vick. Was Felder’s follow-up win over Edson Barboza more impressive than Hooker’s decision nod against Al Iaquinta? I don’t think it matters, though it’s worth mentioning that Barboza is the only fighter to stop the Kiwi under the UFC banner.

Felder and Hooker both have 10 wins by way of knockout/technical knockout.

I don’t think it takes a genius to predict this fight will play out on its feet. Felder is a ferocious kickboxer who’s strong in the clinch. Hooker, meanwhile, can do considerable damage at range and fights with the kind of pressure that can disrupt the rhythm of even the most seasoned veterans. The question for me is how long Felder’s cardio will hold up in a five-round fight. I know Hooker hasn’t been 25 minutes either, but his frame and output are more favorable for a long-distance fight whereas Felder attacks like he’s trying to kill you in every exchange. I do think “The Irish Dragon” fades late in the game and gives away rounds four and five, but I also believe he’ll win the first three on aggression and damage, along with more punishing work in the clinch. That said, I may be biased, as anyone who can fight (and win) with a collapsed lung is hard to pick against.

Prediction: Felder def. Hooker by split decision

205 lbs.: Jimmy Crute vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk

Jimmy “The Brute” Crute

Record: 10-1 | Age: 23 | Betting line: +110
Wins: 4 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 6’2“ | Reach: 74” | Stance: Orthodox
Striking accuracy: 17 of 38 (45%) | Takedown attempts: 1 of 1 (100%)
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Submission loss to Misha Cirkunov

“Lord” Michal Oleksiejczuk

Record: 14-3 | Age: 24 | Betting line: -130
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 74” | Stance: Southpaw
Striking accuracy: 90 of 152 (59%) | Takedown attempts: 2 of 3 (67%)
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Submission loss to Ovince Saint Preux

I had pretty high expectations for both Jimmy Crute and Michal Oleksiejczuk, perhaps too high, or maybe I’m just too quick to jump ship after both light heavyweight prospects got exposed by older, craftier veterans. Crute came out of Dana White’s Contender Series with a ton of hype, and rightly so, before moving on to beat — and finish — established 205-pound mainstays in both Paul Craig and Sam Alvey. Then came Latvian bruiser Misha Cirkunov, who proved there is more to MMA than just hype. I think this is the fight that will tell us what the future holds for Crute because sometimes losses are more revealing than wins. Keep in mind “The Brute” is still just 23 years old and a couple years away from his prime, so the best is yet to come. No question a 2-1 record under the UFC banner is a damn good start. If he can remember to keep his chin tucked tomorrow night in Auckland, I like his chances.

Much like the main event, these two mirror each other in many ways. The 24 year-old Oleksiejczuk took the cage against Ovince Saint Preux on the strength of consecutive wins over Gian Villante and Gadzhimurad Antigulov, both by knockout, but “OSP” snuck in one of those punishing shoulder chokes that put the Polish “Lord” in purgatory. Oleksiejczuk is not as diversified in his offense as Crute, at least not from what we’ve seen, or perhaps he just likes to stand and bang. It’s hard to knock a gameplan that results in 10 knockouts across 14 wins, two of which came under the UFC banner. Unfortunately that kill-or-be-killed approach to fighting has its drawbacks. In the absence of the knockout, Oleksiejczuk drains his tank and finds himself vulnerable to counterattacks, so Crute has a pretty clear path to victory: survive the initial blitzkrieg, then take over when Oleksiejczuk runs out of gas.

Prediction: Crute def. Oleksiejczuk by submission

Remember to get the rest of the UFC Fight Night 168 main card predictions RIGHT HERE.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 168 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 7 p.m. ET.

For the rest of the UFC Auckland fight card and ESPN+ line up click here.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania