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UFC Fight Night 168 start time, who is fighting tonight at ‘Felder vs Hooker’ in Auckland

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the hurt business TONIGHT (Sat., Feb. 22, 2020) as UFC Fight Night 168 goes down from inside Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, which streams exclusively on ESPN+. In the main event of the evening, Paul Felder and Dan Hooker collide in a pivotal Lightweight showdown. The co-main event, meanwhile, will see Jimmy Crute take on Michal Oleksiejczuk in Light Heavyweight action.

What’s Hot:

Both Felder and Hooker are two of the most-talented 155 pounders in the game who just have been unable to get over the hump in order to sneak themselves into title consideration. Ranked No. 6 in the land, Felder is coming off two impressive wins over James Vick and Edson Barboza. Winning five of his last six fights, the only defeat “The Irish Dragon” suffered during his recent run is a loss to Mike Perry, which went down at Welterweight. That said, the loss shouldn’t put a dent in what he’s done at 155 pounds since 2017, winning five in a row. To top it off, Felder has made quite a second career for himself outside of the cage, becoming one of UFC’s best commentators, securing himself a great position for the day he retires from face-punching. At the moment, though, Felder is still one of the best strikers in the game and he will need to be on his “A” game if he wants to get consecutive win number three against a streaking opponent.

Like Felder, Hooker is coming of back-to-back wins, defeating James Vick and Al Iaquinta. He has gone 6-1 at 155 pounds since 2017, only suffering a defeat to devastating striking machine, Edson Barboza. “The Hangman” currently sits one spot behind Felder on the official rankings at No. 7, but has slowly carved a place for himself as one of the best in the division. Of course, the top five boasts some of the best in the world who are also trying to get their crack at UFC gold, including Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirier, and Tony Ferguson, who will battle division kingpin, Khabib Nurmagomedov, at UFC 249 on April 18, 2020, in Brooklyn, New York. Plus, Conor McGregor is always lingering around, so both Hooker and Felder have to put on an exciting performance coupled with a win if they want to crash the party. It should make for an interesting and highly-competitive fight since they both have so much to gain with a win.

What’s Not:

If I have to pick just one — and perhaps petty — gripe is that the co-main event booking is a bit odd. While Jimmy Crute taking on Michal Oleksiejczuk is not bad matchmaking by any means, giving them the co-headlining spot when both are coming off submission defeats is a bit puzzling to me. While some may not even bat an eye at that, I’d like to see the promotion give surging contenders on win streaks a shot at being co-pilots for an event.

Original Card Vs. Actual Card:

Rachael Ostovich was in line to face Shana Dobson on the card, but she ultimately bowed out of the fight for undisclosed reasons. As a result, Priscila Cachoeira stepped in to take on Dobson in women’s Flyweight action. Angela Hill once again stepped up on short notice to take on Loma Lookboonmee after Hannah Goldy bowed out of the card with an injury. This will be Hill’s sixth fight in the span of just 11 months.

Injuries:

Tyson Pedro was forced out of his fight against Vinicius Moreira with an unfortunate injury. As a result, the promotion opted to pull Moreira from the card altogether. Also, UFC newcomer Joshua Culibao stepped in to face off against Jalin Turner after Jamie Mullarkey withdrew from the event with an injury of his own. Plus, UFC canceled a Welterweight showdown between Maki Pitolo and Takashi Sato after Pitolo was unable to weigh in due to an illness.

New Blood:

Josh Culibao is the only person making his Octagon debut this weekend, as he is set to face off against Jalin Turner on short notice. Undefeated at 8-0, Josh only has three years as a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter under his belt, but has proven to have the chops to put on a great show with five knockouts to his credit. He is the former Hex Fight Series Featherweight champion. He also won the Diamondback FC 145-pound strap, as well as the Superfight MMA Featherweight title. He will have a tough task in his debut, as Turner packs a hard punch. And since this fight is going down at Lightweight, Turner -- who stands at 6’3” — will have a huge size advantage coming into the fight.

How The “Prelim’s” Look:

Jake Mathews and Emil Meek will collide in what is sure-to-be a highly-entertaining Welterweight affair. Loser of two straight, Meek hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations many had of him after making his debut in 2016. Speaking of which, Emil has only competed three times during that span, preventing him from gaining any momentum. Mathews, meanwhile, is 4-1 in his last five fights, so it makes me wonder what UFC matchmakers were thinking when booking this fight.

No knives allowed!

Also, Kai Kara-France will look to bounce back after suffering his first loss inside the Octagon against Brandon Moreno at UFC 245, as he faces off against Tyson Nam in Flyweight action. Prior to his loss to Moreno, France had won eight straight. Nam, meanwhile, fizzled in his UFC debut, losing to Sergio Pettis last September. He needs a win against the always-gritty France to prevent falling down a deeper hole.

Plus, Angela Hill will fight just a little under four weeks removed from her win over Hannah Cifers after she agreed to step in for the injured Hannah Goldy. For those keeping count, this will be six fights in less than a year for “Overkill,” who is doing her best Donald Cerrone impression.

Who Needs A Win Badly:

Priscila Cachoeira has yet to earn her first win inside the Octagon, losing three straight, including a one-sided beatdown to current women's 125-pound queenpin, Valentina Shevchenko. While most chalked that brutal loss up to bad matchmaking, Priscila hasn’t been able to turn it around at all, losing her next two bouts to Molly McCann and Luana Carolina. She was undefeated at 8-0 prior to making her UFC debut, proving that she did deserve the call up to the big leagues. But her time fighting inside the Octagon could come to an end if she can’t get a win over Shana Dobson, as a pink slip could be in her near future as opposed to another UFC fight contract.

Interest Level: 5 of 10

It’s an okay card with some interesting matchups. Among them is Karolina Kowalkiewicz taking on Xianonan Yan. Since failing in her bid to dethrone Joanna Jedrzejczyk from the Strawweight throne in 2016, things haven't gone too well for “The Polish Princess.” She has gone just 2-5 since then, and has lost her last three in a row. This is a must-win for the Polish-born fighter against a combatant who was won four straight and nine of 10 overall. Fortunately for Karolina, she has a decent name, and will likely be spared from a pink slip if she loses. But just to be on the safe side, a win will give her the assurance she needs.

Also, Zubaira Tukhugov — the man on the receiving end of Conor’s left hook during the UFC 229 brawl — will look to get back in the win column when he takes on Kevin Aguilar. Tukhagov fought to a draw with Leron Murphy in his last fight. Prior to that, he suffered a split-decision loss to Renato Moicano. This will be just Tukhagov’s third fight in three years. Aguilar, meanwhile, is coming off a tough loss to Dan Ige, which snapped his nine fight win steak dating back nearly five years.

But of course, the main attraction will likely give us a glimpse of a future title contender, as Felder and Hooker are both looking to get over the hump and into title consideration. While it has all the makings of a classic battle, this fight could end in the blink of an eye given each man’s striking specialty.

Enjoy the fights!

Full Fight Card:

UFC Fight Night 168 Main Event on ESPN+:

155 lbs.: Paul Felder vs. Dan Hooker

UFC Fight Night 168 Main Card on ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):

205 lbs.: Jimmy Crute vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
115 lbs.: Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Xiaonan Yan
265 lbs.: Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Ben Sosoli
155 lbs.: Magomed Mustafaev vs. Brad Riddell
145 lbs.: Kevin Aguilar vs. Zubaira Tukhugov

UFC Fight Night 168 Prelims Card on ESPN+ (4 p.m. ET):

155 lbs.: Jalin Turner vs. Josh Culibao
170 lbs.: Jake Matthews vs. Emil Meek
170 lbs.: Song Kenan vs. Callan Potter
125 lbs.: Kai Kara-France vs. Tyson Nam
115 lbs.: Angela Hill vs. Loma Lookboonmee
125 lbs.: Shana Dobson vs. Priscila Cachoeira

*Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to change.

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