Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its presence known to Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, last night (Sat., Feb. 22, 2020) for UFC Fight Night 168. One of the better “Fight Night” events in recent memory, UFC Auckland was headlined by an excellent battle between Lightweight warriors Dan Hooker and Paul Felder on the card. Otherwise, the entire card seemed to be made up of knockout artists, which certainly kept things from ever getting boring.
Let’s take a closer look at the best techniques and performances of the night:
Body And Blood
Dan Hooker and Paul Felder really put it all on the line last night.
That’s one of those MMA-isms that is nearly inescapable, but in this case, it’s hard to deny. The two Lightweights did considerable damage to one another: Felder’s face was redder than his hair, his eye shut, and his calf turned purple somewhere around the two minute mark of the fight. Hooker’s jaw appears misshapen and possibly broken, there’s several cuts on his face, and Felder more than paid him back for those calf kicks with chopping low kicks of his own.
By the time you read this article, neither man will be able to walk without the aid of pain killers, a cane, or divine intervention — possibly the trio together would be insufficient to avoid a wheelchair. Rather than focus on the decision or individual shifts of momentum, take a moment to admire the brutal glory of this war of attrition and early “Fight of the Year” favorite.
Crute The Brute
Jimmy Crute fought smart and dominated last night.
Michal Oleksiejczuk is a very dangerous prospect himself, but he was out-strategized last night. Crute game-planned for him perfectly, ducking under the left hand into a double leg takedown. Once he put the Polish fighter on his back, Crute was forced to work very hard to keep Oleksiejczuk down, showing off some very slick chain wrestling in the process.
Once Oleksiejczuk was finally put down for good, the fight was over. Crute threatened an arm triangle, then expertly switched off to a kimura when Oleksiejczuk defended the choke. It was very technical work from the 23-year-old Australian, who’s going to be a problem for a long time to come.
As for Oleksiejczuk, the Polish striker has a problem. He either needs to drop down to 185-pounds or take a significant amount of time off to develop his strength, because this is twice now that he’s been thoroughly out-muscled to a loss. There are plenty of plus sides to “Lord,” but there’s a clear game plan against him, and it will plague him unless something changes.
Another Lightweight Contender
Good God, Brad Riddell is no joke.
In his UFC debut, the City Kickboxing representative showed a ton of skill and big power, but he did so against a relatively unknown opponent. It was impressive work, but until a prospect faces a more proven foe, it’s hard to really get excited.
Enter Magomed Mustafaev.
Is Mustafaev a perfect fighter? No, but the Dagestani is ridiculously athletic, kicks absurdly hard, and has excellent wrestling in his back pocket. In short, he’s a huge test for any Lightweight in just his second UFC bout. I’ll be honest, I thought it was too much, too soon.
Riddell passed the test with flying colors. In the first round, he compensated for the extra step of distance Russian strikers often like to keep by shifting stances with a beautiful right hand, one that nearly knocked Mustafaev out. That would have been hugely impressive, but it’s perhaps even better that Mustafaev survived and tested Riddell’s wrestling for much of the remaining bout.
Riddell was overpowered to the mat several times, but he scrambled up with the technique and mindset required to compete at the elite Lightweight level. When able to create space, he hammered the calf and body. He fought a grueling pace against a powerful athlete, and Riddell seemed a step ahead the entire way.
- Marcos Rogerio de Lima defeats Ben Sosoli via first-round knockout: There may be nothing to break down here, but it was awesome! These two Heavyweights agreed to throw hooks at each other until one man fell, and unfortunately for Sosoli, his foe seemed a bit quicker and more powerful. The knockout itself came as de Lima stepped backwards with a pair of whinging hooks, which caused a faceplant and ended the bout.
- Zubaira Tukhugov defeats Kevin Aguilar via first-round knockout: Power is the great equalizer. As the more technical man, Aguilar seemed primed to to find success in the latter half of the fight ... but it never lasted that long. Instead, Tukhugov managed to time a left hook perfectly, leaping forward and stunning his veteran foe badly. once Aguilar was wounded, Tukhugov finished the bout masterfully, weaving overhands and uppercuts around the guard to hand Aguilar his first knockout loss.
- Jalin Turner defeats Josh Culibao via second-round knockout: Turner was the much bigger and much stronger man, and it showed in every exchange. Culibao was forced to shoot for bad takedown attempts, which often saw him eating punches and defending guillotine chokes. When Culibao tripped along the fence and hurt his ankle, the end was near: Turned quickly took top position and smashed him with ground strikes to force the finish. I don’t know just how much time Turner has left at 155 lbs., but he’s a seriously dangerous Lightweight for however long his time in this division lasts.
- Kenan Song defeats Callan Potter via first-round knockout: For a minute, it looked like Potter’s movement and clinch work — that lateral drop! — might actually flummox the far more athletic Song. Then, the Chinese athlete found his range. His first clean right hand landed for the first time, then a second, then again all in about 15 seconds, and Potter collapsed. Song showed very good patience and ridiculous power — he’s definitely a solid prospect at 170 lbs.
- Priscila Cachoeira defeats Shana Dobson via first-round knockout: Were my expectations in the basement for this fight? Definitely. Yet Cachoeira showed that against a woman who does not technically outmatch her like all previous opponents (and probably most future ones too), she can bring the violence. The Brazilian attacked wildly from the first bell and landed, then she ended the fight instantly with a lunging uppercut. Dobson ducked into the strike and hit the mat, lost to her surroundings.
For complete UFC Fight Night 168 “Felder vs. Hooker” results and play-by-play, click HERE!