To the surprise of no one, Paul Felder and Edson Barboza put on a great show in the UFC 242 co-main event.
Fans in Abu Dhabi appreciated a 15-minute war of attrition, with both men landing ridiculously powerful strikes but failing to even knock each other down. While Felder lost a decision to Barboza when they first fought in 2015, Felder got the unusual split decision, with each fighter getting a 30-27 scorecard, but Felder had his hand raised with a 29-28 going his way. It’s a second win in a row for Felder, and a second consecutive loss for Barboza, who may feel like he got a raw deal.
Barboza unsurprisingly started with a leg kick, while Felder had a spinning backfist blocked. Felder was eager to pressure while Barboza was slamming home powerful leg kicks. The American clinched Barboza up and backed him against the fence, briefly considering a takedown but deciding against it. Felder’s forehead was cut off an unknown strike. Both men were swinging with bad intentions, and Felder was responding with leg kicks of his own. Felder complained that there was a headbutt, and Herb Dean called timeout. Replays showed that it was a headbutt that caused the cut on the hairline.
When action resumed, the swings resumed. Barboza was the more technical striker, throwing devastating kicks. Felder caught Barboza with a right hand over the top, but Barboza shook it off. It was a solid opening round for the Brazilian striker.
Felder soldiered through Barboza’s kicks to continue his forward pressure, firing off elbows and power punches. Barboza was digging Felder’s body with hooks and Edson was able to get a surprise takedown. Big elbows off his back busted Barboza up. Felder threatened with an armbar but didn’t have it in tight, but he was able to get back to his feet, both men now bloodied. Barboza fended off a Felder takedown and dodged a left hook. Felder kept up the pressuring and landed a couple of hooks upstairs. Paul again went for a takedown, but his double leg entry was answered by Barboza.
Round three was fought more in close quarters, and it played to Felder’s advantage. Felder worked his jab to great effect. Barboza kept kicking as hard as he did in the opening round, and he had Felder’s attention with a spinning backfist. And elbow by Felder appeared to hurt Barboza, but Barboza recovered and threw a wheel kick. Felder was getting the better of Barboza with his boxing. Barboza had a late takedown in the final seconds of a truly bloody battle that could’ve gone either way.
Official result: Paul Felder def. Edson Barboza by split decision (27-30, 29-28, 30-27)