The story heading into UFC Vegas 14 was Paul Felder. The Irish Dragon was heading to Vegas to work colour commentary for the event when Islam Mahkachev pulled out of his main event slot versus Rafael dos Anjos. Felder stepped in on five days notice and had a chance to pull off an upset against a former UFC lightweight champion.
However, RDA wasn’t going to let this story have a fairy tale ending. Instead, the Brazilian grinded out a tough and bloody win over Felder. Dos Anjos was able to bully Felder against the cage and cut him open with big strikes. Two judges gave every round to dos Anjos, but one judge ruled in favour of the late replacement. Either way dos Anjos gets the win on his return to 155 lbs and now has a chance to cement himself as a contender once again in the division.
Round one began with both men feeling each other out with feints and leg kicks. Felder landed a hard leg kick, but dos Anjos responded by ripping a kick to the body. Dos Anjos followed that up with heavy punches that were mostly blocked by Felder. Felder then threw a spinning elbow that glanced across dos Anjos’ forehead, cutting it and drawing blood. Dos Anjos then took the fight to the ground, dumping Felder to the mat against the fence.
Felder was able to wall walk and get the fight back to standing, while dos Anjos tried his luck with a standing arm triangle. Felder was able to squirm out of it and land a knee on the break. Both fighters then exchanged body kicks and flurries of punches.
Felder then ducked down for a takedown. There was a slight clash of heads, but dos Anjos was able to sprawl and avoid the takedown. He then pushed Felder up against the cage and landed a hard knee to the body and a punch upstairs.
In the second round Felder scored early with a leg kick and a step in elbow. Dos Anjos was finding his target with his jab, though. After a minute, dos Anjos went for another takedown against the fence, by Felder defended well. After they separated dos Anjos continued to land with his left. Felder was hitting the target, too, though. Dos Anjos would then go for another takedown and get it thanks to an inside trip.
Felder would get up, though, and then fight off a second takedown attempt for the majority of the remainder of the round.
Felder started the third with more leg kicks. Dos Anjos seemed to have little interest in checking them. After missing on his first takedown attempt of the round, dos Anjos landed with a big double leg against the fence with three minutes left on the clock. Felder stayed out of danger, though, and worked his way back up to his feet.
After some grueling clinch work dos Anjos was able to lift and slam Felder onto the ground. Felder again defended well as dos Anjos focused on getting solid top position.
Felder came out with a flying knee in the fourth, but it didn’t catch dos Anjos. The pace was slowed in the first of the championship rounds with both men throwing single shots and neither getting big contact in the opening exchanges.
Dos Anjos then went for a takedown and pushed Felder up against the fence where more grueling clinch-fighting ensued. With a minute left in the round Felder threw combos, but didn’t land many strikes. Dos Anjos answered with a stiff left down the pipe that cut Felder open and made him pause for a second. Felder then stormed back with a takedown.
In the fifth Felder threw a head kick that was blocked and then stuffed the first two takedown attempts dos Anjos threw at him. After some work against the fence dos Anjos was able to spin Felder away from the cage and take him down onto the canvas
On the ground Felder defended against dos Anjos’ ground and pound and submission attempts, but offered zero offense in return. He was able to get to his feet, though. With a minute left of the fight, dos Anjos continued to bully Felder against the fence before eventually getting Felder down again, where he held him until the last buzzer sounded.
Lightweight: Rafael dos Anjos def. Paul Felder by split decision (48-47, 50-45, 50-45).