Everything was in place for a storybook ending. Taking a five-round fight on five days’ notice, Paul Felder was setting himself up for either an ideal retirement or to launch himself into a big money fight in a division with a vacant title. All he had to do was beat Rafael dos Anjos at UFC Vegas 14.
All those people saying all he had to do was beat RDA forgot just how good RDA is. While RDA came into the contest having lost four of his last five, he had been fighting at a weight class above his ideal weight class at welterweight. Back at lightweight, he didn’t have to expend as much energy controlling smaller opposition against the cage. Pressure, clinch work, and takedowns were the name of the game for the former champion and RDA executed to perfection. Felder had a few nice moments - he scored an early cut on RDA off an elbow - but RDA’s physicality proved to be too much for Felder. It could be argued Felder would have put on a better performance if he had a full camp, but it was what it was, RDA taking every round of the five round main event.
With the win, RDA puts himself in prime position for a big fight. It won’t be a title fight, but someone like Dan Hooker or Charles Oliveira doesn’t sound unrealistic even if his callout of Conor McGregor is. Felder, even with the loss, has improved his standing with both the UFC and the fanbase given the circumstances of the fight. He stated he has no retirement plans for now (YAY!), so expect him to headline another Fight Night card or even a PPV co-main event.
As for the the rest of the (far less anticipated) action....
- Nobody expected the co-main event to last long. It didn’t. Securing his second KO finish in 30 seconds or less in two UFC fights, Khaos Williams let it be known he’s the real deal, stiffening Abdul Razak Alhassan with a right hand right up the middle. There wasn’t a lot of hype around Williams when he entered the UFC. There sure as hell is now.
- The first two rounds between Ashley Yoder and Miranda Granger was defined by flexibility and awkward positions on the mat. Yoder scored an early takedown in the third and dominated the rest of the way to put her stamp on the fight, coming thisclose to submitting Granger before the final bell rang. The win snaps Yoder’s two-fight skid.
- Making up for lost time following his layoff from a motorcycle accident, Sean Strickland picked up his second win in two weeks, piecing up Brendan Allen for a round and a half before Allen wilted. Allen had his moments in the first round, Strickland’s boxing proved to be too much to handle. Look for Strickland to get a ranked opponent next.
- There was a lot of debate in the Twittersphere whether Cory McKenna’s win over Kay Hansen was a robbery. I wouldn’t go that far, but do agree with the masses Hansen felt like the more deserving winner with her control and submission attempts making the difference. Regardless, spirited performance from both youngsters, indicating a bright future for the women’s strawweight division.
- She may be short, but Kanako Murata put on a bullying performance against the battle-tested Randa Markos. There weren’t a lot of highlight moments, but Murata’s control was dominant and her GnP was heavy when she got the opportunity to show it. One hell of a debut for the Japanese newcomer.
- Unable to deal with the reach of Geraldo de Freitas, Tony Gravely continually took the Brazilian to the mat with his wrestling, doing just enough damage from there to eek out a split decision. De Freitas probably could have pulled off the upset, but he continually waded into Gravely’s range rather than staying on the outside.
- While the highlight of the contest was weirdly having the mouthpiece of Rhys McKee fall under the Octagon – you gotta love this sport – it was actually a fun scrap with McKee and Alex Morono. Morono pushed an insane pace that saw him fade a bit as navigating McKee’s range was exhausting. A late takedown ensured he secured the win, putting Morono back on the winning track.
- In desperate need of a win to keep his roster spot, Dontale Mayes fought a cautious fight, utilizing his physical advantages to score points on the much shorter Roque Martinez, though he nearly gave it away when he slowed considerably in the final round. Mayes had a few nice moments – his knees come to mind – but for the most part, it was your typical low-level heavyweight slog.