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UFC Fight Night: Felder vs. Hooker staff picks and predictions

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Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s predictions for UFC Auckland.

Jasmin Frank-USA TODAY Sports

The Bloody Elbow team has made its picks for UFC Auckland, and most of us are picking Dan Hooker to win in front of his home fans against Paul Felder. As for the co-main event, the majority are picking Michael Oleksiejczuk to beat Jimmy Crute in a light heavyweight battle.

Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Phil Mackenzie entered all of his predictions on Wednesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he’s going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.

Note 2: We are looking at a new predictions format, and that means only having descriptions on our picks for the top handful of fights on smaller UFC events such as this one.

Paul Felder vs. Dan Hooker

Mookie Alexander: What I love about this fight on an otherwise uninspiring card is that it’s destined to be exciting wherever the fight takes place. If they choose to grapple, we could get some cool scrambles and big ground-and-pound. If it’s in the clinch, get ready for hellbows and knees. At range, we know what violence they can inflict on others from that distance. One of the things with Felder is that he does tend to throw almost everything with “knock yo’ ass out” power. Hooker is a bit more composed than that and he can expertly dish out damage off the counter. These two can take a stupid amount of punishment, but I think Hooker is capable of taking some big shots from Felder while also doing more to win rounds. This is going to rule and I can’t confidently pick either way, but my mind tells me Dan Hooker by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I’d be lying if I said I was sure how this fight will go. Both Hooker and Felder have been shockingly durable over their careers. Both men are better than functional grapplers when they choose to do so (although I think Felder is the better scrambler), but both men prefer to stay standing. Felder has slowly molded himself into more of a hard-nosed pressure fighter lately, and it’s gotten him some big/difficult wins. But, it’s also meant that win or lose, he tends to take a lot of damage in the process. Hooker is much more comfortable as a probing out-fighter with a razor sharp counter game. When he’s winning, he tends to be dominating. When he’s not, however, he has gotten pretty chewed up as well. I feel like Hooker’s range and counters just carry that little extra precision and functionality that will make it difficult for Felder to close him down without damage. And I’m banking on that carrying Hooker to the win. The clinch should be interesting, since Felder throws with a ton of power there, but often gives fighters a chance to out-work him while doing so. Dan Hooker via decision.

Staff picking Felder: Ed, Dayne
Staff picking Hooker: Phil, Zane, Mookie, Stephie

Jimmy Crute vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk

Mookie Alexander: Crute’s got the grappling chops to submit a dude who has already lost by Von Flue choke, but Oleksiejczuk has the striking to cook Jimmy’s insides and end his night early. This is a “what the hell” sort of pick for a “what the hell” sort of co-main event. Michael Oleksiejczuk by KO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: This is a very light heavyweight fight, in the best ways. Two men who have thus far shown far too much confidence in games which are somewhat non-functional or simply underpowered are going to have a messy weird showdown. Oleksiejczuk has shown the more functional striking (moving his head, striking in combination) whereas Crute is a better baseline athlete and a superior grappler. However, Crute tends to give his opponent the fight they want, so Michal Oleksiejczuk by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: A part of me wonders if Oleksiejczuk is just going to find himself in more and more trouble as he fights the bigger, better athletes at 205. Being the scrappy little guy has its merits, but is especially tough going in a division full of huge hyper-athletic opponents. Still, I’m also not sure Crute is quite among that crowd. He’s fast, and he throws everything with power, but mostly he seems to have little structure or ability to control the range and pace his fights are conducted at. He’ll be dangerous all the way through, but Oleksiejczuk’s stead pressure boxing game is well made to breakdown fighters that can’t find ways to get him down or back him off regularly. Michal Oleksiejczuk by TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Crute: Ed
Staff picking Oleksiejczuk: Dayne, Phil, Zane, Mookie, Stephie

Ben Sosoli vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima

Mookie Alexander: Wow. Marcos Rogerio de Lima by TKO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Ever notice how the third or fourth fight on the card nowadays is always just a complete headscratcher? Marcos Rogerio de Lima by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: Rogerio de Lima is one of the most error-prone fighters in the UFC, but he’s also better technically everywhere than Sosoli. And has tended to have a pretty good chin throughout his career. His troubles tend to come more from gassing and from deciding to grapple where he can get submitted. But even if he shoots takedowns, will Sosoli stuff them. Can Sosoli out-grapple de Lima? Seems unlikely. Marcos Rogerio de Lima by decision.

Staff picking Sosoli:
Staff picking de Lima: Ed, Dayne, Phil, Mookie, Zane, Stephie

Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Yan Xiaonan

Mookie Alexander: Kowalkiewicz’s decline has been kind of shocking to watch. Feels like she’s at the point of no return whereas Xiaonan is strong and has an impressive workrate. Yao Xiaonan by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Seems like a bit of a changing of the guard fight. There’s always the chance that Kowalkiewicz is just the more experienced fighter in a no-defense volume punching battle, but she’s been looking more tentative and less tough of late, so Yao Xiaonan by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Xiaonan definitely feels like a step back for Kowalkiewicz, just in that she’s the least fast, least technical puncher Kowalkiewicz has faced in a minute. And that could be enough for Kowalkiewicz to march her down. But, Xiaonan also moves constantly, keeps a high output, and has a strong clinch takedown game. All that seems like it’ll likely edge her out against a fighter who has found herself increasingly plodding after opponents and unable to land clean strikes easily. Xiaonan’s tendency to fade late is also worrying, but it’s not like Kowalkiewicz is a great finisher. Yan Xiaonan by decision.

Staff picking Kowalkiewicz:
Staff picking Xiaonan: Ed, Dayne, Phil, Zane, Mookie, Stephie

Magomed Mustafaev vs. Brad Riddell

Mookie Alexander: Yeah I reckon this could be fun. Not sure going to war with Jamie Mullarkey is something that Riddell wants to duplicate with Mustafaev. Magomed Mustafaev by TKO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Like many people, I thought that Fiziev would beat Mustafaev, because he is good at striking, but that there was a significant chance that Mustafaev would wallop him by doing some athletic mad shit. True enough, a walloping via mad shit was the order of the day. What’s important is that I didn’t let it break me. I’m still going to pick Riddell over Mustafaev, because Riddell is good at striking and I’m not a coward, like some people, whose names might rhyme with Head Mallow. Brad Riddell by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Never let it be said that a Brit won’t plow ahead with a bad idea, just because it’s wrong or dumb. Phil is merely following in the footsteps of his many brave ancestors. To that effect, I’m taking Magomed Mustafaev here. In part, just because he’s an absolute athletic freak who may be able to pull out any one single shot to change this fight at any moment. But also because going through an all-out war with Jamie Mullarkey suggests that Riddell may give Mustafaev plenty of chances to hang around and make those kinds of opportunities happen. Also, while Riddell’s takedown defense was much improved, he was also facing an opponent without much of a wrestling game. Mustafaev can do everything pretty well, depending on whether or not he chooses to. Still this could just be a striking war with Riddell getting off the majority of shots while nearly getting melted whenever Mustafaev decides to throw one back. Magomed Mustafaev via submission, round 2.

Staff picking Mustafaev: Ed, Zane, Mookie, Stephie
Staff picking Riddell: Phil, Dayne

Kevin Aguilar vs. Zubaira Tukhugov

Mookie Alexander: Tukhugov’s limitations with his cardio and striking abilities are fairly well defined at this point. I’m an Aguilar fan and think that while he’s not a particularly quick fighter, he is an accurate puncher with nicely put together combinations.On the ground, Tukhugov had a hard time keeping Lerone Murphy on the mat and he really won’t have it easy trying to wrestle Aguilar in the first place. Kevin Aguilar by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Zubaira “Mustafaev with the volume and craziness dials turned down” Tukhugov used to be a low volume spinny attack guy, and more recently has been seen defaulting to top control lay’n’pray. Aguilar is pretty difficult to take and keep down, and while he’s plodding enough that Tukhugov will be able to set up spinning nonsense on him, he’s a reasonably crafty counterpuncher with a decent workrate and hits hard. Kevin Aguilar by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: This is an exceptionally weird fight. Tukhugov is a great athlete, but often seems like his game is only skin deep in all areas. And against Lerone Murphy last time out, that included cardio. He can hit a takedown, but rarely keeps top control. He can scramble well, but rarely every finds submissions. And he can throw some absolute bombs, but doesn’t usually punch in combination. Meanwhile Aguilar is a somewhat slow-footed power punching counter-fighter who loves to work off his back foot along the cage. That could let Tukhugov just pick his spots to dive in for takedowns, but Aguilar did surprisingly well against Barzola in that kind of fight. The other option is that Tukhugov could just absolutely out-speed him, the way Dan Ige did, but I’m not at all confident Tukhugov has the defense or consistency to play that game. Ultimately, I just trust what Aguilar is trying to do more. It’s not a complicated game, but he’s got it boiled down to a very set style. While Tukhugov is going nip-tuck with just about everyone he fights. Kevin Aguilar via decision.

Staff picking Aguilar: Ed, Dayne, Zane, Mookie, Phil, Stephie
Staff picking Tukhugov:

Jake Matthews vs. Emil Weber Meek

Phil Mackenzie: Is this sort of the co-main event again? Meek is the more confident and probably the more physically powerful fighter, albeit the one with the more incoherent game. Matthews has flashes of looking good, most specifically with his body punching and his ability to cover distance and strike with power. I would perhaps favour Meek to stay tough in a standing fight, but his takedown defence has been all over the place. He did reasonably OK against Usman, and then collapsed against Fabinski. My fear is that both men come to the same conclusion: that the best way to leverage athleticism is to parcel it out and only attack when it’s safe, and we get a fight of Meek hanging out against the cage, and Matthews being scared to pick up blitzing entries. Jake Matthews by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Emil Meek is something of a strange cautionary tale in MMA. A superathletic, super powerful fighter who got a big signature win that rocketed him into fights he just wasn’t that prepared for. Mostly, Meek constantly flies into takedowns in his recklessly aggressive attempts to end fights with single big power shots. He has the athleticism to scramble back up, and make controlling him a task (and that might be enough to tax Matthews into Meek’s fight, the way it did Jordan Mein), but he seems to always go right back to giving up the exact same opportunities again. It’s not a good sign either that he seemed to be totally befuddled by Bartosz Fabinski doing the exact same thing that Kamaru Usman did to him in his previous loss. Matthews tends to come in and back up on straight lines, and seems to be playing a more cautious kickboxing game than he used to, but he’s always been incredibly tough to hurt or KO. And he’s a serviceable wrestler and good grappler. Meek could starch him with a flying knee or something, but that’s a pretty low probability compared to the potential that Matthews just takes him down over and over. Jake Matthews by decision.

Staff picking Matthews: Ed, Phil, Mookie, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Meek: Dayne

Kai Kara-France vs. Tyson Nam

Phil Mackenzie: This should be a reasonably fun fight, albeit one characterized by a slightly slower pace than you normally expect for flyweight. Both men make their way as relatively plodding, powerful kickboxers. Nam’s ability to pick up the occasional weird finish is always an X-Factor, but Kara-France is just a bit more diverse. Kai Kara-France by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Nam is a really fun fighter who has worked himself into a game that will likely always struggle in a division like flyweight. He’s a low-output pressure fighter, who builds his offense over rounds by making reads and finding opportunities for shockingly fast and accurate single punches. He can show a good jab and kicking game at times, but it tends to drift in and out, while the pressure pocket punching always remains. Meanwhile, Kara-France has also struggled to put together any consistent range offense (and isn’t nearly as dedicated to pressure as Nam), but he’s a much more consistent volume boxer who does a good job keeping his feet moving. In a division like flyweight, where clean single-shot KOs are rare. It seems a lot more likely that Kara-France’s volume and movement win out over Nam’s pressure and precision. Kai Kara-France by decision.

Staff picking Kara-France: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Zane, Mookie, Stephie
Staff picking Nam:

Angela Hill vs. Loma Lookboonmee

Phil Mackenzie: Another decent fight, where Hill’s volume will be measured against a more powerful and accurate hitter who is nonetheless very undersized for the division. Lookboonmee probably wins a striking matchup, but Hill has been getting it done on the floor lately and Lookboonmee doesn’t have tremendous footwork or general striking defense. Angela Hill by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: For better and worse, Hill tends to fight to her opposition. It was actually a good sign against Cifers that she made the right moves to actually take the fight over. But for most of her career, when she’s the better fighter, she fights down to the level of her opponent. And when she’s the worse fighter, she fights up. That leaves her with a lot of narrow decisions. Meanwhile Lookboonmee may have similar struggles, but for different reasons. She’s a perfectly consistent technical buzzsaw when it comes to her striking output, but being so small and without any real finishing power, she’s going to often find herself landing 3 shots for every 1 her opponent gets in, and still finding herself in a close physical battle. My feeling here is that both women will land consistently in the pocket in combination. But that out at range, Lookboonmee’s constant kicks will be a struggle for Hill, and in the clinch, Hill will struggle with a much more technical, decisive clinch game of Lookboonmee. If Hill can keep this fight in the mid range, she can make it a war. But I can’t help feeling she’ll be losing when she steps further in or further out. Loma Lookboonmee by decision.

Staff picking Hill: Phil, Dayne, Mookie, Stephie
Staff picking Lookboonmee: Ed, Zane

Poll

Who raises their hand at UFC Auckland?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Paul Felder
    (266 votes)
  • 54%
    Dan Hooker
    (314 votes)
580 votes total Vote Now

Rest of the card

Callan Potter vs. Song Kenan

Staff picking Potter:
Staff picking Kenan: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Zane, Mookie, Stephie

Jalin Turner vs. Joshua Culibao

Staff picking Turner: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Zane, Mookie, Stephie
Staff picking Culibao:

Priscila Cachoeira vs. Shana Dobson

Staff picking Cachoeira: Stephie
Staff picking Dobson: Ed, Phil, Dayne, Zane, Mookie