The mixed martial arts world could witness something historic at UFC Vegas 14, where Paul Felder will fight Rafael dos Anjos in a main-event war on just five days notice.
“RDA” (29-13) was scheduled to fight Islam Makhachev at 155 pounds on Saturday (November 14), but a staph infection forced the latter out of the fixture for a second time. Rather than rob the event of its main attraction, the UFC named Felder—who would have been commentating on the fights—as the late fill-in to face one of the most respected names in the promotion.
UFC Vegas 14 Preview & Prediction: Felder to win via decision
The “Irish Dragon” steps in as a +160 underdog with William Hill NJ, while Dos Anjos has been tipped strongly by the sportsbooks at -190. However, coach Brian Butler told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto about Felder’s triathlon training, elaborating on the fact he’s not exactly out of shape despite the sudden nature of the bout:
Comment from Paul Felder’s manager Brian Butler (@BrianButler_Au): Any other time, this would have been impossible. But Paul has been biking and swimming like a mad man. He woke up this morning and his health data says he’s peaking. The universe wanted this to happen.— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) November 9, 2020
In fact, Felder’s last fight—a split-decision loss to New Zealand’s Dan Hooker in February—was more recent than Dos Anjos’ last bout, a unanimous-decision defeat to Michael Chiesa.
To call the underdog “out of shape” or practice would be an insult, and Felder’s excitement was apparent when he spoke to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani about the opportunity in front of him:
Dos Anjos is returning to lightweight, where he briefly reigned as champion in 2015-16, after suffering back-to-back losses for the fourth time in his career.
The Brazilian recently turned 36 and is hoping for a renaissance after going 4-4 at welterweight, but the added stress of that extra weight cut could have an adverse effect against an opponent who’s fought his entire career at 155. In Dos Anjos’ defence, MMA By The Numbers showed he has improved in terms of absorbing fewer significant strikes while landing his own in recent years:
But all the pressure will rest with the favorite, which isn’t necessarily good for a Dos Anjos who has one win in his last five fights.
Both of Felder’s last two wins have come via decision—against Edson Barboza and James Vick—and it’s likely he’ll look to use his conditioning to wear Dos Anjos out, particularly if the South American looks tired early on in his return to 155 pounds.
Dos Anjos has fought a full five rounds on six occasions in his career, losing four of those (including the last three), while Felder was unfortunate to miss out narrowly against Hooker, his five-round debut. The Irish Dragon will be on guard to avoid Dos Anjos’ substantial threat standing up as well as on the ground, with William Hill NJ’s underdog odds where the value lies.
Dos Anjos vs. Felder Moneyline Odds
Rafael dos Anjos: -190
Paul Felder: +160
Odds via William Hill NJ.