Monday, July 13, 2020

UFC FN 168: Explosive war set for Felder and Hooker

UFC Fight Night main event is set to be an all-out war as Dan Hooker and Paul Felder square off in a 5 round grudge match.

The war began in the cage

The seeds for this matchup were sewn in the post-fight interview after Hooker dispatched of Jim Miller in April 2018 with a devastating knee. Paul Felder was the man tasked with the post-fight interviews that night, Felder went through the usual questions and the subject of conversation turned to whom Hooker wanted next.

Hooker replied that he wanted a ranked opponent, and he rightly pointed out that he was standing across from a ranked fighter. Felder acknowledged the fortitude to call out the post-fight interviewer and the two shook hands both agreeing to the fight. It was nice; it was respectful, how times have changed.

Fast forward to October 2019 and the personal vendetta begins where all the best grudge matches start in the modern era, on Twitter. On 9th October 2019, Felder Tweeted out a meme with a hooker leaning into a car and the caption, ‘looking for a fight’.

The cold war gets hot on Twitter

This was an obvious reference to the double meaning of Hooker and I thought it was just a funny way to call out an opponent. Felder cannot be the first person to make that joke. I thought cool, Dan Hooker will maybe come back with another meme and they can all have a laugh about it. I was wrong; this cold war was about to heat up.

It turns out that Dan Hooker took offence to this tweet as well as a subsequent meme posted by Felder. In December 2019 the two men squared off and you immediately noticed the extra tension. This caused me to sit up and take notice, as I did not realise there was beef there and war had been declared.

Dan Hooker has taken these memes as a personal attack on his whole family stating in this article “I don’t know what the culture is like in America, maybe it’s a bit different, but where I’m from in New Zealand, especially in Maori culture, to insult someone’s family name is to insult the whole line. I would never even think to do a photo back. Look, I get it ‘Hooker.’ Great. You say it to my face I’m going to chin you. Even now as a payback I would never insult a family name because you’re insulting a whole line of people. For me, that was too far.”

What the war of words means for the fight

Now I am not from New Zealand so can not possibly speak to the cultural differences, however to me it is clear that Felder posted those memes in a jovial manner. I am not sure that this huge grudge Hooker has built up is entirely warranted or necessary, but I am a fan of a bit of animosity.

Maybe Dan needs the grudge to get fired up, some fighters do. But I feel that this is a dangerous strategy against a fighter like Paul Felder. Felder is a man that thrives in a firefight, he has had many epic bouts in his career.

Such as his battle with Mike Perry where he got to the final bell in spite of a broken arm. Felder also went to war twice with Edson Barboza getting his hand raised in the rematch with a split decision victory.

Felder was in his element when he went to war with Barboza
Felder was in his element when he went to war with Barboza

Now you may think that a split decision is not that impressive, but if you look at how Edson dismantled Dan Hooker when they fought, all of a sudden those fights between Felder and Barboza become significant. MMA math does not mean that just because Felder beat Barboza and Barboza beat Hooker that Felder will beat Hooker. But it does give us a small insight into each fighter.

Hooker could not handle the violence and raw aggression that Edson brought to the octagon, whereas Felder thrived in it. I believe that this presents a problem for Hooker in making this match up so very personal.

A war is somewhere that we have seen Felder thrive and Hooker fold. Hooker’s best way to beat Paul Felder is to stay long, maybe set up a big knee, fight on the outside. I feel if Hooker is going into this contest angry he may not stick to those critical rules for success in this fight.

The problem I see Dan Hooker having is that he clearly has made this personal; he is emotional about this opponent. Emotional fighters seldom make smart decisions in the octagon, my concern is that he gets in close because he is so dead set on hurting Felder as quickly as possible.

This plays into Felder’s wheelhouse in my opinion. Felder is so tough, to get him out of there you will have to go to war. Whoever takes home the victory in this one will most likely have to earn it the hard way, this is a fight that I am very much looking forward to and is really a must-watch for any MMA fan.

For more on MMA see our combat sports section and don’t forget to follow our Twitter page for all the latest updates.

Alex Green
Long suffering New York Jets fan, avid MMA viewer, been watching it since people still thought Ken Shamrock was quite good.

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