Auckland, New Zealand, hosts this week’s UFC event, and fight enthusiasts will witness a slate rife with international talent. China, Russia, Japan, Thailand, Australia, Poland, Brazil, the U.S. and of course New Zealand are represented, and each region brings different combat style, expertise and application.
Today’s top emerging mixed martial artists employ a combination of fighting techniques, which adds complexity to the deep base of UFC fight talent. This sport is growing rapidly but still is in its infancy, which creates profit opportunities for those willing to perform due diligence.
Last week’s release of John Dodson + 140 was profitable, as Dodson knocked out the less experienced Nathaniel Wood in the third round. The year has started well, with a 3-0 + 3.7u result. Readers also have the Curtis Blaydes -240 open parlay waiting to be utilized, which will be done today. Now that the business has been outlined, let’s fight.
Dan Hooker -140 vs. Paul Felder + 120, lightweight (155 pounds), main event
This card will feature many competitive fights, but none so much as this main event.
Seventh-ranked Dan Hooker gets the chance to fight in his homeland after winning in Australia in October. Though his travel schedule has been quite easy, his recent fights have not. The UFC has given Hooker a chance to highlight a card on his home soil as it continues to develop young talent around the globe.
Hooker, who originally fought in the lower featherweight class, is primarily a stand-up fighter who utilizes a high-output kickboxing offense. When fights are going Hooker’s way, he uses movement to maintain space and distance, allowing him to unleash a volume of strikes, kicks and combinations to all areas of the opponent’s body.
The 6-foot Hooker holds an edge against Paul Felder by being a switch-stance fighter. He’s five years the younger man, and he holds a substantial 5-inch reach advantage. These physical pluses loom large if this becomes a competitive stand-up war. Although Felder has previously competed at the higher weight class of 170 pounds, Hooker will be the taller, longer, larger combatant. He’ll also be the quicker, more powerful fighter, in my judgment, as Hooker has knocked down opponents five times in his last five fights while Felder has knocked down three men in his whole career.
But Felder arrives on a mission to destroy. He has won five of his last six fights impressively. His only loss occurred because he was a company man for the UFC, agreeing to take a short-notice fight against Mike Perry at 170 pounds.
Felder relies less on volume and more on precision striking and defense. He absorbs only 3.17 significant strikes per minute, compared with Hooker’s 4.72. Felder’s mission will be to negate any distance from Hooker so he can defend against Hooker’s offense by limiting his range and in turn work his way inside to deliver damage up close and inside. Felder thrives on the inside.
Felder has a more complete and advanced grappling game than does Hooker, and his best chance to win may be to drag Hooker to the mat for a mauling. But Hooker’s take-down defense has greatly improved, and it may tax the 35-year-old Felder too much to try to haul Hooker to the mat.
Felder’s greatest advantage lies in his striking from inside the pocket but more importantly from the clinch, where he realizes 67% significant-strike accuracy. If he can drag the Kiwi to the ground, that rate rises to 69%. Felder must gain inside position to fight on his terms, while Hooker must not allow Felder to crowd him. Herein lies the drama.
This fight opened a dead pick-’em with each man -120.
With the analytical advantages Hooker holds along with this fight being in his native New Zealand, I must side with the younger fighter competing in his own backyard. So I’ll use Hooker -140 as the second leg of the two-team parlay open (Curtis Blaydes -240) from UFC Raleigh.
Blaydes -240/Hooker -140 should it win pays 1.36u
This UFC Auckland fight card is stacked with fights I think will offer some opportunistic betting value. It’s early in the week, however, so keep an eye out for any further releases from my Twitter account, @GambLou, or my GambLou.com blog as soon as the weigh-ins occur or by Saturday morning.