The Hangman is home. Dan Hooker, born, raised and currently training out of Auckland, New Zealand, headlines this Saturday’s ESPN+ fight card in the picturesque city.
Expect nothing less than a hero’s welcome for the native – he’ll need every advantage he can get against Paul Felder. The matchup is an important one in a loaded lightweight division, as the winner is assured a top 5 ranking and big name fights in the near future. It’s also an absolute banger, as both men are aggressive, dynamic and fearless.
Both Felder and Hooker have hit their stride lately: Felder comes into the matchup on a four fight winning streak (8-2 in his past 10), while Hooker has distanced himself from a brutal loss to Edson Barboza with back-to-back victories. Each man is still a few wins away from a title shot, but this could be the fight that vaults either into the elite tier – where sharks like Justin Gathje, Dustin Poirier and Tony Ferguson are swimming. That’s a lot of opportunity (and money) at stake.
As typical of cards in New Zealand/Australia, the UFC has tabbed a supporting cast filled with natives the local crowd can get behind. On tap is light heavyweight Jimmy Crute, who has pleasantly surprised inside the octagon – he’ll meet a slugger in Poland’s Michal Oleksiecjzuk. Another Pole, the popular Karolina Kowalkiewicz, heads into a career crossroads matchup against China’s Xiaonan Yan.
Today, we’ve picked out five bets that you should consider, courtesy of the UFC odds at BookMaker.eu. If you want to hedge any bets during the fight, live UFC betting at the online sportsbooks features real-time line updates – so you’re never out of the game.
Dan Hooker -145 vs. Paul Felder +115
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: +125 / -165
Our Pick: Felder to win at +115
You gotta love Hooker’s style of marching dudes down and beating them into submission. The only problem is that he doesn’t have a plan B if that’s not working – as shown in the Barboza fight where his midsection got pounded into ground chuck and he had no answer. But Hooker puts on so much pressure that most of his opponents just can’t hang.
? An ‘Irish Dragon’ and a ‘Hangman’
— UFC (@ufc) February 19, 2020
Felder has a lot of the same tools as Hooker – though he’s a bit smaller and a few years older. However, he makes up for it high fight IQ and an excellent ability to make mid-fight adjustments. His work as a color commentator probably helps, as The Irish Dragon always has a good idea of whether he’s winning or losing and switches things up as needed. He doesn’t have to stick to a style – Felder used leg kicks to beat VIck, clinch warfare against Charles Oliveira and all-out aggression against Barboza. He should find a way to get the upper hand against Hooker.
Jimmy Crute +113 vs. Michael Oleksiecjzuk -135
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: -175 / -245
Our Pick: Oleksiecjzuk to win at -135
It’s not often you see two light heavyweights in their early 20s paired up in an aging division, but here we are. Both guys have shown some good signs early on, but we’ve yet to see if they could be special.
We’re surprised the the Pole’s line has come up so much since opening at -210: he looked like a monster early against a respected vet in OSP. The fact that he tired out and got submitted is something that can be attributed to lack of experience more than anything. But Crute has shown himself to be a cerebral fighter that can commit to a grappling-heavy game plan as needed. That could spell trouble as Lord isn’t proven on the ground yet.
However, if Oleksiecjzuk just makes the simple adjustment to conserve his energy better, he has the speed and the hands to make life hell for the slower Crute. We expect him to fight a lot smarter this time around and take a clear win over his less physically talented opponent.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz +203 vs. Yan Xiaonan -264
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: check back later
Our Pick: Yan Xiaonan to win by decision -264
It wasn’t too long ago that Kowalkiewicz was fighting for the title, but the division has quickly caught up to her. Before, she could beat much of a thinning division based on toughness and grit, but these days her lack of athleticism has been exposed by the division’s top tier. Her loss to Grasso in her last outing is a sign that KK is fading to the middle tier.
We don’t know how good Yan will be, but she’s younger, bigger and stronger than her opponent. She also beats Karolina at her own game, with a higher volume of strikes landed per minute. Just as importantly, the Chinese native hits with a bit more pop, and that will make a huge difference as Karolina is there to be hit.
Check out all the UFC fight odds here.