Dan Hooker should have the crowd behind him when he takes on Paul Felder in a battle between lightweight contenders this Saturday at UFC Fight Night 168, taking place in Auckland, New Zealand.

Paul Felder Dan Hooker UFC
Paul Felder (left) says he plans to knockout Dan Hooker (right) in front of his hometown fans in Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday. (Image: Phil Walter/Zuffa)

Hooker (19-8) hails from Auckland, and currently sits as the No. 7 contender in the UFC’s lightweight division.

Felder Ready to Play the Villain

Hooker’s ranking places him one spot behind Felder in the standings. Even so, Hooker is entering the fight as the favorite, with FanDuel Sportsbook making the local hero a -156 favorite over Felder (+132).

Felder (17-4) seems to be using the fact that he’ll be the road team as motivation, saying that he plans to disappoint the fans who are likely to fill the arena for Hooker.

“I’m invading into his country,” Felder told MMA Junkie. “My whole plan is to knock his ass out in front of all his friends and family, and take that money and get out of there, and go on to a title shot.”

Hooker Confident in His Chances

Hooker didn’t take kindly to those comments, saying that Felder had made the fight personal.

“I’m going to fold that boy like a deckchair, I promise you,” Hooker told MMA Junkie “Whether it happens in the first or the fifth, I do not care. It’s up to him. It’s when he wants to take those risks, but I’m chinning that boy, I promise.”

Both men are coming into the fight with momentum. Hooker has won six of his last seven fights, including both of his appearances in the Octagon last year: a first-round knockout over James Vick, followed by a unanimous decision domination of Al Iaquinta in October.

Felder has won five of his last six, and also won twice last year: first in his own win over Vick, then a split decision victory over Edson Barboza at UFC 242 in September. Those results might not sound as impressive as Hooker’s, but it’s worth noting that Barboza handed the New Zealander his last loss back in 2018, knocking him out in the third round.


UFC Fight Night 168 Odds

  • Paul Felder (+132) vs. Dan Hooker (-156)
  • Jimmy Crute (+132) vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk (-156)
  • Karolina Kowalkiewicz (+200) vs. Yan Xiaonan (-245)
  • Ben Sosoli (+124) vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima (-146)
  • Brad Riddell (+116) vs. Magomed Mustafaev (-136)
  • Kevin Aguilar (-108) vs. Zubaira Tukhugov (-108)

Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook


Hooker will likely try to kept the fight at range, landing strikes and wearing down Felder until an opportunity to finish the fight presents itself, either via submission or knockout. Felder’s best path to victory might be to try to push the action, close the distance, and slow down the pace of the fight. But Hooker’s advantages are easier to see, making him a solid favorite heading into the matchup.

The co-main event at UFC Fight Night 168 features a couple of up-and-coming light heavyweights with gaudy records. The 23-year-old Jim Crute (10-1) fights out of Australia, and won his first two UFC fights before finally tasting his first defeat against Misha Cirkunov in September. He’ll be taking on 24-year-old Michal Oleksiejczuk (14-3), who saw his own long winning streak end last September when Ovince St. Preux got the best of him at UFC Fight Night 160.

Both fighters are looking to reestablish themselves as future contenders, and there is some prestige to this bout, as both have some reasonably impressive wins on their resumes, but no success against world-class opponents. Oleksiejczuk is likely to push the pace of the fight and look for an early finish; whether or not he gets one, or just tires himself out is an open question. Oleksiejzuk comes into the bout as a -156 favorite over Crute (+132).

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