Paul Felder started the week preparing for a triathlon. Instead, the 35-year-old will step into the Octagon on Saturday night to battle Rafael dos Anjos in the main event of UFC Fight Night 182 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Felder replaces Islam Makhachev, who withdrew from the bout due to a staph infection that spread amongst his fight team.
Triathlon Training Made Weight Cut Possible
Makhachev, the No. 12 contender in the UFC lightweight division, promised to provide an excellent measuring stick for dos Anjos, a former lightweight champion who is moving back down in weight after a mediocre stint at welterweight over the past three years.
Typically, booking a replacement opponent on late notice means taking some of the heat out of a fight. But adding Felder makes Saturday’s main event even bigger. While Felder (17-5) hasn’t fought since dropping a split-decision loss to Dan Hooker in February, and even teased the possibility of retiring, he remains the No. 7 lightweight contender in the UFC. And while he’s never had a title shot, his work as a commentator – along with a strong career resume – have made Felder a household name among UFC fans.
|UFC Fight Night 183 Odds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)|
|Paul Felder: +168||Rafael dos Anjos: -210|
|Abdul Razak Alhassan: -250||Khaos Williams: +198|
|Julian Marquez: -290||Saparbek Safarov: +225|
|Eryk Anders: -130||Antonio Arroyo: +110|
|Brendan Allen: -116||Sean Strickland: -102|
While Felder normally wouldn’t walk around at anywhere near his fighting weight, the triathlon training came in handy for accepting a short-notice fight.
“I’m well under . I’m in the [170s]. I’ll give you that. I’m in the 70s. With some time and water-loading and dehydration, I’ll be fine,” Felder told ESPN. “Obviously, we talked about catchweights. But I know with main events, if possible, they like to keep it at the weight class. That was one of the things: ‘Do you think you can make it?’ It’s not going to be fun, but I’m going to make it.”
Dos Anjos Seeks Second Title Run at Lightweight
For dos Anjos (29-13), moving back down to lightweight will give him the chance to fight competitors on equal footing. During his time in the welterweight division, dos Anjos consistently came into the Octagon as the smaller fighter. After a strong start at 170 pounds, he lost four of his last five fights.
“I think at welterweight, I had a good run. I fought for the title. But I think I’m not too big for welterweight,” dos Anjos said during Thursday’s virtual media day. “That gap, that 15-pound gap, is such a big gap. I put the work [in]. I’ve been changing my whole diet, my whole body, for the past seven months … I’m trying to reinvent myself and prove I can be a lightweight champion again.”
Dos Anjos comes into the fight as a clear favorite. FanDuel Sportsbook lists the 36-year-old former champion as a -210 pick over Felder (+168). Back at 155 pounds, dos Anjos should enjoy the physical advantage over Felder – especially given the latter’s lack of training time – and control the action, whether that means winning a decision or finding a finish.