Despite the chaos and despicable acts that have resulted in the loss of three fights today, UFC 223 is still taking place and is still going to feature ten sensational fights. Although fight week has descended into mayhem, taking the fighters and fans through a rollercoaster of emotions, I personally feel that the best way to handle this kind of insanity is to try to focus on the most important part of all this; the fighting.
UFC 223 is going to feature five great prelims leading up to the highly anticipated main card. These prelims will include a fight between a pair of exciting Light-Heavyweights, Devin Clark and Mike Rodriguez – an intriguing Lightweight bout between Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Evan Dunham. Ashlee Evans-Smith’s Flyweight debut against Bec Rawlings, the return of Joe Lauzon, and a pivotal fight between Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Felice Herrig in the headlining prelim.
The UFC 223 main card is one of the best the UFC has put forward in a long long time. The card not only features the highly anticipated rematch between Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk along with the best fight you never knew you needed, Max Holloway Vs Khabib Nurmagomedov. It also hosts two of the best non-title fights available to the UFC right now, in Paul Felder Vs Al Iaquinta and Renato Moicano Vs Calvin Kattar. The card will also feature the return of one of the best featherweights in the world Zabit Magomedsharipov when he takes on Kyle Bochniak. This card is absolutely phenomenal and I can’t wait.
Fight Of The Night
Of all the great fights on the card it’s hard to go past Paul Felder Vs Al Iaquinta as the potential fight of the night. See my preview for the fight below.
Paul Felder Vs Al Iaquinta is one of those fights that can not disappoint – regardless of how it plays out or who walks away victorious. The dynamic between these guys, in both fighting style and personality, is going to make every nail-biting second of this fight enjoyable.
This is a fight between polar opposites. On one hand, you have the UFC employee and company man Paul Felder. Paul is a promoters dream, he manages to fight consistently three times a year without fail, putting on a show every time. He is (seemingly) easy to deal with and willing to champion the company on a regular basis through his tremendous work as one of their colour commentators.
On the flip side, we have Ragin’ Al. In recent years Al Iaquinta has become one of the loudest spoken critics of the UFC to the point that he has become an ongoing meme amongst fans. Al’s contract disputes along with some injuries have caused him to fight a mere three times during the same period in which Paul Felder has managed to fight nine times. Ragin’ Al’s unapologetic temper and continued renegade attitude has garnered him respect and adoration from seemingly everyone but the UFC.
This conflicting dynamic between these two doesn’t end with their willingness to tow the company line. The pair are on opposing sides of an equally compelling stylistic choice in the cage. Although both men are striking based fighters with a proclivity for issuing plenty of damage, they fall on opposite ends of an issue that plagues many fighters.
For Paul Felder the issue has been his overabundance of tools. When Paul first began his UFC career, we saw him throw everything and then some at his opponent in an effort to create as much damage and pain as possible. This tendency mixed with his unwavering inner fire (lack of control) is largely why we saw him fall short in his close decision losses to Edson Barboza and even more so Ross Pearson.
On the flip side, Al Iaquinta finds himself facing this issue in reverse, in that he largely relies on a single weapon – his right hand – to do most of his best work. Although he edged a questionable decision against Jorge Masvidal in his second most recent fight (2015). The fight showcased the possible downfalls in his game if he is unable to land the right hand.
The deciding factor in this fight may very well come down to who has improved upon their striking tendencies most effectively. From what we have seen in the cage, Paul Felder has by far made the greater improvements. He is currently on a three-fight winning streak, all of which he won by TKO with elbows. During this run, Felder has fought using a far more conservative thus refined striking arsenal, leading to him leaving fewer openings for his opponent and creating more opportunities for himself to capitalise on.
The main issue in relying on in-cage performances to judge this fight is that Al Iaquinta has barely had any. For all we know, Al could have conceivably improved and sharpened his game to an unforeseen level in the time that he has not faced a top-level opponent. It is expected that we will see the best version of Ragin’ Al possible, the question is what will that look like. For that reason alone this fight is largely a 50/50 matchup.
The Full Card
Max Holloway Vs Khabib Nurmagomedov
Rose Namajunas Vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Renato Moicano Vs Calvin Kattar
Al Iaquinta Vs Paul Felder
Joe Lauzon Vs Chris Gruetzemacher
Devin Clark Vs Mike Rodriguez
Karolina Kowalkiewicz Vs Felice Herrig
Bec Rawlings Vs Ashlee Evans-Smith
Zabit Magomedsharipov Vs Kyle Bochniak
Olivier Aubin-Mercier Vs Evan Dunham