Two things have become widely apparent in the last year. Paul Felder is as talented inside the Octagon as he is in the commentary booth. The 34-year-old has been drafted in alongside Jon Anik and Joe Rogan to form a three-man team on many occasions and has settled in seamlessly. On Saturday evening in Abu Dhabi, ‘The Irish Dragon’ will make his return to active competition as he attempts to avenge his first-ever professional defeat, in a lightweight rematch with mainstay Edson Barboza in UFC 242’s co-main event. The Roufusport trained striker returned from an incredible short notice welterweight clash with Mike Perry, to score a convincing unanimous decision over recent 170 pounder mover James Vick, only to suffer a collapsed lung.
Over an almost nine-year career, the Pennsylvania native has established himself as a truly dangerous karate and taekwondo practitioner, notching ten separate knockout displays in the process. The rematch with Barboza is almost guaranteed fireworks, similarly to their 2015 back and forth, with neither electing to utilize their grappling chaps as they threw caution to the wind in an almost Muay Thai three rounder, so strap yourselves in once again.
Below, join me as I recap the impressive Octagon stint of one of the best 155-pound talents the UFC has to offer today.
With an extensive background in Muay Thai from an early age, Felder’s transition to mixed-martial-arts proved instantly fruitful. Signing to New Jersey-based promotion Cage Fury Fighting Championships in late 2011, a three-year stint with the organization earned Felder a lightweight world championship run. Atlantic City became somewhat of a home from home for Felder during his time with CFFC, scoring three impressive wins in the promotion’s base. A hometown title tilt with Marc Stevens allowed Felder to claim the championship on home soil, a chance he duly obliged to, via a second-round knockout. A quickfire wheel kick title defense against Craig Johnson followed, as Felder just two months fresh from the victory, made the leap to the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
A debut walk in October 2014 against Jason Saggo, offered Felder the opportunity of a lifetime. After a blustery trip to Canada, Felder returned home with a split decision win, making good on his UFC call. Replacing the injured Rustam Khabilov on short notice, Felder made the journey to ‘Sin City’, as he faced Team Alpha MMA staple and supremely talented grappler Danny ‘Last Call’ Castillo. During an exchange midway through the second round, Felder spun with a perfectly timed spinning back-fist, folding Castillo before finishing with strikes on the mat, earning him Performance of the Night honors.
Once more acting as late replacement, Felder took Myles Jury’s spot in a lightweight clash with Edson Barboza. in a Fight of the Night unanimous decision defeat, Felder was showered with plaudits due to his incredible performance, against one of the most feared kickers in mixed-martial-arts antiquity. In countless three-round exchanges, Barboza fired his lightning-fast switch kick to the liver, as well as spinning techniques, while Felder chopped the lead leg, a patented technique of his Brazilian opposition. On one of Barboza’s spinning variants, his shot strayed onto the cup on Felder, forcing a halt in action. Felder recalls urinating blood after the bout due to Barboza’s spinning attacks, but continued throughout the three-round assault, a testament to his toughness and durability. ‘The Irish Dragon’ had been slained for the first time, a telling and all too important lesson for Felder. Heartbreak followed against Sunderland native Ross Pearson next, as Felder dropped another decision defeat, this time a much narrower split decision.
Bouncing back against the talented Daron Cruickshank with a rear-naked choke victory late on, Felder quickly secured another two-fight win streak, as he bested Josh Burkman over three rounds.
Suffering a nasty cut due to vicious elbows when paired with Brazil’s Francisco Trinaldo, once more halted Felder’s siege of the 155-pound division as a doctor’s stoppage added a third loss to his professional résumé. Swapping Mark Henry for Duke Roufus’ Roufusport after the loss in Brazil, Felder has found an incredible rhythm with the Wisconsin based outfit, with former kickboxing star Roufus complimenting and polishing the striking oriented Philly native.
Paul Felder has arguably never looked better since his loss to Trinaldo in 2016. The 34-year-old has picked up four straight wins at lightweight, despite a contentious decision defeat to the aforementioned Mike Perry. Three consecutive stoppages via the help of elbows strikes, fully display Felder’s advancement in Muay Thai, beating Alessandro Ricci, Stevie Ray, and the highly dangerous Charles Oliveira soundly. In a second scheduled meeting with James Vick in February, Felder ditched the microphone for the four-ounce gloves, in one of his most impressive displays in the promotion to date. Countering for the majority of the fifteen-minute bout and laying down brutal leg kicks to the lead leg, Felder also stumbled Vick on multiple occasions to sway the judges. During his post-fight interview with Jon Anik, Felder issued a ‘come and get it’ plea to any lightweight on the roster.