Lightweight Al Iaquinta and Paul Felder square off in the UFC’s return to Brooklyn at UFC 223 on April 7th, 2018 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Close As It Gets
Long Island’s Al Iaquinta successfully came back from a two year hiatus with a brutal knockout of the original Ultimate Fighter Diego Sanchez at last April’s UFC Nashville event. Iaquinta is riding high on a five fight winning streak and was booked to fight Felder at UFC 218 but pulled out due to an injury.
Felder remained at the UFC 218 event and ended up with an emphatic 2nd round TKO win over Charles Oliveira. The ‘Irish Dragon’ has won his last three fights, all by stoppage and all with brutal elbows involved in the finish. With Felder out of the lightweight division;s Top 15, a victory over the 11th ranked Iaquinta should put him back in the UFC map again.
This one is as close as it gets. Iaquinta is the slight favorite at -120 while Felder is at even money +100. Iaquinta has produced four knockouts in his last five bouts and in his most recent bout against Diego Sanchez, he needed only 12 strikes to finish the fight. Raging Al is known as a striker but he has a good grappler and can grind it out to victory.
But while he can grapple with the best, his ground game is suspect because all three of his career defeats have come via decision. Iaquinta though hasn’t lost since 2014 and he will be fighting for the first time in front of his hometown fans. That should be a big advantage for him in this fight.
Questions on Iaquinta
Felder is a pressure fighter who likes to make his opponent uncomfortable inside the octagon. Where it’s striking on his feet or executing his ground and pound game on the mat, he is a creative fighter. Felder can change things up quickly in the middle of the fight and his ability to adapt makes him a dangerous foe for Iaquinta.
Iaquinta has the better resume and has more experience but the concern about him is his overall form. He’s fought once in the last two years and he didn’t even have to do much to win that fight. Felder meanwhile has been busy in the last few years and has picked up solid wins with his consistent performances.
Between watching Felder fight more consistently and Iaquinta’s unknowns coming of a long layoff, it’s better to bet on what we know. We know Felder has been active and he has been good.
With even money on him, Felder is the pick in this fight. There’s just too many questions regarding Al Iaquinta’s true form. We’re picking Felder to win a grinder of a bout.