The FeedUFC Fight Night 168 predictions: ‘Felder vs Hooker’ undercard ‘Prelims’ preview – Pt. 1

Two elite Lightweights look to make a case for a title shot this Saturday (Feb. 22, 2020) when Paul Felder faces local favorite Dan Hooker inside Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, headlining the latest installment of UFC on ESPN+. Earlier in the evening, Aussie up-and-comers Jimmy Crute and Ben Sosoli attempt to rebound from recent losses against knockout artists Michal Oleksiejczuk and Marcos Rogerio de Lima, respectively. UFC Fight Night 168 features seven “Prelims”...
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Two elite Lightweights look to make a case for a title shot this Saturday (Feb. 22, 2020) when Paul Felder faces local favorite Dan Hooker inside Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, headlining the latest installment of UFC on ESPN+. Earlier in the evening, Aussie up-and-comers Jimmy Crute and Ben Sosoli attempt to rebound from recent losses against knockout artists Michal Oleksiejczuk and Marcos Rogerio de Lima, respectively.

UFC Fight Night 168 features seven “Prelims” undercard bouts this time around. Think of a New Zealand pun for me while we have a look at the appetizers …

125 lbs.: Kai Kara-France vs. Tyson Nam

The early exit for Kai Kara-France (20-8) from The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 24 and subsequent loss to future Demetrious Johnson foe Tatsumitsu Wada didn’t stop him from winning his next five or extending the streak to eight in UFC itself. He tasted defeat for the first time since 2016 in December, losing a decision to Brandon Moreno at UFC 245.

“Don’t Blink” stands three inches shorter than Nam but will have a one-inch reach advantage.

Seven years after his infamous upset knockout of Eduardo Dantas, Tyson Nam (18-10-1) joined UFC as a late-notice replacement for Alex Perez in Mexico City. There would be no repeat of Nam’s career-defining effort, as Pettis outworked his foe en route to a decision victory.

He has won 10 professional bouts by knockout, including a literal last-second head kick finish of former UFC title challenger Ali Bagautinov.

Nam has power, striking technique and enough takedown defense to throw heat without fear. What he doesn’t have is any urgency whatsoever; he’s so hyper-focused on counter-punching that he’ll lose round after round looking for the perfect shot. Against Kara-France, who lands nearly twice as many strikes per minute and hasn’t been knocked out since his third pro fight, that’s not going to cut it.

Between Kara-France’s output and ostensible ability to take it to the mat if needed, Nam isn’t winning this without a knockout. Don’t hold your breath waiting — Kara-France buries him in output and survives what return fire slips through to earn a wide decision.

Prediction: Kara-France via unanimous decision


115 lbs.: Loma Lookboonmee vs. Angela Hill

Loma Lookboonmee (4-1) — a career Atomweight — made the move to 115 pounds for her UFC debut against Aleksandra Albu. Despite her opponent’s size and strength, Lookboonmee successfully out-struck her to claim a split decision victory that really should have been unanimous.

She’ll give up two inches of height and three inches of reach to Angela Hill (11-7).

Hill’s second UFC run hit a 1-3 skid from 2018-2019 as she fell to Cortney Casey, Randa Markos and Yan Xiaonan. She has since scored two consecutive stoppages, opening a gruesome cut on Ariane Carnelossi and pounding out Hannah Cifers in succession.

This will be her second fight in under 30 days, as she replaces Hannah Goldy on less than three weeks’ notice.

High as I am on Lookboonmee, this is a very solid test for her. Her lack of size for the division will be a perpetual thorn in her side, and Hill is capable enough from the outside to take full advantage of that weakness. That said, Lookboonmee’s prowess in the clinch and surprisingly strong wrestling both look like potent weapons against “Overkill,” especially on short notice.

Hill is more than game enough to slug it out with Lookboonmee and her superior reach could let her box her way to a decision. More likely, though, Lookboonmee keeps her off-balance with double-legs and does enough damage at close range to take the decision.

Prediction: Lookboonmee via unanimous decision


170 lbs.: Maki Pitolo vs. Takashi Sato

Maki Pitolo (12-5) was the underdog in his “Contender Series” appearance, but proved the oddsmakers wrong with a 97-second brutalizing of Justin Sumter to earn a contract. He couldn’t muster the same effort against Callan Potter, who out-struck and out-wrestled the Hawaiian on route to a decision victory.

He’ll have two inches of reach on Takashi Sato (15-3).

Sato — whose only loss since 2015 had come against TUF: “Brazil” winner Glaico Franca — enjoyed a triumphant UFC debut, knocking out Ben Saunders early in the second round. Belal Muhammad proved a tougher nut to crack, ultimately tapping Sato out with a rear-naked choke partway through the third round.

Ten of his pro wins, including his last six, have come by form of knockout.

Strike Pitolo’s UFC debut from my memory and I’d pick him in a heartbeat. At his best, he’s a fearsome offensive boxer whose body attack and varying punch speed bring to mind Nick Diaz’s heyday. Unfortunately, I can’t exactly ignore the fact that he struggled on the feet against a chinny, defensively unsound grappler. Even with his technical issues, Sato just hits too damn hard for Pitolo to survive with that kind of performance.

The Pitolo I thought I’d see in the Octagon would torch Sato. The one I did see, though, succumbs to the Japanese veteran’s murderous right hand before he can get anything going.

Prediction: Sato via first-round knockout


125 lbs.: Priscila Cachoeira vs. Shana Dobson

The Octagon debut of Priscila Cachoeira (8-3) opposite Valentina Shevchenko resulted in one of the most one-sided fights in promotional history as Shevchenko put her away with ground-and-pound in the second round. Her subsequent bouts have been less alarming, but no more successful, and she enters the cage this weekend on a three-fight losing streak.

Half of her professional wins have come by form of knockout.

Shana Dobson — the lowest seed on TUF 26 — rebounded from her opening-round loss to Roxanne Modafferi by knocking out teammate Ariel Beck at the Finale. She makes the walk this Saturday on a two-fight losing streak, however, dropping decisions to Lauren Mueller and Sabina Mazo.

She’ll have a four-inch reach advantage on fight night.

I’ve seen far better fighters cut for far less than Cachoeira, who’s shown little besides grit and durability during her three-fight UFC tenure. Dobson’s not a world-beater either, but she’s at least shown some basic boxing fundamentals and power, which is more than I can say for the Brazilian. Dobson can win this at range or in the sort of brawl Cachoeira prefers, and seeing as the latter doesn’t have a Plan B beyond “march forward harder,” that bodes ill for her.

Three losses and a failed drug test weren’t enough to end Cachoeira’s Octagon tenure; maybe four and a failed drug test will do it. Dobson eats her up with power punches to claim a wide decision.

Prediction: Dobson via unanimous decision

Three more UFC Fight Night 168 “Prelims” bouts remain to preview and predict tomorrow, including the return of Emil Meek and a hot prospect’s late-notice UFC debut. Same time as always, Maniacs.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 168 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 168: “Felder vs. Hooker” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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