Name: Al Iquinta
MMA Record: 13-3-1
UFC Record: 8-2
Notable Wins: Jorge Masvidal, Kevin Lee
Notable Losses: Michael Chiesa, Mitch Clarke
Last Fight: TKO win over Diego Sanchez
Fighter Profile: Iaquinta has always had a great pedigree but struggled early in his UFC career, losing via submission to Michael Chiesa to lose The Ultimate Fighter 15 and a few fights later get upset with a submission loss to Mitch Clarke. Since then, though, Iaquinta has looked amazing when he’s fought, as he’s won his last five-straight fights including knockouts in four of them. Iaquinta is an extremely talented striker who combines speed, power and precision to finish his opponents. He’s dealt with some injuries and temporary retirements that have haulted his rise to contender status in the lightweight division, but seems to be more focused these days and ready to take a run for the belt. Iaquinta is a guy who has the potential to be one of the best fighters at 155lbs in the UFC, and with a win here at UFC 223 he would be in line for a top-10 or maybe even top-5 opponent.
Name: Paul Felder
MMA Record: 15-3
UFC Record: 7-3
Notable Wins: Stevie Ray, Charles Oliveira
Notable Losses: Edson Barboza, Francisco Trinaldo
Last Fight: TKO win over Charles Oliviera
Fighter Profile: Felder came into UFC with high hopes as the former CFFC lightweight champion, and he looked like a future contender with back-to-back wins to open up his UFC career. But the matchmakers threw him into the deep end too soon and he lost back-to-back fights to Edson Barboza and Ross Pearson that really dropped his stock. Since then, though, Felder has been on a roll as he’s won five of his last six fights, including three-straight knockout wins. Felder is an excellent striker who can finish most opponents in the division and he’s emerged as an improved grappler with dangerous ground-and-pound. At 32, I’m not sure if he ever becomes a true title contender, but there’s no question he’s looked great as of late, and he’s the perfect guy for the UFC to open up main card broadcasts with as he’s always in exciting fights.
Fight Breakdown: I’m certainly expecting a terrific standup fight here. Both guys love to stand and trade and I don’t expecting anything less from them here. With the fight opening up the PPV broadcast, I’m expecting both guys to bite down on their mouthpieces and throw bombs. And if that’s the scenario, I favor Iaquinta quite heavily. I believe he’s the faster fighter in this matchup and I believe he’s better defensively as well. As good as Felder is offensively, he gets hit way too much. Felder is durable enough that he may be able to make it all three rounds, but I think Iaquinta lands the better shots and wins a decision in what should be an exciting fight.
Prediction: Iaquinta via decision