Just three days before his bout at Fight Night Boston, Paul Felder admitted the possibility of being cut from the UFC was on his mind. Sure, his back-to-back losses came against two of the better lightweights, but as Felder said, you have to win to stay in the UFC.
On Sunday night Paul Felder left the Octagon at TD Garden with everything he wanted: a beer, a purple belt and a finish.
“I felt I needed to prove to the UFC I’m worthy of the fights they’ve given me. These big name fights,” said Felder (11-2), who scored the first submission of his career. “I wanted to show them I can finish these guys.”
Felder proved just that by finishing Daron Cruickshank in the third round by rear-naked choke as the headlining bout of the UFC FIGHT PASS prelims.
The submission earned him a purple belt in Jiu-jitsu from his coach Daniel Gracie and, of course, made his favorite case of beer waiting at home taste all the better.
“It wouldn’t have tasted as good coming home with a loss,” Felder said in his post-fight interview, while eyeing the taps in the restaurant of the lower level of TD Garden.
Some observers had him trailing 2-0 entering the third and he was aware. Felder told his corner before the fight not to sugarcoat anything. So when he strutted out for the final round, a finish was the only thing on his mind.
Felder is known for his finishes coming by way of knockout, but not this time. He remained in his hometown of Philadelphia for most of camp to better his grappling and ground game. And when he saw Cruickshank take a giant breath before the start of the third, Felder knew it was time to pounce.
They went right to the ground and with just one minute left, Felder was able to secure Cruickshank’s back and then the submission.
More from Fight Night Boston: Full results | Post-fight bonus recap | WATCH: Dana White’s final verdict | Talking Points after Boston | #ANDNEW! Cruz beats Dillashaw by split decision | Faber agrees Cruz won; Doesn’t want Dillashaw fight | Alvarez gets close win, Browne and Trinaldo also victorious | Felder delivers when he needs it most | Cote, Hernan get big TKO’s in prelims | Latifi, Rosa among early winners on FIGHT PASS | Watch the FIGHT PASS prelims here | Octagon interviews: Dominick Cruz, Dominick Cruz and TJ Dillashaw, Paul Felder | Backstage interviews: Eddie Alvarez, Travis Browne, Patrick Cote, Ed Herman, Luke Sanders | Best Images from Fight Night Boston
“Everyone in my camp is better than than me on the ground. So most of this camp was spent scrambling and we knew it was kind of a weakness (for Cruickshank),” Felder said. “After the second round I felt tired but I rebounded and I saw him still (take a huge breath) to get out off the stool.
“In the clinch his punches had nothing on them and I knew he didn’t have the gas.”
An emotional Felde fell to the ground after Cruickshank tapped and then leaped to the top of the Octagon.
“This is for my family. I want to climb up the ranks,” Felder told Joe Rogan in the Octagon.
Jon Gagnon is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com Follow him on Twitter at @jgagnonUFC