On Sunday one of the UFC’s top prospects from early 2015 meets its newest commodity in 2016. That is, lightweight Paul Felder and UFC FIGHT PASS.
Sage Northcutt churned up the excitement at Fight Night Las Vegas and ever since the headlining bout on FIGHT PASS has been a can’t-miss. The “Irish Dragon” looks to continue this new movement when he squares off against Daron Cruickshank at Fight Night: Dillashaw vs. Cruz in Boston on Sunday.
Let’s go back to last January at UFC 182, when Felder improved to 10-0 after throwing a spinning back-fist that knocked out Danny Castillo and labeled him one of the best up-and-coming prospects. The bright lights were on but things began to change. Felder switched some things in his training preparation, even his style, and it cost him. He suffered back-to-back defeats to Edson Barboza and Ross Pearson, both via decision.
The man notorious for finishing appeared off.
“I got away from my movement and my unorthodox style,” Felder said at media day on Thursday in Boston. “I’ve really got back to my movement and motion and not just standing in front of someone and letting them hit me. I was stuck in the mud in my last two fights and the guys I was fighting weren’t.”
So what’s changed? Felder said for the first time in his career his back is against the wall and he has to prove he belongs in the UFC.
Felder started by going back to the basics, which for the Philly-native means spending more time at home and with the guys who got him to where he was.
“These guys got me to the UFC and won my first two bouts. Then you get caught up in things,” Felder said. “How I feel emotionally, friendship and structure wise, they have my back. They were there when I was fighting in small casinos in Atlantic City and now they’re here in the big show. Being around my family more in Philly makes me feel strongly.”
It helps too that in his losses he gained experience fighting two of the top lightweights in MMA to the bell. Felder learned he can hang with the best in the world. More importantly, those fights reminded him of the fire he possessed as a 10-0 fighter with seven finishes.
“The finish is important but at least going for the finish is important too,” Felder said. “What’s more important is showing and proving to the judges, or the UFC itself, that you’re looking to take your opponent out. Which I’ll be doing on Sunday.”
Felder knows you have to win to stay in the UFC and he admitted Wednesday that getting cut is on his mind. But the added pressure doesn’t appear to be affecting him.
“If it’s my time, it’s my time. “I’m going in there to have fun on Sunday and that’s been my mindset this whole time,” Felder said. “I’m enjoying Boston and taking in this whole week with the fans and the crowds.
Don’t miss Felder vs. Cruickshank live on FIGHT PASS at 6 pm ET/3 pm PT on Sunday.
Jon Gagnon is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com Follow him on Twitter at @jgagnonUFC
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