UFC Vegas 14 predictions

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Paul Felder is a company man among company men.

We already know him as one of the voices of the UFC as well as being a fan favorite and a competitor who is undoubtedly ready to fight anyone at anytime (remember when he moved up to 170 pounds on short notice to fight Mike Perry?). He’s someone that Dana White knows he can depend on to properly represent the organization, which is why it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Felder agreed to take on Rafael dos Anjos just five days out from fight night as a replacement for Islam Makhachev.

Even by Felder’s standards, this is a bold move. But as the saying goes, fortune favors such folks, an adage of which Felder is acutely aware. Much like UFC broadcast partner Daniel Cormier, “The Irish Dragon” wants to end his career with a bang, and that could start with a win over dos Anjos in the UFC Vegas 14 main event.

Dos Anjos has his own reasons to be fired up. The former UFC champion returns to the lightweight division that he once ruled over and he’s in dire need of a win after dropping four of his last five fights as a welterweight. His 36th birthday may have just passed, but dos Anjos could be more than just a spoiler at 155 pounds if he can string together a few wins against top-10 competition.

In other main card action, a catchweight (172.5 pounds) bout between Abdul Razak Alhassan and Khaos Williams all but guarantees a highlight, Kay Hansen and Cory McKenna meet in a battle of 21-year-old strawweights, and Antonio Arroyo fights Eryk Anders in a catchweight (187.5 pounds) bout.

What: UFC Vegas 14

Where: UFC APEX in Las Vegas

When: Saturday, Nov. 14. The seven-fight preliminary card begins at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN+, with the four-fight main card starting at 7 p.m. also on ESPN+.


Paul Felder vs. Rafael dos Anjos

Where you stand on this matchup depends a lot on how you view the current state of Rafael dos Anjos, especially in comparison to where he was as a lightweight contender four years ago. Is his recent slump due to him facing larger opponents with unfavorable styles or are we seeing the expected decline of a man entering his 43rd pro bout. Maybe both?

Either way, I’m not convinced that dos Anjos isn’t still an elite 155er. Keep in mind that as outmatched as “RDA” might have looked in losses to Michael Chiesa, Leon Edwards, Kamaru Usman, and Colby Covington, none of these fighters came close to finishing him, which says a lot about their respect for his abilities and his resilience. Skill-wise, those names are on par with if not superior to Felder.

True, what matters is if he’s better than dos Anjos and there’s certainly reason to suggest that he is. Felder has strong takedown defense and his striking is top-notch. If this stays on the feet, it’s Felder’s best chance to win. He has the edge in power and if anyone is going to win by knockout here, you have to think its Felder.

However, I see this is as being a fight that’s going to go the full five rounds and in doing so, test the all-around games of both men. In that case, dos Anjos has the more diverse skill set. He’ll find ways to neutralize Felder in the clinch if the action starts to get away from him and might even manage a few timely takedowns. Beyond that, his sharp boxing should carry him the rest of the way.

Dos Anjos by decision.

Pick: Dos Anjos

Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Khaos Williams

A quick scan of the available data on Abdul Razak Alhassan paints a clear picture for us: If the fight goes past the first round he loses. That’s only happened twice. Ten other times, Alhassan needed less than five minutes to score a knockout. He’ll have a like-minded dance partner in Khaos Williams, who blitzed Alex Morono in just 27 seconds in his UFC debut.

Fortunately for Williams, there’s evidence that he’s capable of putting on a more tactical, measured performance. That should be his plan with Alhassan because there aren’t too many welterweights who can outgun the rocket-fisted Ghanaian. Both guys have a tendency to get sloppy and just wing hooks with both arms, which is probably why they were slotted into the co-main event.

Really this pick just comes down to whether you think this fight ends in the first round and I do. Williams might think to shoot, but it will probably only be after Alhassan clips him and by then it will be too late.

Pick: Alhassan

Kay Hansen vs. Cory McKenna

Both 21, Kay Hansen and Cory McKenna barely have a combined age older than last weekend’s headliner Glover Teixeira. Think about that one for a minute.

As you can imagine, there’s not a lot of assumptions we can make about how either fighter might perform given their youth and inexperience. Whatever you saw in their most recent fights, they could be exponentially better now, with Hansen fighting for the first time since June and McKenna growing under the tutelage of a major gym in Team Alpha Male. Expect the unexpected, would be the safest bet.

What we do know is that Hansen has a penchant for late dramatics, while McKenna has shown a killer instinct to compliment her fundamentals. Both fighters are a work-in-progress on the feet, so this one will probably go to the ground early and we could see some entertaining scrambles. I do think Hansen will be the sharper competitor just based on the higher quality of opponent she’s faced so I have to nod in her direction. She takes a decision after 15 hard-fought minutes.

Pick: Hansen

Eryk Anders vs. Antonio Arroyo

Is tonight the night we finally see Eryk Anders’ secret jiu-jitsu game? Probably not.

The former Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker has often said how much he likes grappling, which is a skill that would come in handy against the flowy Arroyo. But we’ve yet to see him display much of his wrestling or jiu-jitsu game, so it’s more likely that this turns into the kind of back-and-forth striking battle that has produced inconsistent results for Anders. Against, Arroyo, if he can’t get the fight to the ground, this could be a short night for Anders.

That, or a rough three-round beatdown. Either way, I don’t think Anders has the standup game to handle Arroyo. Should it go to the ground though, Anders might just have the formula to grind out a win.

Pick: Arroyo

Preliminaries

Brendan Allen def. Sean Strickland

Miranda Granger def. Ashley Yoder

Alex Morono def. Rhys McKee

Jose Quinonez def. Louis Smolka

Kanako Murata def. Randa Markos

Tony Gravely def. Geraldo de Freitas

Roque Martinez def. Don’Tale Mayes

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