Spark Arena in New Zealand is the host of UFC Fight Night 168, headlined by the Irish Dragon, Paul Felder against the New Zealand native Dan Hooker. Both fighters will be eager to put in a strong showing to be in the mix for a big Lightweight contender fight in the near future. The card contains many interesting matchups with a mix of fighters on the up and fighters trying to prove they still have what it takes in the UFC.
A couple of thoughts before I get into the previews. Firstly, I have always been a Kowalkiewicz fan and although she has lost her last three and Xiaonan has looked strong so far, she has been underrated by the market. I can’t bring myself to tipping her as one of my best tips on the card but she could be worth a play as she sits currently over $3 for the win. Kai Kara-France also looks unlikely to get beat and is an option which could be paired with a favourite such as Matthews for some more value.
This should be an entertaining brawl with both men as tough as they come. The motivation for Hooker, however, is likely to eclipse Felder. If this fight and his next don’t work out Felder already has a broadcasting career, whereas Hooker is fighting in his native country and has been on a mission since succumbing to Barboza’s body kicks in 2018. Felder is definitely a quality fighter who will prove a stern test for Hooker but he just isn’t as technical as Hooker which makes me find it hard to believe he will be able to outpoint him. He also hasn’t been able to finish anyone in the last two years despite racking up some impressive results.
While this is likely to be a contender for fight of the night, I will have to lean towards Hooker pulling off the win and how can you pick against someone fighting out of City Kickboxing at the moment? Hooker gets it done in a dog fight.
This is more of an underdog play than anything as Lookboonmee looks decent value against Hill. Hill comes into this fight with back to back wins over Ariane Carnelossi and Hannah Cifers but this fight will be with under a month turn around and she comes in to this fight on three weeks’ notice. Lookboonmee really impressed me in her debut against Albu and while this is admittedly a step up in competition, she looks to be up to the challenge. Her clinch work is very strong and with deceptively strong wrestling she can rack up the rounds before Hill can respond and earn the victory.
Pitolo made one of the most disappointing UFC debuts I can recall, falling badly to Callan Potter. My theory behind this fight is I’m staying out of who wins this fight as Pitolo on what he showed in his contender series win demolishes Sato but if the Pitolo that faced Potter again appears he will be stopped quick by the power and precision of Sato. Either way this fight won’t see the judges’ scorecards.
Jake Matthews since returning to 170 pounds has gone 4-1, which includes wins over the promising Li Jingliang and Rostem Akman. Emil Meek banks on his power to win his fights and while it has worked previously, his issues in defending takedowns will be a problem against Matthews. While just tipping Matthews looks a safe play, we are going to take a risk with the value in him getting the win by submission. Meek has never been submitted but has given up an average of seven takedowns a fight in his last two fights and Matthews is known for his submission threat. At 7-1, the odds are too good not to take.
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