The two talented strikers first met at 2015’s UFC on FOX 16 from Chicago, Illinois. There, the 10-0 Felder tasted defeat via decision after a crowd-pleasing battle. Felder has since lost a few more bouts, but he’s won quite a few as well. He’s won four out of his last five bouts, with the only loss in that span a split decision to Mike Perry up a weight class.
While “The Irish Dragon’s” insane toughness still remains intact, he recently told the Eurobash podcast (via MMA Fighting) that’s about it. He only had a base-level knowledge of fighting when he first met Barboza. After four years training under famed head coach Duke Roufus, he has improved exponentially:
“The only thing that I think remains the same is my toughness and my durability—I think that’s what I had and what got me through that fight with him,” said Felder. “My base skills were there, I was a powerful guy and a pretty decent striker. Since working with Duke, and even with my team in Philly, that’s got a lot better.”
Roufus The Mastermind
Felder touched on why he’s improved so much under Roufus’ tutelage. He believes he’s added several new wrinkles to his game. On top of his knockout striking, Felder has been improving his ground game while also fighting more patiently:
“Duke [Roufus] is a mastermind,” he added. “I’ve just been adding more clinch and more takedowns and working with my jiu-jitsu coaches. I’m so much more well-rounded and so much more composed. I was so violent and aggressive when I first fought him, I was all balls and pressure. It was just get in there and scrap, now it’s the same mentality with more versatility.”
Felder Recalls Brutal Blow From Barboza
Although the veteran Brazilian Barboza has gone through some rough times in the cage as of late, he’s still one of the most dangerous pure strikers in MMA. He’s known for, among other things, his lethal spinning kicks. Felder experienced one firsthand in their first fight. The strike hit him low, he claimed. While he couldn’t blame his loss on the strike, Felder did admit he rushed back to fighting too quickly.
He believes succumbing to the pressure did impact him nonetheless. Felder was sick to his stomach and even urinated blood after the fight. Needless to say, it added injury to the insult of his first defeat:
“I’m not going to blame that on why I lost. You could, I guess, if you wanted to find a way out, but it didn’t help things, that’s for sure. I feel like I had pretty good momentum in that round and then I took that shot and I didn’t take a lot of time to recover, because that’s how it is when we’re in there.
“You’re under a lot of pressure in there; there’s the crowd and there’s the ref talking to you the whole time and your opponent is just standing on the other side of the Octagon. There are a lot of things pushing you to just continue the match. I did that and I’m sure it negatively affected me for sure. That had me sick to my stomach for a while there, I was peeing blood after the fight.”
Felder and Brboza will look to set the stage for the massive lightweight title bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC 242.