When Al Iaquinta returns to the octagon on April 7, he’ll be coming off a layoff of almost a year.
What that will mean in terms of performance, we’ll find out. Could rhythm be a problem for the 30-year-old fighter? Or will we get to see a display like the devastating one he delivered to Diego Sanchez at UFC Fight Night 108, when the hiatus had lasted nearly two years?
For opponent Paul Felder, too, that’s a question that can’t be answered right now. Which is why he’s working hard to cover all of his bases ahead of their UFC 223 clash.
“I want to be able to push the pace, since we don’t know,” Felder told MMAjunkie Raio. “Al might come back better than ever. He might come back not so much. He might have some cage rust. We don’t know. So I want to be burning and firing on all cylinders for 15 minutes, hard, nonstop. No matter what.”
To ensure that happens, Felder(15-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) is going full throttle in camp for Iaquinta(13-3-1 MMA, 8-2 UFC). When he spoke to MMAjunkie Radio, with exactly one month to go for the pay-per-view lightweight encounter at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., it was during a day that involved, at different points, a three-mile run, four to five rounds of sparring, an hour of drilling and, at night, five-minute rounds of hitting Thai pads with coach Duke Roufus.
“All day, as hard as we can,” Felder said. “I’ll rest up as we get closer to the fight, start recovering a little bit. Start doing one or two a day the last couple of weeks. Start simulating the fight a little more, three hard fives and a minute recovery. See where we’re at. Get the weight down.
“But we’re in this (expletive) right now. We’re not playing. The beard is growing out. Rocky style over here, baby.”
Felder’s habitually hyper-focused camps have received an addition: fast miles. And, while the tendency is to slow down as the 155-pound meeting approaches, he’s also been lifting heavy. It may seem like a particularly exhausting day to day, but the extra work has its perks.
“I’m eating a lot,” Felder said. “I’m eating more on this camp than most camps, especially in the carbohydrate department. Usually I’m cutting my carbs and doing high fat to even make the weight.
“But since I’m working so hard, I’m able to eat more, which helps me recover. So even though my work load is a little high this camp, so is my calorie intake.”
It’s hard to argue with whatever it is that Felder is doing, considering how well it’s been working out for him. Since joining Roufusport early last year, on the heels of a knockout loss to Francisco Trinaldo in Brazil, Felder has racked up three knockout wins – two of them, over Alex Ricci and Stevie Ray, “Performance of the Night” bonus winners.
The momentum alone, capped off by a big TKO win over grappling expert Charles Oliveira, would be enough to make this meeting a potentially big one for Felder. But his opponent amps that up quite a bit. Not only is Iaquinta coming off a five-fight winning streak of his own, he’s also a big name and one, like Felder, has been known to put on exciting displays.
Felder, who was originally supposed to have met Iaquinta at UFC 218 in December, has had “Ragin’” on his radar for quite some time now. While he’s not habitually a big tape-watcher when it comes to his opponents, Felder has done his homework and, of course, has seen Iaquinta fight over the years. He’s aware of his style and his strengths.
But, at the same time, there’s no telling what new weapons and skills Iaquinta might bring out this time, which is why the focus in making himself better equipped to handle whatever those may be.
“I’ve got a lot of guys working a lot of leg-lock stuff on me, doing all that in case he’s been brushing up on any kind of tricky submissions and things like that,” Felder said. “I’ve got guys on my leg. I’ve got guys trying to take me down. I’ve got guys trying to box with me. So wherever we end up, we’re going to be prepared.
“And also, just trying to get better myself. I just want to be a better athlete. The fighter’s in me. That’s never been a question for me. The fight’s going to come out of me no matter what, but just making sure that we are grinding.”
MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go towww.mmajunkie.com/radio.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Paul Felder's UFC 223 prep for Al Iaquinta comes with perk: 'I'm eating a lot'