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But after beating replacement Charles Oliveira (22-8 MMA, 10-8 UFC) in violent fashion on Saturday’s featured prelim at UFC 218, Felder (22-8 MMA, 10-8 UFC) still thinks Iaquinta (13-3-1 MMA, 8-2 UFC) would be a great opponent – even if he’s still unsure as to why he withdrew from their meeting in the first place.
“I know his knee has been an issue for a really long time,” Felder said after his FS1-televised bout at UFC 218, which took place at Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit. “But I think he was just busy selling houses. And I’m not saying that in a disrespectful way. He said in an interview, he’s like, ‘Look, this is a guy that, if I’m going to fight him, I’m going to go full out, and I want to be fully prepared.’
“And I took that as a sign of respect. Maybe with more time. Maybe if we say spring or summer and build it up, maybe me and him could kind of co-headline or headline something, and I think that’s something people can get behind.”
This could be a tough one to put together, considering a recent chat with B.J. Penn Radio had Iaquinta, who also discussed his withdrawal from UFC 218, questioning his very future as an MMA fighter. But a tweet that “Raging” threw directly at Felder today showed that at least he’s aware of his peer’s interest – until he deleted it.
While his UFC future has yet to be determined, Felder can celebrate a pretty impressive present. The second-round knockout of Oliveira rounded out a perfect UFC year for Felder, who knocked out all of his three opponents while earning two “Performance of the Night” bonuses in the process.
The beautifully violent finish, though, didn’t come easy. First, it involved getting out of a tight D’Arce choke that, worsened by an “idiotic” mistake in trying to escape, had Felder concerned.
“For a minute there, I was like, ‘I’m going to get choked out,’” Felder said.
After gasping for air, though, Felder was able to escape. And the risk he took in staying on the ground with the grappling-savvy Oliveira paid off later, when he unleashed some hellish elbows to prompt a stoppage in the second round of the lightweight encounter.
But it wasn’t exactly all smooth sailing there, either, and Felder found himself in the unpleasant position of having to keep punishing an opponent who he had felt tapping.
“Me and (referee Dan Miragliotta) were just talking about it,” Felder said. “He saw (the tap) too, but he thought he was saying like, ‘Wow, nice shot.’ Hey, in the heat of the moment – I’m doing my job. You guys saw me pause for a second. And then he’s still there, and the fight’s not over. And you better believe I’m not stopping until somebody pulls me off. I couldn’t believe how many more I got off before the fight was stopped. …
“On camera, it probably looks like it’s about 0.1 of a second but, for me, it feels like 10 seconds of me being like, ‘Is it going to be over?’”
Felder’s year in the octagon is most likely over, but he’s not off the hook with the UFC just yet. After spending some time with his daughter, whom he paid homage to with an adorable Peppa Pig mouthguard on Saturday, the lightweight will be in the commentary booth for next weekend’s UFC Fight Night 123.
To hear Felder’s full chat with reporters, check out the video above.