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Dan Hooker wins split decision in five-round war, Paul Felder hints at retirement after UFC Auckland main event

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UFC Fight Night: Felder v Hooker Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Dan Hooker is ready for his moment in the spotlight.

In front of a raucous home audience in Auckland, New Zealand, Hooker engaged in an absolute war with Paul Felder over five rounds but ultimately “The Hangman” pulled out a split-decision victory.

Both fighters were battered, bruised and bloody when it was over, but Hooker got the nod with two judges scoring the fight 48-47 in his favor with the third official giving the fight 48-47 to Felder.

Before the first punch was thrown, the tension as already thick in the air with Hooker declining to touch gloves with Felder during the initial staredown as the fight got underway.

Hooker was brimming with intensity but his gameplan was evident from the very first exchange after he repeatedly slammed his shin into Felder’s calf causing significant redness and bruising on his lead leg. While constantly circling away from his opponent’s power punches, Hooker then countered with his long reach by popping a jab in Felder’s face.

At the end of the first round, Felder went back to his corner with significant swelling around his right eye, which undoubtedly hampered his vision throughout the remainder of the fight.

Hooker was adding up a lot of visual damage with Felder’s face showing the after effects from being peppered with punches round after round.

In return, Felder was firing off power punches that were taking direct aim at Hooker’s jaw. Felder connected with a number of stiff shots that snapped Hooker’s head around as he showed off his ability to take a punch.

Still, the sickening thud of Felder’s shots landing flush on Hooker’s chin couldn’t be denied as the judges watched cage side scoring the fight.

With five minutes remaining, Felder upped his output with Hooker showing some signs of slowing down. Despite eating some hard shots, Hooker just kept coming for more.

Hooker’s ability to eat a shot and then fire back with one or two more of his own could have been the difference with the judges once the final scores were being tallied. Hooker also managed to close out the final round with a takedown as he sought to pass through Felder’s defense before time ran out.

The fighters embraced after sharing the cage together for 25 minutes but only Hooker was left celebrating while Felder began removing his gloves while hinting that this may be the last time he sets foot inside the Octagon.

“I knew it was close,” Felder said following the fight. “He busted me up pretty good.

“That might be it for me. I’ve got a four-year-old at home that misses me every time I go away like this.”

With a commentating career that’s flourished in recent years, Felder has stated several times in interviews that his only reason to keep fighting was to eventually get a shot to become champion. The path to the title obviously got a little longer after his loss on Saturday night.

As for Hooker, he was left speaking through what appeared to be a damaged jaw but following a statement win over Felder, he wasted no time calling for his next opponent.

“I’ve got my eye on someone,” Hooker said. “I want the battle of the highlight reel. I want Justin Gaethje next. Let’s go.”