Seamus Raftery previews UFC Fight Night 76, from Dublin’s 3Arena.
This card took a major hit on Wednesday night when it emerged that the fight originally scheduled to be the main event, Joseph Duffy vs Dustin Poirier, would have to be scrapped.
According to Duffy’s esteemed coach, Firas Zahabi, the Donegal native suffered a mild concussion on his final sparring day, last Saturday, and thus had to be pulled from the lightweight bout.
The last-minute nature of the withdrawal meant that Poirier was reluctant to accept an alternative opponent, and he chose to sit this one out.
To make matters worse, the disastrous sequence occurred just a week after Stipe Miocic had made it known that he would be unable to compete in the co-main event slot against Ben Rothwell, due to an injury. Though it initially appeared as though the UFC would find a replacement for the highly-ranked heavyweight, they eventually decided to leave Rothwell off the card altogether.
The removal of these two fights has seriously damaged the overall quality of what had been a hotly anticipated event. So much so, in fact, that the UFC are begrudgingly offering refunds to dissatisfied fans.
However, despite the fact that the card has lost much of it’s lustre, there are still some interesting contests scheduled, as well as a great deal of Irish interest.
Patrick Holohan Vs Louis Smolka
“The Hooligan” vs “Da Last Samurai” has made an improbable climb to the top of this card, thanks to the injury fuelled chaos of the last week. It may not be as enticing a main event as Duffy vs Poirier, but few would begrudge the amiable Holohan his chance to headline in his beloved hometown.
Holohan made his UFC debut at last year’s Dublin showcase, which was headlined by his superstar teammate, Conor McGregor. On that occasion he dispatched of Josh Sampo via rear-naked choke in the opening round. Since that famous night, Holohan has added a further two victories to his ledger, but he also suffered a defeat at the hand’s of Chris Kelades.
The Hawaiian, Smolka, also comes into this fight with a 3-1 record on the biggest stage, while he holds a 9-1 slate overall. The 24-year-old opened his UFC account by outpointing “The Turkish Delight” Alptekin Ozkilic in January of 2014. Like Holohan, however, Smolka would drop a decision in his second bout, losing a split call to Chris Cariaso.
Since then, Smolka has rebounded by securing a KO win over Richie Vaculik, and taking a unanimous nod over Ireland’s Neil Seery at UFC 189.
Their mirror image UFC tallies aren’t the only similarities between these two combatants. They are both freakishly tall for the 125lbs weight-class, with Smolka standing 5’9 and Holohan measuring 5’10. Both men also possess extremely well-rounded games.
They do differ, though, in where they would like this fight to be contested.
Smolka’s stand-up game is multi-faceted and very dangerous. He likes to come forward behind a flicking double jab and throw a high-volume of strikes, utilizing every weapon at his disposal. He slings some lovely long kicks, as well as varied and accurate combinations with his hands, with his straight right being a particularly potent weapon. He has also displayed some nasty knee’s, to both the body and head, from the clinch.
It will be Louis’ intention to keep this fight on the feet.
Holohan, on the other hand, will be looking to leap in behind a strike, slip down low, and secure a takedown. If he can bring Smolka to the ground things could get quite exciting, because both men have aggressive, gambling mentalities when it comes to grappling.
They are often willing to risk losing position in order to attempt a submission.
Due to this fact, both have been involved in intense and high-paced grappling matches that featured constant swings in momentum. Smolka had a thoroughly entertaining ground-based scrap with the aforementioned Neil Seery last time out, while Holohan’s bout with Chris Kelades was also a high octane affair.
While Smolka showed some vulnerability against Seery – he looked particularly open to guillotine chokes – Holohan’s advantage on the ground may not be as great as the Irishman believes.
With his underdeveloped wrestling game, Paddy will have to work very hard for the takedown against the sturdy Smolka. There will be some exciting skirmishes on the floor, but Holohan will struggle to control his foe and therefore the fighters will always find themselves back in the upright position.
Unfortunately, with the bulk of the action set to take place on the feet, this one looks likely to end in anguish for Paddy and yet more disappointment for the fans in attendance.
Paddy appears to have a sturdy chin, and Smolka isn’t a home-run hitter, so this one will go the 3 round distance. Smolka via unanimous decision.
Elsewhere on the card….
The co-main event features Northern Ireland’s Norman Parke taking on Iranian grinder Reza Madadi.
This is a highly significant fight for the Antrim man, as he has been defeated in his last two trips to the octagon. With the company in a talent-cutting tizzy at the moment, a third loss in a row could well put his UFC career in jeopardy.
While “Stormin” Norman is coming off of two losses, Madadi is returning from a lenthy hiatus which was necessitated by a prison sentence. The last time he was in the cage was April 6th, 2013, the same night that Conor McGregor made his debut.
This should be a close, attritional battle that may not be pretty on the eye.
The Verdict: Parke by narrow, perhaps controversial, decision.
There are 3 further Irish fighters in action.
The heroic Neil Seery will bring the action as usual when he takes on the talented, but inconsistent Jon Delos Reyes in a main card bout.
Cathal Pendred faces Tristar’s undefeated Englishman, Tom Breese, in what could be another somewhat scrappy, mauling and close affair.
The first lady of Irish MMA, Aisling Daly, takes on Brazilian submission ace, Ericka Almeida, in what should be an intriguing grappling bout.
Also look out for a match-up of touted, unbeaten fighters Darren Till and Nicolas Dalby. Talented Liverpool striker, Till, is 13-0 with 9 wins coming via KO/TKO. While the well-rounded Dane, Dalby has gone 14 professional fights without a loss.
Here is the full line-up:
Bubba Bush v Garreth McLellan
Darren Elkins v Robert Whiteford
Cathal Pendred v Tom Breese
Scott Askham v Krzysztof Jotko
Aisling Daly v Ericka Almeida
Stevie Ray v Mickael Lebout
Neil Seery v Jon Delos Reyes
Nicolas Dalby v Darren Till
Norman Parke v Reza Madadi
Patrick Holohan v Louis Smolka
Irish viewers can catch the main card action for free on Setanta Ireland or 3e, while UK viewers can tune in through Pick. Those fans can also watch the whole thing, prelims included, for free on UFC Fight Pass.
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