Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 76 event in Dublin is not at all the card it was two weeks ago, which by itself was among the lesser offerings from the organization all year. The injuries to Stipe Miocic and Joseph Duffy scrapped the co-main and main events, respectively, leaving us with a headlining flyweight bout that was on the preliminary card just two weeks ago. The shift in card quality makes this anything but a “must-see” event, but there will still be four decent fights coming to the new main card on UFC Fight Pass. Here are some quick thoughts on the main card matchups:
Patrick Holohan vs. Louis Smolka (Flyweight): In a vacuum, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this fight. Holohan’s an entertaining young fighter out of Ireland in front of a home country crowd, just over a year after debuting in the UFC in front of these same fans in the opener. He’s taking on another talented and entertaining fighter in Louis Smolka, who just so happens to have defeated his countryman Neil Seery the last time out. The Irish crowd is going to be very much behind Holohan, and the fight itself should be fun, but as a “main event” it’s simply the worst final bout on a UFC event in years. It’s a fight that was fine for early main card action on Fight Pass, or to headline the prelims, or to take part in any preliminary card on any other event. But its status as main event due to the loss of Duffy vs. Dustin Poirier and Miocic vs. Ben Rothwell is laughable.
This again isn’t something to blame on the fighters themselves; Holohan and Smolka are taking advantage of an opportunity and will try to make a statement in Dublin. However, the UFC can and should be criticized for continuing to book thin cards that are susceptible to a main event switch of this level in the case of injury. Far too many injuries happen in this sport to not be prepared for them, and the UFC absolutely wasn’t in this case.
Back to the fight itself, both guys are similar in some respects, showcasing capable work on the ground and varying levels of success on the feet. Smolka’s probably the more talented fighter of the two with a likely higher upside, but Holohan’s got enough ground savvy and striking defense to make it ugly at times. Holohan’s only previously suffered one career loss, but I think a second could be on its way to close out Saturday’s event. Smolka by decision.
Norman Parke vs. Reza Madadi (Lightweight): It’s been two and a half years since Madadi submitted Michael Johnson and seemed poised to enter the top end of the UFC’s lightweight division. He’s since spent 15 months in prison on an aggravated burglary conviction, and is fighting here for the first time since that bout. Parke has already tried and succeeded in getting a rise out of Madadi, throwing a women’s handbag (something of which he was convicted of stealing) at him during the weigh-ins.
Parke garnering Madadi’s ire may or may not affect the outcome of the bout, but it’s got him riled up a bit at the very least. Madadi fighting for the first time in since April of 2013 leaves only questions as to just what level to which he’ll be able to return, but he’s got the grappling game to hang with Parke regardless.
Parke remains competitive with most he’s put in the cage with, but isn’t skillful enough anywhere to consistently score finishes. This is likely to be a close, grind-y type affair, and we’ll find out at what level Madadi is returning. Both have some striking skills, though this one’s probably destined for the clinch and the ground. I just have no idea what to expect from Madadi with so much time out of the cage, and it’s entirely possible Parke just makes this one ugly. Parke by decision.
Nicolas Dalby vs. Darren Till (Welterweight): A pair of exciting undefeated welterweights try to make a further impression on the UFC audience here, as former Cage Warriors champ Dalby meets the 22-year-old Till. Dalby holds finishes in half of his 14 career fights, and made a successful debut in the UFC in May with a decision win over Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos; Till, on the other hand, has finished nine of his 13 opponents by strikes, and holds another two submission victories as well. The impressive English finisher made his UFC debut on the same May card in Brazil as Dalby, knocking out Wendell Oliveira with elbows in the second round.
While both are relative unknowns at this point, they represent probably the most entertaining matchup on the card. While they’re both fairly comfortable on the ground, they’ve been strikers first and foremost. Dalby’s got some good technical striking and utilizes his karate background to great effect, while Till has a significant power edge. That makes for a very fun fight, and I think we’ll see both trying to showcase themselves as worthy of a move up the ladder at 170 lbs. here. I like the young gun to get it done. Till by TKO in the second round.
Neil Seery vs. Jon Delos Reyes (Flyweight): Seery, 36, has split four appearances in the UFC, losing a couple of decisions and winning a couple. He’s been competitive consistently, due mainly to a good boxing game and solid enough defense to avoid any truly precarious positions. Delos Reyes has a decently well rounded game, but he’s not really all that great in any one area, and winds up getting beat by superior fighters. He did score his first UFC win last time out, submitting Roldan Songcha-an in Singapore in May, but Seery, despite his age and a loss his last time out, is a definite step up from that fight. This could be the perfect time for Seery’s first UFC finish. Seery by submission in the second round.
[Patrick Holohan photo (c) Steven Flynn]