D. FOX: Rapid-fire reactions to UFC Fight Night 76 “Holohan vs. Smolka”

By Dayne Fox, MMATorch Contributor

You’ve got to give the Irish fans credit, as they turned out in droves and were loud as hell throughout the card. This despite the fact that the top of the card was completely ruined thanks to a pair of injuries that happened late enough that a replacement wasn’t able to be found for either bout. That is saying something, as I can see most fans bitching and moaning about the amount of money they spent on their tickets only to see the fight they wanted to see scrapped. I’m certainly a proud American, but when you factor that in with the event they held last year in Dublin, and how they drowned out the American crowd in Las Vegas at UFC 189, the Irish are without a doubt the most rabid fans in the world at this time.

Louis Smolka and Tom Breese walked out with the most impressive performances as they stared down hometown favorites and walked out with emphatic victories. Both are still early enough in their careers that they shouldn’t be seen as title contenders for a while, but these victories were emphatic enough that they inspired visions of that possibility in the near future. Overall the action was sound (not great) for a starless card. Here are the rest of the details:


Louis Smolka defeated Paddy Holohan via submission at 4:09 of the second round

Holohan went full speed from the beginning, gaining the advantage early in the fight with takedowns. Smolka was patient, worked his way into an advantageous position, and may very well have stolen the round with some kicks to the head mid-round and punches at the end of the round. Holohan got the fight to the ground in the second and was working for a RNC, but once again Smolka showed great patience and worked himself out. This time he was able to get Holohan to the ground and start unloading with strikes. As Holohan gave up his back, Smolka sunk in his own RNC for the victory.

While Smolka is one of the most naturally gifted flyweights on the UFC roster, his patience in working out of bad positions (while doing so in a hostile environment) is what was really impressive, as we all knew of his talent beforehand. Not only should he get a ranked opponent next, he should be breaking into the top 15 himself with this win. One can only hope the UFC doesn’t rush him as they did Kyoji Horiguchi to face Mighty Mouse. Holohan isn’t a good athlete, and will admit so himself, which will limit his ceiling. He has shown he’ll bring it to anyone, though, and his Irish heritage will ensure that he stays on the UFC roster for a while based on those two factors.


Norman Parke defeated Reza Madadi via unanimous decision

Unfortunately for the entertainment value, this fight went largely as expected. Parke proved difficult to take down, as his judo background was on display; Madadi’s best hope was to take the fight to the ground, which rarely happened. When it did, Parke was back to his feet rather quickly. On the feet, when he wasn’t defending takedowns of course, Parke threw the greater volume by far, and Madadi spent too much time looking for an opening for either a takedown or a haymaker. Parke’s lack of power was on display, too, as Madadi never appeared to be hurt. The win was much needed for Parke, having lost two in a row coming in. He’ll never be a contender without much finishing ability, and he has been overwhelmed by larger opponents too. I’m looking at him to carve out a nice career as a gatekeeper, similar to his TUF coach Ross Pearson… only less fun to watch. Madadi is in an interesting situation, as he was lucky to be back in the UFC after completing his prison sentence. He could be cut, or he’ll get one more chance to pick up a win.


Darren Till fought Nicolas Dalby to a majority draw

Well I guess they both remain undefeated. Considering I’m one of those who believes that 10-8 rounds aren’t scored enough, I have to agree with the scoring of the final round by two of the judges; Till didn’t have much left to offer as Dalby teed off on him almost at will. Till controlled the first two rounds thanks to his massive size advantage and huge power, as he was selective about his strikes; he sure as hell made them count, coming extremely close to ending the fight at the end of the first round before Dalby was saved by the bell. Dalby showed excellent heart and conditioning, whereas Till showed he has a high ceiling, but needs to address his gas tank before he becomes a threat to the top of the division. Unless there is controversy or high stakes, the UFC doesn’t usually do rematches with draws, so I’m expecting both to move forward from this onto different opponents.


Neil Seery defeated Jon delos Reyes via submission at 4:12 of the second round

Second time proved to be the charm, as Seery scored a guillotine submission the exact same way that he tried to do so earlier in the round when delos Reyes looked to lift him off his feet for the takedown only to be caught. The bout was a fun one to watch, as both competitors rarely allow much of a break in action, with Seery’s discipline being the difference. Seery out-struck delos Reyes and exercised patience in escaping when delos Reyes had the grappling advantage. He keeps his gatekeeper status. No one will debate that delos Reyes is a far superior athlete, but he is still very reckless, which has led to defeat in all of his UFC losses thus far. Standing at 1-3 and the UFC looking to trim fat off of the roster, I anticipate him looking for employment elsewhere, though I also see a possibility of him coming back with a few victories.


Stevie Ray defeated Mickael Lebout via unanimous decision

Yes, Ray walked out with a clear victory, but more than anything it feels as though the fight highlighted his weaknesses; he simply had more issues with Lebout than most expected him have. While Ray was certainly landing the harder punches and kicks, he wasn’t throwing as many as Lebout in addition to allowing the Frenchman to control the cage as he stalked Ray into the cage many times. If Ray isn’t going to increase his volume of strikes, he’ll need to show greater aggression with his wrestling and grappling, which was largely a non-factor too. I still believe Ray has a bright future, but he still has a ways to go. Lebout is one of those guys who does everything well, but nothing great. He could hang around for a while as a low-level gatekeeper as his skill set is great for revealing where a prospect is in his development.


Aisling Daly defeated Ericka Almeida via unanimous decision

Good to see Daly get her moment in her homeland. While she didn’t fight the smartest fight, opening every round by walking right into Almeida to deliver strikes without any sort of setup, her determination made sure that she walked out with a W, as she never granted Almeida any separation and was in attack mode the entire fight. She took a lot of damage in the process, which would likely have proven much more costly against a more experienced opponent; that’s why I’m reluctant to express a lot of optimism about her advancing much further than her current position in the strawweight hierarchy. Maybe it was just the emotions of performing in front of friends and family; her next outing will be telling. Almeida could be released, but I see her returning to the UFC relatively soon if she does as she is young. She showed nice strides in her clinch work to compliment her submission heavy style.


Krzysztof Jotko defeated Scott Askham via split decision

Close fight, but most will agree that the right man won. Even though there was a good chunk of the fight spent in the clinch, I was surprised at how much time was spent with the two of them trading from a distance. Neither looked awesome from there, but some improvements could be seen from both, particularly from Jotko, who added a bit more diversity to his attack, adding some counter punches and elbows that kept Askham honest. The damage Jotko was able to inflict when the fight went to the ground seemed to be the biggest difference, though his ability to stifle most of Askham’s offense was certainly a large factor. Jotko isn’t ready for a huge step in competition just yet, but is making good progress. Askham’s stock isn’t hurt terribly with the loss, but he needs to learn to take advantage of his large frame from a distance to take the next step.


Tom Breese defeated Cathal Pendred via TKO at 4:37 of the first round

It could be said that the most significant development of the event was the emergence of Breese. It isn’t necessarily the fact that he beat Pendred, but the way he did. While Pendred isn’t exactly going to break into the top 15 at any point, he has proven to be one of the toughest and most durable bastards in the UFC, and Breese was able to finish him within the confines of the first round. He landed a number of hard shots that rocked Pendred early, in addition to fighting off Pendred’s grinding style against the cage; he sent Pendred to the ground near the end of the round in a position I never thought to see the Irishman. I’ll be shocked if the UFC doesn’t put the young Englishman on the fast track at this point as he walked into a hostile environment and walked out with a relatively easy W. Pendred’s international appeal will likely keep him safe from the chopping block, but he is a loss away from being on the outside looking in.


Darren Elkins defeated Rob Whiteford via unanimous decision

I was surprised to see how many were picking Whiteford before the fight, as Elkins has only had issues with superior athletes and Whiteford isn’t that. This fight was proof of that as Elkins was able to execute his relentless gameplan to perfection from bell to bell as he took Whiteford down in every round, grinding the Scottish fighter out. Whiteford lost steam as the fight continued and realized he was in need of the KO, but Elkins chin held up from the few relatively clean shots Whiteford was able to land. With the win, Elkins reestablished himself as a gatekeeper into the rankings while Whiteford still has some work to do if he hopes to break into there. I don’t see that happening, but he can still hang around for a bit with his current skill set… or wash out depending on how the UFC matches him up from here.


Garreth McLellan defeated Bubba Bush via TKO at 4:58 of the third round

While I’m still not exactly impressed with McLellan’s skill set, he showed a lot more determination in this showing than he did in his debut ,and was able to walk out with a late stoppage victory over Bubba Bush. Between that and Bush’s shallow gas tank, a victory for McLellan proved to be academic following a first round easily taken by Bush. Bush had nothing to offer after that, and spent the rest of the fight in survival mode as McLellan took him down easily and pounded on him for the remainder of the fight before getting the stoppage. McLellan will keep his job while Bush will go back to regional scene.

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