ROUNDTABLE: Does Louis Smolka belong in the top 15 of the UFC’s flyweight division? Who should he face next?

Louis Smolka (photo credit Per Haljestam © USA Today Sports)

Louis Smolka wants a top 15 flyweight next after his win over Paddy Holohan at UFC Fight Night 76. Who would you put him in against next, and do you believe he belongs in that top at this point in his young career? Why or why not?

 

RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST

Dustin Ortiz is the most logical next opponent. Both Ortiz and Smolka are perpetually underrated and ignored, but Ortiz seems to be treated as a gatekeeper by UFC management, whereas the young Smolka is getting the white-gloves treatment (and rightfully so). There’s a thin line between being too careful with a prospect and over-pushing a prospect. Ortiz has beaten Ray Borg, Justin Scoggins, and Willie Gates, and other than maybe Gates none of them are any worse for wear. I think this is the proper level opponent for Smolka, and I say that with the belief that Ortiz is really good.

 

MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR

Louis Smolka is an exciting young talent in a division that’s being pretty handily cleaned out by Demetrious Johnson. Besides a propensity for finishing fights (three knockouts and five submissions in 10 wins), the young fighter is unusually long and rangy for the 125 pound division. Smolka’s asking for a top 15 fight for his next outing, and it makes sense as he’s pretty close to the top 15 himself, if not already there.

The problem with giving Smolka a top 15 opponent is you might throw him into the fire just a bit too quick and stuff any momentum he’s got going before he establishes himself. Flyweight is lacking enough in legitimate contenders that Mighty Mouse hasn’t beaten without removing potential ones before they even get on the radar. The majority of the top 15 are either too good, or don’t don’t have anything to gain by a win against Smolka as they’ve already fallen to Johnson. The rest are either in the same position (Sergio Pettis), or it’s too soon for a rematch (Chris Cariaso).

The one potential fight I like for Smolka is against Dustin Ortiz, which would be a statement win showing he’s arrived if Smolka could pull it off. But even that is just an unnecessarily large step up for this prospect at this point. Give him another unranked opponent and some more Octagon experience. Ortiz (or a similar opponent) will always be there, and Smolka should have plenty of career left to steadily work his way up to contender status.

 

FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR

Yeah, I believe he deserves a top 15 guy. I think he would have a decent shot at beating at one of those guys. I don’t think that’s a big stretch or anything. I’d put him against either Chico Camus, Chris Cariaso, or Sergio Pettis. And if Smolka is feeling really confident, I’d put him against Ray Borg or Dustin Ortiz or someone around that number 10 level. If Smolka wants it, give it to him. Smolka has been pretty good so far (relatively speaking) so I think giving him a ranked guy would push him to get better and keep improving.

 

BRAD WALKER, MMATORCH COLUMNIST

He definitely has earned a shot against a better opponent I would personally lean towards Ian McCall he’s a guy who has been to the top, and a significant win against him could really be the boost needed for Smolka. His win was an upset in front of a hostile crowd, so we know he has the chops to come from behind after a round he lost in enemy territory, and he can finish a fight in fun fashion. He’s got composure so let’s make it happen.

 

CASH NORMAN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR

Honestly, I didn’t know there were more than 15 fighters in the flyweight division. After his performance against Paddy Holohan should he get a top 15 opponent? Yes.

Well now that I have actually looked at the UFC rankings, I have a hard time picking an opponent Smolka should face in the top 15. In the two fights in which I’ve watched Smolka compete,  against Richie Vaculik and Paddy Holohan, there have been holes in his striking and even grappling. If Smolka were to face Sergio Pettis, the current 15th ranked flyweight, I think Pettis would pick him apart striking. If Smolka faced Ali Bagautinov, the current 12th ranked flyweight, he now has to contend with powerful striking and a former Sambo champion that could smother his grappling.

As young fighters face stiffer competition they will ultimately become better. However, I’d worry Smolka getting into a Charles Oliveira scenario in which he faced stiff competition too soon and suffered some brutal knockouts and beatings then had a yo-yo of wins and losses and ultimately had to change divisions.

Although, I think the UFC has too many rematches, a possible rematch with Chris Cariaso or a fight with Wilson Reis may be the best options.

 

ERIC HOBAUGH, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR

At 10-1 I get that Smolka wants a top 15 opponent. It’s a good record, but he hasn’t beaten anyone with a decent name to demand a top 15 fighter. Having said that, the UFC will not care about that. I think they will give him someone like Sergio Pettis. Pettis has a big name and is currently ranked inside the UFC’s top 15. This fight makes sense and I think would be an excellent match-up.

 

DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR

Absolutely he deserves to be in the top 15. While he has only fought one person who is currently in the top 15 (which was also a loss), that fight against Chris Cariaso was almost 18 months ago which is an eternity ago to someone as young (24) and vastly improved since that time as Smolka is. Since that point he has won three in a row with two finishes, worth mentioning at flyweight where finishes are more rare than any other men’s division. I’m not going to sing too much about his win over Richie Vaculik, but Neil Seery and Paddy Holohan are both quality victories who are both borderline top 15 as well. Smolka is the real deal whom people will be talking about as a potential opponent for Mighty Mouse in roughly 18 months.
Who he should face offers a load of options. Going off of the classic UFC style of matching fighters coming off wins with other fighters coming off of wins, the easy choice is Dustin Ortiz. Ortiz has been an ideal gatekeeper for the UFC thus far as he has turned away pretenders and prospects not quite ready for prime time while giving former title contenders Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga a good run for their money in losing efforts. Whoever wins will be ready for a step up in competition for sure. My secondary pick is Ray Borg, but I prefer not to match up prospects too early in their developments as it would make more sense to me to match them up when there are a greater possibility for higher stakes.

1 Comment on ROUNDTABLE: Does Louis Smolka belong in the top 15 of the UFC’s flyweight division? Who should he face next?

  1. I agree with Hobaugh, he hasn’t fought enough high level opponents to demand a top level fight. But I still think he would make a quality opponent for a top name which will give him the opportunity to earn another opportunity.

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