UFC Fight Night: Holohan vs. Smolka – Toe to Toe Preview: Reza Madadi vs Norman Parke

Reza Madadi takes on Norman Parke at lightweight for the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Holohan vs. Smolka on October 24, 2015 at…

By: David Castillo | 8 years ago
UFC Fight Night: Holohan vs. Smolka – Toe to Toe Preview: Reza Madadi vs Norman Parke
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Reza Madadi takes on Norman Parke at lightweight for the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Holohan vs. Smolka on October 24, 2015 at 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland.

Single sentence summary:

Phil: The UFC’s criminal mastermind takes on the man from the fictional country of Northern Ireland

David: Celebrity Deathmatch, Volume 76: Thomas Crowne vs Caspar Milquetoast.


Reza “Mad Dog” Madadi
Odds: +240

Stormin’ Norman Parke
Odds: -280

History lesson / introduction to the fighters

Phil: Reza Madadi was a bit of a revelation in the UFC- he combined a natural likability and charisma with an aggressive, balls-to-the-wall grappling game. Sort of like an older, fuzzier and less good-looking Mr Finland.

He dominated and then tapped out Michael Johnson, something which simultaneously illustrated that Johnson’s troubles with elite grapplers weren’t over, and showed that Madadi was much better than we thought. Then he went to prison for robbing a designer handbag store.

David: It’s an interesting career trajectory for sure. I guess we finally get to live out that ‘what if Lee Murray wasn’t a total jackass’ narrative a bit. Not that what Madadi did was somehow noble by comparison. Still, it’ll be interesting to see how he bounces back.

Phil: Norman Parke was birthed whole and screaming into an abyss beyond human conception; one which is marked on no maps and exists on no Reebok shirts. What happens to someone created in this caesura in the fabric of reality? What manner of man is made in the place beyond time and space; a place which those with the multi-dimensional eyes necessary to perceive it might call… “Northern Ireland?”

In this case, the man in question is a physically strong, tough, neutralizing Judoka, one whose offensive capabilities lag behind his defensive ones, and thus one which will generally have fairly close, fairly boring fights with all but the best or worst of the lightweight division.

David: That first paragraph was more exciting than anything that has ever happened in a Parke fight. And the Reebok Northern Ireland jokes will never not get old. To be honest, their mistake, while sinister and diabolical, is at least more creative than what I ever thought they were capable of. Yes, Reebok took the worst of human traits, and packaged it for profit like a case of Abercrombie.

But that’s the type of nihilism I would never have expected over slapping a pair of tectonic plates in the shape of testicles to the map of Ireland.

What are the stakes?

Phil: As bad as this sounds, the convicted criminal has way more of a chance of making something out of this than the younger UFC mainstay does. Madadi has far more natural charisma and a more crowd-pleasing style. Having lost to two Tibaus in quite Tibau-tacular fights, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to get up for a Norman Parke fight for a while.

David: He does, but only for this fight. Losing two years, and getting out with a 37 year old body doesn’t bode well for his fortunes in the Lightweight division. Zuffa gave him a serious break with this matchup.

Where do they want it?

Phil: Parke has a low-power, high-output striking game from the outside. His best shots are the straight left and slapping leg and body kicks, but like most fighters he has a bit of a problem fighting against fellow southpaws- he’s most comfortable throwing the left through the open stance, and his volume has dropped when he’s up against other sinisters. Unfortunately for Parke, this has comprised virtually every opponent he’s had of late. He may be relieved to finally be fighting someone orthodox.

On the inside Parke has the powerful base common to judo practitioners. Offensively he has a decent double, single and array of trips, but his takedown defense is far ahead of his ability to take opponents down. He can be a really aggressive, grip-shifting clinch fighter and dirty boxer, throwing elbows and uppercuts, but this is a part of his game which he’s struggled to implement against stronger opponents.

David: For as much grief as I (and fans) give Parke, I really do respect what he’s able to do. It’s not easy to do what he does with such a limited skillset. And it’s not even about technique. It’s just that total, and complete lack of power. It’s strange how fight physics sometimes works, and Parke just got the wrong end of it. A lot of fighters conceal their limitations, and this is how they win.

But Parke magnifies them by relying on his boxing. Yes, YouTube commentators, if Norman Parke punched me in the face, I’d end up like Dave Kaplan on TUF, complete with the accompanying sleepy time noises. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with his philosophy, and approach to pugilism; just that the limits of his approach will never allow him to be better than what he is.

Phil: Madadi is as pure a grappler as you’re likely to see at this level in the UFC. He has a low guard, from which he snakes a single right jab as he closes distance for clinch or double leg entries. Once he gets inside, he’s absolutely relentless in hunting for transitions, whether it’s for submissions or standing back takes.

David: I like that he’s a little reckless on the feet. Madadi is the complete opposite of Parke when it comes to fight philosophy; whereas Parke conserves his talents, Madadi liberates them. His game doesn’t flow so much as it mudslides.

That recklessness gives Madadi a strange comfort everywhere else; grapplers have notoriously stalled because so many feel like they need a set formula. Like a grade-schooler learning how to regroup, any deviation from formula restricts their options. But there are different ways to solve a problem, and Madadi is that kid who doesn’t need his presets and photographic memory to remember how to solve a problem. Some scratch paper, and some lead will do just fine.

Insight from past fights?

Phil: It’s difficult to tell exactly how effective Madadi’s game is, because his marquee win was against a Michael Johnson who had an unquenchable love for giving his back up in grappling exchanges. It was impressive that he dominated Johnson for two rounds rather than letting him back into it (as, say, Castillo did) or flash subbing him like Paul Sass. That said, Norman Parke is a far inferior fighter to Michael Johnson, but he’s almost always been a far better and more consistent defensive grappler.

David: Could be an ugly one. Cristiano Marcello is also an inferior fighter to Parke, and look what happened there. Madadi’s not as good as the Johnson win would suggest, but the win was thorough enough to tell us something about his value, long term.


Phil: Madadi is a lighter weight fighter who is 37 and hasn’t fought for a long time, unless he managed to find himself in a jailhouse fighting situation, akin to that shown in the films Undisputed, Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing, and Undisputed 3: Redemption.

David: That’s a great point. Oh and don’t forget Locked Down! Wait…you’re actually listing quality DTV action films.


Phil: Madadi is a pure grappler and if Norman Parke is really good at one thing it’s defensive grappling. I think he lands the left cross and straight, and maybe uses the left body kick. Catching it might be Madadi’s best chance to take this to the ground. It could be super ugly in general. Norman Parke by unanimous decision.

David: Madadi doesn’t need a lot of opportunities. I think he’ll capitalize on the few he gets. Reza Madadi by RNC, round 3.

Share this story

About the author
David Castillo
David Castillo

More from the author

Bloody Elbow Podcast
Related Stories