UFC Fight Night in Dublin is all wrapped up, and even though the card was ravaged with injuries at the main event and co-main event level, it turned out to be a decent show. Not great, not bad, just standard 6-6.5/10 quality. The loss of Poirier/Duffy and Rothwell/Miocic did not discourage the fans, who were as boisterous and energetic as ever.
What was definitely a 10/10 for me was the replacement main event between Paddy Holohan and Louis Smolka. It was non-stop action whether grappling, wrestling, or striking, and Holohan set a pace that he just couldn’t maintain over the course of the fight. Smolka survived the submission attempts and got out of bad spots on the ground, dominated Holohan standing, and at the very end he did a terrific job of damaging Holohan with hard ground-and-pound. I think Holohan was hurt by the kick to the body right before he absorbed more heavy blows and then succumbed to the rear-naked choke. Whatever the case, great performance by both men, and Smolka took advantage of Holohan’s tendency to be aggressive to a fault.
More thoughts on today’s card:
- The UFC knows they’ve got it good in Ireland, and I do wonder when they’ll consider running more than just one show per year. This wasn’t the card they’d planned out, but it still was a hit, which would almost surely not be the case if this was some standard Fight Night in a North American city.
- I think one of my biggest takeaways from the main event was just the reaction to a flyweight fight. I’m sure the rooting interest in the home fighter was a big reason for it, but the crowd was cheering louder for that contest than any other flyweight contest I’ve seen in the UFC. It felt like an all-important #1 contender matchup. For the most part, this also plays into my argument that Demetrious Johnson should fight Cejudo in Mexico, or Formiga in Brazil, something to drum up interest in his fights even at an arena level.
- Smolka’s a hell of a prospect and he continues to improve with each fight. I thought his striking looked fantastic and he hurt Holohan with head kicks and punches after they got to their feet following a series of exhilarating grappling exchanges.
- When asked what he was going to do next after such a tough loss, Holohan said, “I’m gonna have a cup of tea.” Love it.
- Reza Madadi fought like someone who came into a fight without any thing close to a plan. Norman Parke outworked him and just outclassed him in an otherwise forgettable fight. Madadi looked every bit the part of someone who is 37 years old and hasn’t fought in 2.5 years.
- By the way, you may be surprised to know that the UFC broadcast made absolutely not even a passing mention as to why Madadi has been so inactive (Answer: He was jailed for burglary), and I can’t remember them referencing Parke throwing the handbag at Reza. This reminds me of when the NFL broadcasts did the same thing when Michael Vick returned to the league after his hiatus from the gridiron. Whatever, it’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s par for the course when they tell stories.
- PRAISE the judges (well, two of them) for correctly scoring Darren Till vs. Nicolas Dalby a draw. That was a hell of a scrap and all credit to Dalby for rallying from a brutal start and a near-KO loss in round 1 to get a 10-8 in round 3 by beating the hell out of Darren but somehow not getting the finish. Till apparently injured his shoulder in round 2, but gave credit to the “FOOKING BEAST” that is the Dane. Both men are definitely, at a very minimum, good action fighters at 170 pounds.
- I’m really happy for Neil Seery, who got his first UFC stoppage win by getting a guillotine choke against Jon Delos Reyes. It was an entertaining back-and-forth scrap, but Reyes, who’d just survived one guillotine earlier in the round, couldn’t do it the 2nd time. “2 Tap” is 36 years old and it’s pretty clear he won’t ever actually contend, but as he said in his interview, he’ll fight anyone, and I’m more than happy to see him do just that.
- Steven Ray busted up Mickael Lebout with devastatingly accurate straight lefts, and improved to 3-0 in the UFC essentially behind his power hand. Lebout had his moments in round 2 but just didn’t have enough offensive consistency to keep up with the Scot.
- Riding the wave of an insanely passionate Irish crowd, Aisling Daly got past Ericka Almeida, who was content to essentially forfeit round 3 and wait things out for a fictional round 4. Daly didn’t produce much offense in the first two rounds, but came forward right away and largely controlled Almeida for a good chunk of the fight and dominated round 3 from top position.
- In case you didn’t know, Conor McGregor was in attendance and they made sure to catch his reactions throughout the course of the card, especially for the Daly fight (because they train at the same camp). The expressions were largely the same.
- I thought Krzyzstof Jotko did enough to beat Scott Askham, who finished the fight all sorts of bloody. Jotko looked to be more effective with his offense, especially with his counterpunching, and he controlled the action more than Askham did. Scott finished round 2 strongly by drilling Jotko with a head kick, which Jotko responded by going crazy, but he didn’t have enough volume in his striking for me to give him the fight.
- There’s really no point in piling on Cathal Pendred, who isn’t exactly a hit outside of Ireland because of his style of fighting and mindboggling ability to win decisions from judges, for finally getting torn to shreds by a better fighter. Instead,let’s talk about Tom Breese instead. Breese is 8-0 with 8 finishes, and his destruction of Pendred was magnificent. His striking was lethal, particularly his gorgeous straight left, he repeatedly tagged him with countershots, and never lost his composure when picking apart Cathal. Now that he’s with Tristar MMA, this 6’3″ English welterweight prospect has surely gotten himself on the radar for being a potential breakout fighter in 2016.
- Darren Elkins is not the most complete fighter you’ll see, but he’s a tough out for most even in 2015. He had some trouble with Robert Whiteford’s striking throughout the fight, but his takedowns and pressure were not effectively answered, and Elkins got the decision win and an extended stay in the top 15 of the UFC’s featherweight rankings.
- Garreth McLellan beat Bubba Bush via TKO at 4:58 of round 3 in a fight which I can confirm definitely happened. The fight turned significantly when McLellan basically was allowed to yank the fence off to defend a takedown, and in turn fall right into mount. From there, McLellan dominated Bush in rounds 2 and 3, as Bubba ran out of gas and got his face beaten in with time winding down.
- Given the whole “we’re cutting a lot of fighters” thing the UFC is doing, I doubt Bush gets another fight.
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