What now for the Irish fighters who competed at UFC Fight Night 76?
Unlike last year’s unforgettable show, there was no clean sweep for the five Irish fighters in action at the 3Arena on Saturday night, though it won’t be long before they’re all considering the next challenge.
While many had prematurely predicted that the UFC’s return to Dublin was irreparably damaged by the loss of the original main and co-main events, a vast majority of the remaining 10 contests made for compelling viewing and those in attendance certainly got their money’s worth.
Half of the bouts featured home grown combatants, three of whom-Neil Seery, Aisling Day and Norman Parke- came away victorious, however it was not to be for Cathal Pendred and headliner Paddy Holohan.
Here we look at what the future might bring for the group:
Due to the scrapping of the initial top two bouts because injury, Holohan’s fight with Louis Smolka was elevated to main event status on Wednesday night. The Dubliner seemed completely unperturbed by the unexpected flux but, then again, so did Hawaii’s Smolka.
The SBG man looked both focussed and elated as he made his to the octagon to a rapturous applause. He immediately took the fight to his opponent by throwing punches in volume and dragging Smolka to the mat.
The American weathered the storm and eventually assumed control, then he mounted Holohan before unleashing a sustained volley of shots. In the final minute of the second round he locked in a suffocating choke, forcing ‘The Hooligan’ to tap.
There was no shame in this defeat for Holohan, whose record in the UFC is now three wins and two losses. While it lasted, the bout made for compelling fare, but the promising Smolka had his number and he’s likely to have a big impact at 125lbs in the coming years.
Holohan’s popularity, gregarious personality and aggressive style should ensure that he won’t be long in receiving his next assignment. Saturday was an opportunity for him to move within touching distance of the rankings, but the nature of the defeat will mean he must string together at least two more wins to resume such a position.
From a job-security perspective, no fighter had more on the line than Antrim’s Parke when he entered the octagon to face Reza Madadi.
Although both were questionable split-decisions, Parke had still lost his previous two bouts to Gleison Tibau and Francisco Trinaldo. The unwritten law in the UFC states that, after three consecutive losses, fighters tend to be released.
Even with this in mind, Parke had offered to face Dustin Poirier when Joe Duffy dropped out with concussion. The American declined, and ‘Stormin’ Norman’ and Madadi were promoted to the penultimate bout.
Parke outworked the Swede en route to a unanimous decision in an unremarkable contest, though the Bushmills man looked assured throughout. In the post fight press conference he expressed his desire to fight again before year’s end to harness his newfound momentum.
The lightweight division is huge in terms of size and level of competition, so Parke should have no problems in being scheduled for one of the eight remaining events in 2015.
The elder statesman of Irish MMA showed all the kids how it’s done with a picture-perfect guillotine submission of fellow flyweight John Delos Reyes. The 36-year-old was awarded a $50k Performance of the Night bonus for his exploits, which saw him take his first UFC contest inside the distance at the fifth attempt.
Having lost his last fight, to Smolka incidentally, the Dubliner is now 3-2 during his time with the promotion, and might just get someone from the lower end of the Top 15 for his next match-up. The father of four still works full-time, and has often said each fight could be his last.
But it’s this very attitude of impeding finality that makes Seery so enjoyable to watch. He mixes sound technique with reckless abandon and is never in a boring fight, and said he’s willing to step in as a replacement should any flyweight contest be shorn of talent due to unforeseen circumstances.
Don’t be surprised to see ‘2Tap’ in the octagon again this year.
On a night when the capacity crowd was almost perpetually in full voice, the reception afforded to Aisling Daly as she made her way to cage and then celebrated her unanimous decision win over Erika Almeida was unquestionably the most raucous.
Having missed last year’s homecoming event, Daly soaked up the occasion with a clear relish. She proceeded to attack her opponent relentlessly for the next 15 minutes with feral flurries of punches and aggressive grappling.
The victory saw ‘Ais the Bash’ get back to winning ways after being thoroughly outmatched by Randa Markos last time out. With the strawweight division still relatively shallow, Daly now finds herself ranked at 15th in the world.
And, a successful rematch against a fighter such as Jessica Penne, who bettered her in The Ultimate Fighter house, would see the Queen of Irish MMA quickly back in title contention.
The lob-sided first round defeat at the hands of Tom Breese was most certainly the most crushing of Pendred’s career.
Quite simply, he looked out of his depth against the Birmingham native. Pendred’s striking prowess has been the source of much derision since he joined the UFC’s ranks, though never has it been more exposed than it was in the third fight of the night.
The 27-year-old has been working diligently on his boxing, but evidence of tangible improvement has been sparse. It must be noted that, although Breese is far from a household name, those in the know have touted the 24-year-old as a potential world champion.
Furthermore, Pendred has won four of his six fights since last July in a division that is possibly the most talent-rich in the sport. His durability and industry mean the SBG welterweight will waste little time miring in defeat, and he’s likely to be campaigning for another bite at the cherry in the weeks to come.
He is, however, without a win in two fights, so he cannot afford anything less than a convincing victory next time out.