Wednesday 21 March 2018

Paddy Holohan’s opponent Louis Smolka: ‘I’m better everywhere and can knock him out’

Louis Smolka, right, takes on Paddy Holohan on Saturday night
Louis Smolka, right, takes on Paddy Holohan on Saturday night

Tom Rooney

There are numerous parallels between UFC Fight Night 76 headliners Paddy Holohan and Louis Smolka, the most striking of which is their unblinking self-belief.

With both original main and co-main events of the UFC’s Dublin showcase being cancelled due to injuries, the pair of flyweights have been thrust from a middling position on the card straighht to its summit.

It’s quite a turn shift in circumstance for both men, given each will only be contesting their fifth bout under the promotion’s banner. They have amassed identical records since joining the UFC in 2014; three wins and one loss.

Smolka, like Holohan when he was upset by Chris Kelades, was handed his only career defeat by Chris Cariasso and, like the Dubliner, it was in his second outing for the promotion.

In the interim, the Hawaiian has picked up successive victories; the first was spectacular side-kick knockout of Richie Vaculik, the second saw him win a unanimous decision over Dublin’s Neil Seery at UFC 189.

That night, Smolka and Seery put on a back-and-forth barnburner, while both demonstrated their technical nous, particularly in the Jiu-Jitsu facet.

SBG coach John Kavanagh has also eluded to the similarities in the fighting styles of his pupil and the 23-year-old, though such a dynamic doesn’t always make for compelling fare.

Yet, their craft grappling and unorthodox striking arsenal is unlikely to make for a remotely mundane showing. What’s more, only an inch in height and reach separate them so engagements should occur at varying distances.

When asked where he believes he has an edge over Holohan, the man from the city of Kapolei was eminently conclusive in his response.

“Everywhere. I feel like I’m a better fighter, period. I’m going to come out there and try take him out. He’s going to come out and throw a bunch of weird things at me, and that’s going to be interesting and a little tricky to deal with.

“But, I feel like myself and my camp, we’re got it. I’d say first round knockout, but we’ll see,” he said.

Of course, having faced Seery, Smolka has first- hand knowledge of the unyieldingly vociferous Irish support, but says he received a relatively warm welcome since arriving in Dublin, and was given similar treatment in Las Vegas following his victory over another of the city’s fighting sons.

“I’ve had some nice support out here; it’s been good. The last time, when I fought Neil Seery, I met a bunch of Irish guys and they seemed to like me.

“When I fought Seery I thought the boos were going to rock the arena, but it wasn’t as intense as I thought it would be. They’re just there to watch a good fight and support their guys.”

The flyweight division has been ruled with an iron fist since its 2012 inception by one man, Demetrious Johnson. He is the 125lbs bracket’s first and only champion, and has never been significantly troubled during his reign.

Smolka noted that a comprehensive win for him or Holohan would see them ascent the rankings to the degree that one more victory would have them in title contention.

“I would assume the winner of this will go top 15 at the very least.  I hope to be in the top contender status in the next year or two,” he said.

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