The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made a return to the British Iles this Saturday, this time paying visit to Dublin Ireland with their latest card – UFC Fight Night: Holohan vs. Smolka. The card was noticeable for the fact was face with carious last minute changes to the main and co-main events, which saw hometown hero Paddy Holohan bumped up the card to take on Hawaii native Louis Smokla.
With the emergence of Irish superstar Conor McGregor, the UFC has looked to bolster its European standing by providing a card close to home for many Irish and UK based fighters. Amongst the 4 Irish hometown fighters, there were 3 fighters from England, two from Scotland and one from Northern Island, with each home nation tasting varying levels of success.
The main even featured two young and up comers who were looking to entertain a rowdy Dublin crowd who still turned out in their droves despite losing the original main event and co-main event through last minute injuries.
Irishmen Paddy Holohan threw down in a wild first round with the talented American Louis Smolka. One that show cased some crazy grappling and stand up between the two flyweights – UFCS lightest weight class of 125lbs (or 8 stone 9 pounds).
The crowd in the 3Arena in Dublin still made the most of the main event they had, giving Holohan plenty of encouragement throughout the fight, although it proved to be not enough, as the plucky Irish fighter would be submitted one the ground with a minute left in the second round.
It would prove to be a disappointment for the fans, but they still managed to get a few wins thanks to the other Irish competitors on the card. Female strawweight fighters Aisling Daly would get the first hometown win of the night defeating Ericka Almedia by decision, whilst Neil Seery defeated John Delos Reyes with a slick guillotine submission finish in the second round that earned him the performance of the night honours and a cool $50,000 for his troubles.
Another hometown favourite Cathal Pendred was not so lucky, getting soundly beaten by England’s very own Tom Breese, who looked spectacular in finishing the Irishmen in the opening round with punches are a large onslaught throughout the five minute round. His hard work would also net him a nice performance of the night bonus, making him $50,000 richer in the process.
The 24 year old from Birmingham now has 2 straight wins in the UFC having finished both opponents, holds an undefeated record of 9 wins and 0 losses, and has finished all 9 of these opponents with 6 submissions and 3KO/TKOS. Look out for more of the young scrapper in the near future, as he has certainly been making waves amongst the latest crop of young English fighters to emerge.
Another one of these is Liverpool local Darren Till, who like Breese is also undefeated and won himself a performance of the night cheque too. Till would earn his in a brawl of a fight that latest 3 rounds, each one of them full of action. The young scouser looked to be in control after two rounds of dominance, but a third round comeback from tough Dane and fellow undefeated fighter Nicolas Dalby (where he would come close to finishing the young English fighter) would see the fight end in an incredibly rare majority draw.
Yorkshire fighter Scott Askham was not so lucky in his attempts in the cage, losing a tight split decision to durable polish fighter Krzysztof Jotko in a middleweight scrap.
Scottish fighters had a mixed response, with Robert Whiteford losing a decision to strong wrestler Darrin Elkins, whilst Stevie Ray had more fortune, winning a comfortable decision against French Fighter Mickael Lebout.
Meanwhile, the long Northern Irish fighter on the card Norman Parke received a strong welcome from his southern neighbours, who were happy to cheer him on en route to a decision win against tough Swede Reza Madadi.
All in all, it was a successful night for the UFC, while more of a mixed bag of results for the Irish and British fighters that made up most of the card. UK fans would also get a taste of the UFC for free, as it aired on Freeview channel Pick TV on Saturday evening. It was by no means an A-list card, but the injuries can take some blame to that.
It was just great to see fighters from this side of the pond get some much deserved time in the Octagon and with the sport constantly growing here in England and all throughout the UK and the rest of Europe; it shows just how bright a future we can expect from our local fighters.
After a fight card in Scotland earlier in the year, Ireland was the second visit the UFC has made to British Isles, with both cards featuring a raft of rising talents from throughout the UK and Ireland. Next step for fight card on these shores is on the 23rd of February 2016, where the O2 arena will host its very own fight card.
What British fighters can we expect to see then? Only time will tell, but English veterans Michael Bisping and Ross Pearson will likely want to fight in England for the first time in almost two years. On the evidence of the Dublin card tonight, we can also expect to see a few of the fighting Irish on the card too, with possibly a few Scots into the mix too!