With a triumphant debut in the country just 15 months ago the UFC returns to Dublin, Ireland hoping to recapture lightning in a bottle in the hometown of one of its major stars.
While surely a sell-out, poor booking and injury problems have once again beset a European show and we are down to just 10 fights on the card and a rather low-key main event. As usual, the odds are provided by 5Dimes and the picks are provided by me.
Dalby v Till:
Opening the main card on Saturday we have a shootout between two of the best young European fighters in the UFC. Fighting out of Denmark is unbeaten Nicolas Dalby who made his UFC debut in May of this year picking up a split decision over Elizeu dos Santos in Brazil. Until the promotion went on hiatus Dalby was the reigning Cage Warriors Welterweight Champion, winning the belt in his debut fight for the company. Contractual issues saw him drop the belt and test himself in the UFC; so far it’s been a success.
From Liverpool, England and fighting out of Brazil is another unbeaten prospect, Darren Till. Till made his debut as a late notice replacement on the same UFC card as his opponent and destiny has brought them together in Dublin where one of these fighters will experience defeat for the first time. While not quite fighting in Liverpool, Ireland is close enough that he would surely be considered as something of a hometown favourite.
The betting lines are very tight on this bout with Dalby, probably justifiably, shading favouritism. With near identical records in terms of fight numbers we probably need to go back and review how these fights pan out before making a pick. Till is the man if the fight finishes early, but the longer it goes on then the more we favour Dalby. My lean but it is with Dalby, although it isn’t a strong one.
Recommendation: Nicolas Dalby -2 units at -135 (4/5) @ 5Dimes
Parke v Madadi:
Norman Parke crosses the border in a bid to get a faltering career back on track. Northern Irishman Parke heads south to the scene of his last victory, in Dublin, against Naoyuki Kotani in July 2014. Since that impressive win he has been on the wrong end of two split decisions and has experienced back to back losses for the first time in his career.
Standing opposite Parke in the octagon is Reza Madadi. Last seen inside the cage in Stockholm, Sweden in 2013 Madadi found himself on the wrong side of the law and spent around a year in a Swedish prison for burglary related offences – hardly the best fight preparation. Nonetheless, he still comes off an impressive win over Michael Johnson on that card and with only one loss in his last nine fights is still on a bit of a roll.
A two year break at 35 is a lot for an elite fighter to pull off, as Rashad Evans recently discovered, so a mid-card fighter like Madadi can expect to find this tougher. While Parke has slipped little of late he can argue that he won his last two fights in the eyes of at least two judges, and that goes far with me. Parke has youth, cardio, stamina and activity on his side and that tips the scales heavily toward him in my book.
Recommendation: Norman Parke – 3 units at -280 (4/11) @ 5Dimes
Holohan v Smolka:
Paddy Holohan was called up as a late replacement for the last UFC card to hit Dublin, and it was one that enabled his return after two injury-hit years away from the sport. In a little over three minutes he submitted Josh Sampo via rear-naked choke to announce another Irish hero to the world. The stablemate of Conor McGregor could be a real force at 125lbs and will be hoping that he can benefit from some of the hype on his training partner.
Louis Smolka looks to continue an impressive run at 125lbs and firmly has the top ten in his sights if he can secure victory over Holohan on Irish soil. Wins over Richie Vaculik and, most recently, Holohans compatriot Neil Seery have elevated the Hawaiian standout to the fringes of the UFC rankings. With a single career loss, and only by split decision to recent title challenger Chris Cariaso, big things are expected of Smolka and now is time to make a real statement of intent.
With both fighters sharing submissions aplenty it should come as no surprise that I am looking to avoid the finish at all costs. When contrasting styles collide the one thing that made them exciting in the first place is usually nullified by the other. Put their UFC records together and you get eight fights combined with just two, one each, finishing inside the distance. Over 2.5 rounds feels the right pick.
Recommendation: Over 2.5 Rounds – 2 units at -185 (8/15) @ 5Dimes
With such a small card I was going to avoid a parlay this week but I am a sucker for the British contingent so I’ll be making a small play on them. Stevie Ray at -550 (1/5), Tom Breese at -270 (4/11) and Scott Askham at -140 (7/10) for combined odds of +175 (7/4) for a single unit are the picks.