UFC Fight Night 76 turned out to be as good as the promotion could have hoped. After losing its main and co-main event in a matter of days, a majority of the fighters remaining on this card likely knew they’d have to offer up a great performance to save this show from becoming, as expected, a failure.
Luckily, it wasn’t. Not entirely, at least — a good portion of the UFC’s second annual trip to Dublin had the Irish fans on their feet.
For just the second time in this series, one of the fights on the main card will not be featured on this list, as undefeated welterweights Nicolas Dalby and Darren Till fought to a majority draw. It was a wild bout that saw Till outclass his opponent in the first two rounds, showcasing what skills the rangy striker has on the feet. He’d land from a distance; Dalby could not.
But Till’s success would come to a halt as he suffered a shoulder injury going into the final frame. The injury allowed Dalby to stage an unexpected comeback, landing damaging high kicks on the feet and stifling punches from top position on the canvas. Two of the three judges scored the final 10-8 for Dalby.
The two made for a beautiful scene after the bout, both entirely content with the judges scoring it a draw.
Here’s how we ranked the fighters who were victorious on the main card:
3. Norman Parke
There wasn’t much going on to excite common fans for UFC Dublin, but Parke decided to change all of that when he threw a handbag at Reza Madadi — poking fun at the fact that his Swedish opponent spent two years away from the cage after serving jail time for stealing handbags.
Regardless of how fabricated the pre-fight tension was, the excitement was there for a lot of people. Their bout did absolutely nothing to follow up on it.
Early on, Madadi looked to get his opponent to the ground and Parke looked to prove he was capable of staying on his feet. Madadi couldn’t and Parke did, but it didn’t lead to any sort of viable action between these two lightweights. “Stormin” Norman opened up with strikes from a distance, but didn’t offer much outside of glancing blows that merely peppered Madadi who, based on his reactions, was unfazed.
Uncharacteristically, but understandably, enough, the Dublin crowd grew silent for a majority of this bout, showing up only to cheer their countryman in his victory.
2. Neil Seery
Seery stepped out into Dublin’s 3Arena saying he wanted to get a finish. He fell short of doing that last time he was in town, earning a unanimous decision against Phil Harris in the UFC’s first mega show headlined by Conor McGregor in 2014.
The second time was the charm for Seery, sinking in a guillotine choke against Jon Delos Reyes with about 50 seconds left in Round 2. He looked every part of a solid fighter — and zero parts of a 36-year-old flyweight — Saturday in Dublin, landing solid overhand rights all throughout his nine minutes of action. Technical combinations that featured a heavy abundance of leg kicks also stifled his younger counterpart, allowing Seery and the rabid Irish faithful to get the main card going in the right direction.
But it’s not just the submission that earns Seery his placement on this list, it’s how he got the submission — pulling guard from the feet and forcing Delos Reyes’ neck into prime real estate for a choke.
1. Louis Smolka
He may have gotten the least amount of cheers of any main card winner at UFC Dublin, but Smolka certainly had the best performance. Unfortunately it came against the hometown hero, stopping Paddy Holohan in under two rounds to secure his third straight victory inside the Octagon.
Holohan was the one who came out firing, shooting for an early takedown that led to an insanely paced grappling match on the canvas. “The Hooligan” shot for a heel hook, only to have Smolka escape and seek a leg lock of his own. The two went back and forth, exchanging dominant positions on the canvas before Smolka got back to his feet and showcased their difference in skill. He staggered Holohan near the end of Round 1 and kept it going into Round 2.
Finding himself in top position, Smolka unleashed several damaging blows, forcing Holohan to offer his back and lose out on the biggest moment of his career.