This Saturday night (May 10, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) flyweights Chris Cariaso and Louis Smolka will face off on the main card of UFC Fight Night 40, airing live at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 from U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio.
An eight-year veteran of mixed martial arts (MMA), No. 10-ranked Cariaso was last seen defeating Danny Martinez via decision at February's UFC 169. He finished Iliarde Santos in his previous bout at UFC Fight Night 29, marking a solid two-fight win streak for "Kamikaze."
He'll be looking to become the first man to beat the undefeated Smolka, who won his UFC debut over Alptekin Ozkilic at UFC Fight Night 35 in January. The promising Smolka has finished his opponent in six out of his total seven bouts.
Now he's playing in the big leagues. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Cariaso vs. Smolka:
Record: 16-5 overall, 6-3 UFC
Key Wins: Danny Martinez (UFC 169), Iliarde Santos (UFC Fight Night 29), Takeya Mizugaki (UFC 144)
Key Losses: Renan Barao (WEC 53), Michael McDonald (UFC 130), John Moraga (UFC 155), Jussier Formiga (UFC on FX 8)
Record: 7-0 overall, 1-0 UFC
Key Wins: Alptekin Ozkilic (UFC Fight Night 35)
Key Losses: None
Former bantamweight Cariaso has been up and down since making his way to flyweight, winning his divisional debut and then going 2-2 over his last four. He's failed in the face of true top competition, but Smolka has yet to prove he's at that level.
With experience being his biggest edge, Cariaso should look to control this fight on the feet. He's not really an effective finisher, as 11 of his 16 wins have come on the judges' scorecards.
His fighting style is actually a direct contrast to his "Kamikaze" nickname, so Cariaso will be best served to pick Smolka apart with his vaunted Muay Thai, peppering him with leg kicks to keep the young prospect's finishing ability at bay.
Smolka is the polar opposite of Cariaso. He's going to come out aggressive and look to finish this fight, perhaps with a choke or armbar. Cariaso has tapped out twice in five losses, and Smolka already has four submissions. They've come against lower competition in regional shows, so the onus is on Smolka to prove he can finish a UFC-caliber opponent.
Taking this fight to the ground will be his best chance to neutralize Cariaso's effective striking.
Smolka has been been thrown to the wolves with a Top 10-ranked opponent in only his second UFC bout, so he has an excellent opportunity to announce himself as a contender in the relatively shallow flyweight division. He could show up tentative under the bright lights and secede to Cariaso's experience edge, but that's not really Smolka's style.
The confident young fighter will be looking to end this fight quickly. Expect a decision to largely favor Cariaso, with a short bout sending Smolka to his biggest-ever win.
Louis Smolka has a chance to make a big statement in Cincinnati. Can the undefeated challenger get past the experience of Chris Cariaso?