It's time to put up or shut up.
After dominant first-round stoppages in his two Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) appearances, top Irish prospect Joe Duffy will step up to the big leagues this Saturday (Oct. 24, 2015) when he faces brick-fisted Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC Fight Night 76, which takes place inside 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland.
Also on the card, Flyweight prospects Paddy Holohan and Louis Smolka battle it out in the co-main event, while Norman Parke welcomes convicted handbag thief Reza Madadi back to the Octagon after 2.5 years away.
The entire card will take place on Fight Pass, four main card fights and seven "Prelims" undercard matches.
Let's check out the first four matches on the docket:
185 lbs.: Scott Askham vs. Krzysztof Jotko
Scott Askham (13-1) -- considered one of the division’s better prospects -- scored an impressive knockdown via front kick, but ultimately lost his Octagon debut to Swedish grinder Magnus Cedenblad. In his second bout for the promotion, he stopped Brazilian striker Antonio dos Santos with a lovely counter uppercut and follow-up knees for his eighth career (technical) knockout.
At 6’3", he will enjoy a two-inch height advantage over Krzysztof Jotko (15-1) on fight night.
Poland’s Jotko began his UFC career with a decision over Brazilian grinder Bruno Santos, then ran into the aforementioned Cedenblad. He’s fought once since, a decision over Tor Troeng, and had three different bouts cancelled for various reasons between then and now.
He’s stopped six opponents overall, four by form of knockout.
To win this fight, Jotko has to consistently take down Askham, but more important, he has to do so without spending too long in the clinch. The big Englishman figures to be the better striker and heavier hitter, and since Jotko lacks Cedenblad’s physicality, he’s vulnerable to Askham’s attrition clinch work.
I just don’t think the Pole can pull off his ordinary strategy without getting broken down. Askham hurts him inside before putting him away in the second.
Prediction: Askham via second-round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Cathal Pendred vs. Tom Breese
Against all reason and with more than a little help from our three friends at ringside, Cathal Pendred (17-3-1) opened his UFC career with four straight wins, capped off by an upset of Mexican brawler Augusto Montano. Sadly, his improbable run came to an end in July with a split decision loss to John Howard at UFC 189.
He is two inches shorter than Tom Breese (8-0) at 6’1."
The towering Breese cut his teeth in the BAMMA promotion for two years before a submission win in CWFC following a two-year layoff. He debuted in UFC in hostile territory this past May, knocking out Luiz Dutra with some nasty punches.
He’s finished all eight of his opponents, five of them in the first round.
Most of the time, the question with Pendred isn’t whether he’ll deserve a loss, it’s whether he’ll get his ass kicked hard enough for even the dumbest of judges to realize it. Breese should have the advantage everywhere the fight goes -- his length and overall technique make him the better fighter on the feet and I expect him to be the better wrestler as well.
Pendred should be able to take what he dishes out, for what it’s worth, but he’s in for a long night. Breese picks him apart, yet somehow still only sways two judges.
Prediction: Breese via split decision
145 lbs.: Darren Elkins vs. Robert Whiteford
From 2011 to the beginning of 2013, Darren Elkins (18-5) rattled off five straight victories, including an upset of Diego Brandao at UFC 146. He’s since alternated losses and wins, most recently dropping a decision to Nova Uniao’s Hacran Dias in Dec. 2014.
He’s finished 10 opponents, though only one in UFC.
Finland’s Robert Whiteford (12-2) began his UFC career against then-rising-prospect Jimy Hettes, who handed Whiteford his first submission loss via rear-naked choke in the second. He’s since won two straight, including a brutal knockout of Paul Redmond in Glasgow last July.
He’s knocked out six opponents and lost just once since his debut.
If you were to take Elkins’ entire playbook and cram it onto a page, it would read: TAKEDOWN WRESTLE TAKEDOWN PUNCH SOMETIMES WRESTLE. It doesn’t matter if he can’t get down his opponent, he is going to shoot in over and over and over unless you hit him hard enough to make him stop.
I don’t think Whiteford can.
Elkins survived some ridiculous punishment from Brandao and Stephens -- it took Chad Mendes’ nuclear punches to put him away. Whiteford may land a few good shots, but he’s not stopping Elkins from doing Elkins. In other words, 30-27s across the board for the American.
Prediction: Elkins via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Bubba Bush vs. Garreth McLellan
Following a 2012 disqualification loss to Artenas Young, Bubba Bush (8-2) picked up four straight finishes, earning and defending the Legacy FC Middleweight title in the process. He made his UFC debut in July 2014 against Kevin Casey, who knocked out the former Aggie cold in 61 seconds.
He’s gone the distance just once, knocking out four.
Garreth McLellan (12-3) -- a.k.a South Africa’s "Soldier Boy" -- punched his UFC ticket with six straight wins in the Extreme Fighting Championship promotion. He faced Polish judoka Bartosz Fabinski in his debut, losing a decision after being on the wrong end of about eight million takedowns.
He’s submitted nine of his 15 opponents, seven via choke.
I’ve said it before, I’m saying it now, and I will say it many, many, many more times in the future: Unless you have Shinya Aoki-caliber bottom game, you’re not getting far in UFC without wrestling. McLellan, though a solid grappler, will be unable to dictate position against Bush, who should have the striking advantage and is unlikely to get caught on the mat.
Barring a miraculous choke in transition, McLellan’s chances of victory are slim. Bush mixes up his striking and takedowns to eventually put down "Soldier Boy" midway through the match.
Prediction: Bush def. McLellan via second-round technical knockout
Three more UFC Fight Night 76 matches remain to preview and predict, featuring several Irish standouts and a fast-rising Scot.
Stop by tomorrow so I can tell you all about them.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 76 fight card, starting with the "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET, right on through the Fight Pass main card at 4 p.m. ET.