Welcome to the big time.
Irish prospect Joe Duffy will leap into the deep end this Saturday night (Oct. 24, 2015), facing power-punching Dustin Poirier inside 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland, at the head of the UFC Fight Night 76.
Other fights include a Flyweight showdown between prospects Paddy Holohan and Louis Smolka, as well as a clash between top European talents Nicholas Dalby and Darren Till.
We have three remaining UFC Fight Night 76 "Prelims" undercard matches to preview and predict (check out the first batch here).
Let's get on it:
155 lbs.: Stevie Ray vs. Mickael Lebout
Following consecutive wins over Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veteran Curt Warburton, Stevie Ray (18-5) joined the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion in April, facing Polish grappler Marcin Bandel. "Braveheart" stopped Bandel in two rounds, then went on to savage Leonardo Mafra in Glasgow.
Fourteen of his wins have come by stoppage, including four of his last five.
Mickael Lebout (14-4-2) entered UFC as a late replacement against Sergio Moraes, losing a close decision to the Brazilian grappling ace. For his next bout, he dropped to Lightweight, where he defeated Finnish prospect Teemu Packalen in an entertaining bout.
He stands two inches taller than Ray at 6’1."
Ray really impressed me against Mafra -- I fully expected the Brazilian to overpower him without too much trouble. The Scot has shown good striking, good power and some solid counter-wrestling. To be frank, I think he outclasses Lebout everywhere the fight goes.
Ray’s just too good a striker and too difficult to wrangle on the mat. He batters Lebout for a late stoppage or decision.
Prediction: Ray via third-round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Neil Seery vs. Jon delos Reyes
Unfazed by a questionable loss to Brad Pickett in his Octagon debut, Neil Seery (15-11) rattled off a pair of decision wins over Phil Harris and Chris Beal, the former in his native Dublin. Most recently, "2 Tap" battled prospect Louis Smolka, losing a decision after struggling with his foe’s top-notch grappling.
The Irishman has finished 11 opponents overall, six by form of knockout.
Guam’s on delos Reyes (8-4) struggled out of the gate, suffering consecutive first-round stoppage losses to Dustin Kimura and Kyoji Horiguchi. With his back against the wall, he delivered a terrific scrap against Roldan Sangcha’an to earn "Fight of the Night" and a second-round submission victory.
He’s gone past the second round just once, submitting five.
This has a lot of potential to be a very, very fun fight. Both fighters are game, well-rounded and gritty as hell. If all goes according to plan, we’re in for some quality action on the feet and the mat.
And I think Seery’s just a little bit better in both areas.
Though he had all kinds of trouble with Smolka’s back control, delos Reyes’ grappling isn’t on that level. Seery’s scrambling should let him with the ground exchanges and he’s slick enough standing to control the fight there as well. The Irishman wins an entertaining, but clear, decision.
Prediction: Seery via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Aisling Daly vs. Ericka Almeida
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) run of Aisling Daly (15-6), which began with a ground-and-pound finish of Angela Magana, came to an end at the hands of former Invicta champion Jessica Penne, who grappled her way to a three-round decision victory. "Ais the Bash" has since split a pair of UFC bouts, submitting Alex Chambers and dropping a decision to Randa Markos.
She will give up three inches of height to the 5’6" Almeida.
Ericka Almeida (7-1) entered UFC as a late-notice replacement for Jessica Penne, who had been bumped up to face Joanna Jedrzejczyk against fellow Brazilian Juliana de Lima in Goiana. The submission specialist struggled with her foe’s takedowns, resulting in her first career loss by unanimous decision.
She’s stopped all seven of her professional victims, all but one inside the first round.
Long story short, Almeida simply does not have the wrestling necessary to succeed on the world stage. She’s not capable of putting most of her opponents on their backs and doesn’t have the bottom game to concede this many takedowns. Though Daly leaves plenty of openings, I’m not confident Almeida has the goods to catch her in transition.
Daly needs to tighten up her own takedowns and passing, but both should be sufficient to win this one. "Ais the Bash" avoids some early submission attempts and grinds her way to victory.
Prediction: Daly via unanimous decision
No Stipe Miocic vs. Ben Rothwell (here's why), but at least UFC Fight Night 76 has several prospects in action.
That's worth something, right?
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.