Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight scrappers Louis Smolka and Brandon Moreno will throw down this Saturday (Oct. 1, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 96 inside Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. Smolka entered UFC as a serious prospect, and he’s really lived up to expectations. He has had some difficult fights inside the Octagon, but Smolka has improved greatly and put together a solid four-fight win streak.
On the other hand, Moreno introduced himself to most fight fans just a few weeks back on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). Despite being seeded as the No. 16 fighter, Moreno gave the top-ranked fighter a hell of a fight and nearly scored the upset. He’ll have another chance to surprise a more established foe in this match up as well.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Key Wins: Neil Seery (UFC 189), Ben Nguyen (UFC Fight Night 91), Paddy Holohan (UFC Fight Night 76)
Key Losses: Chris Cariaso (UFC Fight Night 40)
Keys to Victory: Smolky is a long and lanky submission specialist. He's got a dangerous kicking arsenal on the feet and is improving quickly in that area, but his real threat is conditioning. In a division full of well-conditioned athletes, Smolka simply outpaces the majority of his opponents.
In this match up, that will be key.
Early on, there's every chance this will be a close fight. Moreno is a strong grappler just like Smolka, and he's aggressive enough on the feet to make up for the small technical advantage that Smolka likely holds.
Basically, it will be a scrap.
Luckily, Smolka can shift things into his favor with a few well-timed takedown attempts. He likely won't be able to accomplish much while Moreno is fresh, but it will force Moreno to exhaust himself scrambling back to his feet.
Once Moreno begins to tire — he is taking this bout on short-notice — Smolka is in great position. As he's showed in his last two fights, Smolka is particularly vicious opposite a fatigued foe, and that trait should help score him another stoppage.
Key Wins: Tyler Bialecki (WFF 22), Matt Betzold (WFF 18)
Key Losses: Brenson Hansen (CITC 11)
Keys to Victory: Despite being a five year veteran of professional MMA, Moreno is just 22 years old. The Mexican athlete is a talented grappler, and he's scrappy as hell on the feet.
There's definitely room for improvement in all areas, but Moreno proved his talent and guts on TUF.
In this bout, Moreno is going to want to brawl. He could try to grapple with Smolka, but that's unlikely to work out. To keep it short, he's probably not going to submit the Hawaiian, and he's more likely to get tired if he's forced to wrestle.
Instead, Moreno needs to get in Smolka's face and throw hard shots. Multiple fighters like Seery and Richie Vaculik found success by pressuring Smolka, and Moreno has the power punching and aggression to attempt that strategy.
Ultimately, the key to victory will be keeping off his back. That will be difficult while trying to brawl, but Moreno can shift the tide to his favor if he can land early and force his opponent to respect his hands.
Bottom Line: This should be fun while it lasts.
Smolka’s match with Sergio Pettis made a lot more sense from a divisional standpoint, but this isn’t a bad replacement bout. In all likelihood, it will be an entertaining bout that tacks another fight onto his win streak.
There are worse things in the world than another successful paycheck. That said, a loss would be a considerable setback. Smolka has earned his position in the rankings, but a loss to a newcomer like Moreno could completely halt his momentum.
As the short-notice underdog, there isn’t a ton of pressure on "The Assassin." He’s not expected to win, so there’s really nothing to lose here. Furthermore, there’s a fair chance that Moreno puts forth a good showing, as he’s not one to get overwhelmed easily. Basically, Moreno will get a chance to show off his talent on a reasonably big stage. If he manages to win, Moreno is suddenly a relevant name at 125 pounds.
At UFC Fight Night 96, Louis Smolka and Brandon Moreno will brawl to open the main card. Which fighter will have his hand raised?