Louis Smolka has finished six of his first seven opponents. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Louis Smolka could not have made a stronger first impression in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The question: What does he do for an encore?
The undefeated Smolka will collide with Chris Cariaso in an intriguing flyweight clash at UFC Fight Night “Brown vs. Silva” on Saturday at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. A Pacific Xtreme Combat champion, the 22-year-old Hawaiian sees the bout as a potential springboard at 125 pounds.
“He is an excellent fight for me, stylistically,” Smolka told UFC.com in a pre-fight interview, “and I really believe that I have a shot of getting into the top 10 of the flyweight division with a win.”
Smolka outdueled the highly regarded Alptekin Ozkilic to a unanimous decision in his promotional debut at UFC Fight Night “Rockhold vs. Philippou” in January. He leaned on accurate, high-volume punching and a scorching pace, nearly finishing the Turkish wrestler late in round three. Smolka was roughly a 3-to-1 underdog against Ozkilic, and Cariaso took notes.
“He likes to stand up and fight, which is what I love to do,” he said. “He has pretty good standup skills and decent jiu-jitsu. I think you’re going to see a great war between us, but I will have my hand raised at the end of this fight.”
Cariaso, 32, will enter the cage on a modest two-fight winning streak. The California-based kickboxer last competed at UFC 169 in February, when he captured a unanimous verdict over Alliance MMA representative Danny Martinez at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Cariaso has gone the distance 13 times in 21 career outings.
“Cariaso is a short southpaw with a sort of wrestle-box style, and he throws his back leg head kick a lot,” Smolka said. “However, he has a disadvantage in many areas of the fight, namely size, strength and cardio. I also believe I have better grappling. He is probably faster than me and that’s where the fight will be decided, but I am confident that I will beat him by imposing my game and fighting the fight that I want to fight.”
Momentum can be a cruel mistress in the fight game. Ask Nik Lentz.
American Top Team’s Lentz will meet “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 finalist Manny Gamburyan in a preliminary featherweight scrap at UFC Fight Night “Brown vs. Silva,” as he attempts to rebound from his first loss at 145 pounds. The 29-year-old last appeared at UFC on Fox 9 in December, when he came up short in a unanimous decision defeat to Team Alpha Male ace Chad Mendes. The setback halted Lentz’s three-fight winning streak and curbed much of the enthusiasm surrounding him.
Now comes his date with Gamburyan, a rugged judoka who has produced mixed results inside the Octagon. “The Anvil” last fought at UFC 168 in December, losing a decision to Dennis Siver at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. However, the verdict was later changed to a no-contest after it was revealed Siver had tested positive for hCG. Gamburyan entered his match with the Russian-born German kickboxer on the strength of back-to-back wins over Cole Miller and Michihiro Omigawa.
“He is a veteran of the game and nothing is going to surprise him,” Lentz said. “He’s a good opponent, and I can’t wait to get in the cage and get the victory.”
THIS & THAT
The U.S. Bank Arena opened on Sept. 9, 1975 at a cost of $20 million ... Matt Brown remains the only man to have stopped reigning Bellator MMA welterweight champion Douglas Lima on strikes, having done so at an International Sport Combat Federation event in 2007 ... A former Jungle Fight champion, Erick Silva holds the rank of black belt in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu ... Costas Philippou is undefeated in three appearances as a professional boxer ... The three fighters to whom Erik Koch has lost -- Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas and Dustin Poirier -- own a combined record of 45-7 ... Tim Means was a two-division King of the Cage champion, holding the promotion’s lightweight and junior welterweight belts ... Soa Palelei sports five-, 12-, 16-, 28-, 38- and 49-second finishes on his resume ... Rafael Natal has never lost two fights in a row ... Japanese prospect Kyoji Horiguchi, 23, suffered his only professional defeat in 2012, when he wound up on the wrong side of a majority decision against Masakatsu Ueda in Shooto ... ... When Anthony Lapsley was born on Feb. 13, 1980, the top five songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 List were Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” Captain & Tennille’s “Do That To Me One More Time,” Kenny Rogers’ “Coward of the County,” Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin’” and Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” ... The unbeaten Yan Cabral has submitted five different opponents with arm-triangle chokes, including Japanese icon Kazushi Sakuraba ... Eddie Wineland is one of five men to have held the World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight championship. Chase Beebe, Miguel Torres, Brian Bowles and Dominick Cruz are the others ... Justin Salas hails from Green River, Wyo., the same hometown as legendary sportscaster Curt Gowdy.