Rivalries: Louis Smolka

Volatility has marked Louis Smolka’s tenure in the Ultimate Fighting Championship—a tenure that covers 16 appearances across two stints in multiple weight classes.

The Hawaiian will attempt to keep his head above water in the bantamweight division when he battles “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 18 finalist Davey Grant in a featured UFC on ESPN 36 attraction this Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Smolka has alternated wins and losses in each of his past five outings, leaving his promotional record at a middling 8-8. He last competed at UFC on ESPN 31, where he succumbed to punches from Vince Morales in the first round of their Dec. 4 pairing.

As Smolka approaches his compelling confrontation with Grant at 135 pounds, a look at some of the rivalries that have helped chart his course to this point:

Ale Cali

Smolka laid claim to the Pacific Xtreme Combat flyweight championship when he put away the once-beaten Filipino standout with punches in the second round of their PXC 41 main event on Nov. 9, 2013 at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig, Philippines. Cali met his end 1:52 into Round 2. Smolka seized the reins from the incumbent champion and never looked back, overwhelming him on the ground. His initial bids for submissions failed—Cali’s code was difficult to crack—but the Hawaiian’s stick-to-itiveness eventually paid dividends. Smolka moved to a dominant position in the second round, cut loose with ground-and-pound and forced referee Thomas Fan to intervene. The victory moved him to 6-0 and set the stage for his signing with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Alptekin Ozkilic

Accurate, high-volume punching and a relentless pace carried Smolka to a unanimous decision over the highly regarded Turkish flyweight as part of the UFC Fight Night 35 undercard on Jan. 15, 2014 in Duluth, Georgia. All three judges inside the Arena at Gwinnett Center scored it 29-28. Ozkilic was aggressive with his takedowns but failed to effectively corral his elusive counterpart. Smolka, who entered the cage as roughly a 3-to-1 underdog, swept and escaped with surprising ease, often returning to his feet to resume his attack. By the end of the first round, Ozkilic was a spent force. Smolka gave him no quarry, unleashing punches, kicks and standing elbows, along with a series of knee strikes from the Thai clinch. He nearly finished in the closing seconds of Round 3, where he moved to full mount and let loose with a volley of unanswered blows. Nevertheless, the verdict was clear.

Brandon Moreno

The Entram Gym prospect submitted the heavily favored Smolka with a guillotine choke in the first round of their UFC Fight Night 96 flyweight showcase on Oct. 1, 2016 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. A replacement for the injured Sergio Pettis, Moreno finished it 2:23 into Round 1. “The Assassin Baby” struck for a takedown inside the first 30 seconds and settled in full guard. Smolka escaped to his feet but left his neck exposed on an attempted single-leg. The unwise maneuver led to his undoing. Moreno bit down on the guillotine, rolled to a mounted position and then readjusted his grip to force a reluctant tapout from the former Pacific Xtreme Combat champion. It was the first stoppage loss of Smolka’s career.

Matheus Nicolau

The talented Brazilian made a triumphant return from a United States Anti-Doping Agency suspension when he captured a one-sided unanimous decision from Smolka in a UFC 219 flyweight prelim on Dec. 30, 2017 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. In his first appearance in more than a year, Pereira swept the scorecards with 30-26, 30-26 and 30-25 marks from the judges. Smolka endured a nightmarish first round on his way to a fourth consecutive loss and subsequent UFC release. The Hawaiian hit the deck three times, Pereira exacting his damage with a lightning-quick left hook and a powerful right cross. By the time the first round was done, the right side of Smolka’s face was mush. Pereiera’s pace slowed over the final 10 minutes, but he remained in complete control despite easing his foot off the gas.

Su Mudaerji

Team Oyama’s Smolka made a triumphant return to the Octagon and submitted the promising promotional newcomer with an armbar in the second round of their UFC Fight Night 141 prelim on Nov. 24, 2018 at Cadillac Arena in Beijing. Mudaerji bowed out 2:07 into Round 2. Smolka flirted with a finish in the first round, where he executed a takedown, advanced to the back and flattened out the 22-year-old Chinese prospect before applying heavy ground-and-pound in the waning seconds. He delivered another takedown in the middle stanza, moved to full mount and caught the armbar during a subsequent scramble. With his limb bent beyond its bounds, Mudaerji had no choice but to tap.