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UFC Fight Night 76 Preview: 5 storylines to watch, betting odds & predictions

The UFC returns to Ireland this Saturday for UFC Fight Night 76 at the 3Arena in Dublin, the third time the UFC has visited the venue. The last time the Octagon graced Dublin, it was one of the most memorable shows not just of 2014, but in company history, with a rabid crowd chanting all night long ending with Conor McGregor scoring a big win in front of his country on his way to winning the Interim UFC Featherweight Championship. UFC Fight Pass will provide exclusive coverage of the event with a main card start time of 4 PM eastern time, and preliminary card action kicking off at 1 PM eastern time on Saturday.

The event will be headlined by a five-round bout in the UFC's lightweight division as former featherweight contender Dustin Poirier looks to continue to climb the 155-pound rankings when he takes on Irish standout Joseph Duffy, who looks to improve on his 14-1 MMA record and score his third straight UFC win. Poirier had some trouble when he last fought an Irish fighter, when he took on McGregor at UFC 178 in September 2014, and the Irish crowd certainly won't let him forget about it. Other Irish standouts will be on the card, including Paddy Holohan, Aisling Daly and Cathal Pendred. Let's take a deeper look into the card and find five storylines to keep an eye on when UFC Fight Night 76 takes place on Saturday.

1. Can Dustin Poirier score the win in front of the rabid Irish crowd?

There can be one thing said about the fans in Ireland- they are loud and they cheer their home country fighters with a lot of passion. Dustin Poirier is coming into hostile territory in the headline bout when he takes on Joseph Duffy in a five-round bout. Poirier has fought in front of a hostile, dominant Irish crowd before when he took on Conor McGregor at UFC 178 in Las Vegas. Duffy isn't the type of personality that McGregor is, and doesn't talk trash like McGregor, and isn't going to get into the head of Poirier like McGregor did. However, the Irish fans will likely make Poirier remember the fight against McGregor, and they will look up the noise level in favor of Duffy when the two men step inside the Octagon.

Poirier is fighting for the third time since moving up to the lightweight division following his loss to McGregor. He has scored first-round knockout wins over Carlos Diego Ferreira and Yancy Medeiros since moving up, and Duffy is his biggest test since the transition. Poirier was a legitimate contender at 145 pounds, with his only losses coming to McGregor, Cub Swanson and Chan Sung Jung, fighters who have either fought for the title or been on the cusp of fighting for it. He has a chance to be a title contender at 155 pounds as he gets more adjusted, and not making the big weight cut down to 145 pounds has to make life easier. He is ranked at #13 in the lightweight rankings, but he comes in as the underdog for this fight. He has the overall skillset to score the win over Duffy, and it would be a big victory if he is able to do so.

2. Can Joseph Duffy break into the lightweight rankings with a win over Dustin Poirier?

Joseph Duffy will be stepping into the Octagon for the third time on Saturday night, and he is already in a main event spot when he takes on Dustin Poirier. Duffy is from Donegal, Ireland, and he will have the support of the crowd behind him. Duffy puts his four-fight win streak on the line, and he is 14-1 in his career. He also holds the distinction of being the last man to defeat Conor McGregor, and many think a rematch between the two could be the biggest fight they could put on in the country of Ireland. Duffy is by no means looking towards that, partly because they are fighting in different divisions (though that could change), but mostly because Duffy has higher aspirations- winning the UFC Lightweight Championship.

Duffy has scored two first-round stoppage wins in his two UFC fights, wins over Jake Lindsey and Ivan Jorge. Poirier is obviously a huge step up in competition, but Duffy is ready for it. Out of his 14 wins, 13 have come by stoppage, and he trains with one of the best camps in the sport- the Tristar camp in Montreal. Duffy is also undefeated in his professional boxing and kickboxing careers, and he has excellent ground skills as well. He has yet to go 25 minutes in a fight, and he had to weather some early trouble in his fight with Jorge. Poirier is one of the best finishers in the sport when he has his opponent in trouble, so Duffy will need to be on the offensive early. It is a big spot for Duffy to prove he is a contender, and a win would certainly send the Irish crowd home happy.

3. Who wins the co-main event between Paddy Holohan and Louis Smolka?

The night's co-main event was originally scheduled to be a heavyweight bout between Stipe Miocic and Ben Rothwell that had big title shot implications on the line. However, Miocic was forced out of the bout due to injury, and Rothwell was pulled from the card in response, and this fight card ended up with a flyweight bout between Patrick Holohan and Louis Smolka being bumped up to the co-main event slot. It's far from being the highest-profile co-main event fight, but it is one that has the potential to be the best fight on the card as Holohan and Smolka bring it inside the Octagon every time they step in it.

Holohan has just one loss in his professional career, and has won two straight fights. Smolka is also on a two-fight win streak and has just one loss in his professional career as well. Both men are exciting fighters who come to finish, and Holohan will have the Irish crowd solidly in his corner. Smolka will draw some vitrol from the crowd as he is coming off a win over another Irish flyweight in Neil Seery at UFC 189 in July. Smolka has excellent striking skills and some solid submission prowess. Holohan is a finisher by submission, with 67% of his wins coming by submission, but his last two wins have come by decision. Both are tall flyweights and have the same reach. They are evenly-matched, but I like Smolka to score the win in this one.

4. Will Norman Parke snap his two-fight losing skid when he takes on Reza Madadi?

Norman Parke is a former winner of The Ultimate Fighter, winning the lightweight tournament on TUF: The Smashes. He went unbeaten in his first five UFC bouts, and if it weren't for a point deduction for grabbing the shorts of Leonardo Santos when they fought, he would've been five-for-five in his first five fights. However, he has seen a recent string of tough luck come his way as he enters Saturday night having lost his previous two bouts. Both were split decision losses, coming to Gleison Tibau and Francisco Trinaldo, and both were close enough fights that a few swings in the action during the bouts and Parke could still be unbeaten in the UFC. Regardless, he finds his back against the wall coming into Saturday night's bout against a tough opponent in Reza Madadi.

Madadi is fighting for the first time since April 2013, when he scored a submission win over Michael Johnson, who is now a top-five ranked fighter at 155 pounds. Madadi has spent the past two years in lots of legal trouble, and spent 14 months in jail for aggravated burglary. He has claimed his innocence, and the UFC decided to re-sign him after he was released. With 30 months out of action, there is no question he will suffer from some cage rust. He is 8-1 in his last nine fights, but with missing that time and being 37-years-old, who knows what he brings to the table these days. It seems controversial that the UFC re-signed him after the arrest, but they must have faith that he was innocent despite the conviction. It will be a tough fight for Parke, but I see him scoring the win on Saturday.

5. What else is there to look out for on Saturday?

With this being an event airing exclusively on UFC Fight Pass and being in Ireland, it isn't exactly loaded with star power, but there are a lot of promising fighters on the card. Nine fighters on the card have one loss or less in their careers, and some will be fighting for their spot on the UFC roster. The final main card bout is an interesting battle of unbeatens as Nicolas Dalby takes on Darren Till. Both men fight inside the Octagon for the second time, and Till is an interesting prospect at 22-years-old, and with eleven finish wins in his 13 career bouts.

On the preliminary card, Stevie Ray looks to go 3-0 inside the Octagon after two stoppage wins in his first two UFC bouts. Scott Askham and Krzysztof Jotko will each be looking to score their second straight UFC win when they square off. Cathal Pendred looks to get back into the win column after his first UFC loss when he takes on the undefeated Tom Breese. This is a big spot for Pendred as if he loses in yet another boring fight, he could be on his way out of the organization as roster cuts are being made. Also on the prelims is veteran Darren Elkins, who will be fighting in the UFC for the 13th time. He worked with the Team Alpha Male camp for this fight and he takes on Robert Whiteford, coming out of the American Top Team camp and is looking to build on his two-fight win streak.

Full UFC Fight Night 76 Fight Card, Betting Odds and Predictions


Lightweights: (#13) Dustin Poirier vs. Joseph Duffy
Betting Odds:
Poirier (+200), Duffy (-240)
Prediction: Poirier by knockout in round 3

Flyweights: Patrick Holohan vs. Louis Smolka
Betting Odds:
Holohan (+100), Smolka (-120)
Prediction: Smolka by decision

Lightweights: Norman Parke vs. Reza Madadi
Betting Odds:
Parke (-280), Madadi (+240)
Prediction: Parke by decision

Welterweights: Nicolas Dalby vs. Darren Till
Betting Odds:
Dalby (-135), Till (+115)
Prediction: Till by knockout in round 2


Lightweights: Stevie Ray vs. Mickael Lebout
Betting Odds:
Ray (-550), Lebout (+425)
Prediction: Ray by knockout in round 2

Flyweights: Neil Seery vs. Jon Delos Reyes
Betting Odds:
Seery (-155), Reyes (+135)
Prediction: Seery by decision

Middleweights: Scott Askham vs. Krzysztof Jotko
Betting Odds:
Askham (-135), Jotko (+115)
Prediction: Askham by knockout in round 2

Women's Strawweights: (#15) Aisling Daly vs. Ericka Almeida
Betting Odds:
Daly (-135), Almeida (+115)
Prediction: Daly by decision

Welterweights: Cathal Pendred vs. Tom Breese
Betting Odds:
Pendred (+220), Breese (-260)
Prediction: Breese by submission in round 2

Featherweights: (#14) Darren Elkins vs. Robert Whiteford
Betting Odds:
Elkins (-145), Whiteford (+125)
Prediction: Elkins by decision

Middleweights: Bubba Bush vs. Garreth McLellan
Betting Odds:
Bush (-260), McLellan (+220)
Prediction: Bush by submission in round 3