November 24 marked a successful return to the UFC for Louis Smolka.
“Da Last Samurai” pulled off a slick armbar submission over China’s Su Mudaerji at UFC Fight Night 141 in Beijing. It marked his fourth win in a row, and his first UFC win since he TKO’d Ben Nguyen in July 2016.
“It’s great to be back, honestly,” Smolka told MMASucka. “It’s a lot of hard work that came to fruition.”
Smolka started his UFC tenure at 5-1 with wins over Nguyen, Paddy Holohan and Neil Seery. However, alcoholism issues led Smolka to an 0-4 skid against the likes of Brandon Moreno, Ray Borg, Tim Elliott and Matheus Nicolau. He was subsequently released from the promotion.
So in his return to the Octagon against the unheralded Mudaerji, Smolka figured he had to make a good impression if he wanted to stick around.
“[The win] basically kept my career alive at this point,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I had to win that one to remain with the company and keep a feasible future in MMA.”
Smolka was surprised by the power of Mudaerji’s striking, but once he got the fight to the mat, it was his world. Mudaerji was saved by the bell from Smolka’s ground and pound at the end of the first round, but he wasn’t so lucky in the second.
Mudaerji attempted a couple of submissions off his back, but Smolka was wise to them. He quickly transitioned from a triangle position to isolate Mudaerji’s arm. The tap came just over two minutes into the second frame.
“I was just trying to get the finish,” Smolka said of his successful armbar. “I wasn’t thinking about him being seconds away from tapping, and I was going through the motions, trying to stay a step ahead and keep moving. If he taps, he taps. If not, I’d keep moving and transition to the next position.”
With the win, Smolka is now 15-5 overall and 6-5 in the UFC. Mudaerji fell to 11-4 in his UFC debut loss.
Return to the Octagon
After Smolka was cut, he revitalized his career at Team Oyama and went on a 3-0 run in 2018. In his third win of the year, he captured the vacant CXF flyweight title with a referee stoppage TKO win over Kyle Estrada. The UFC felt that warranted Smolka’s return, which the fighter said made him feel “ecstatic” when he got the call.
“I wanted to cry a little bit, like, ‘Oh thank God I’m back,'” he said. “But I didn’t have time to be having an emotional breakdown, I needed to get to work.”
Smolka said fighting in the UFC sober as opposed to how he felt on his 0-4 run was a completely different experience.
“I’m not constantly hungover or constantly hurting,” Smolka said. “I’m not nauseous all the time. You’re so hungover and so nauseous, it triggers a gag reflex and you almost want to throw up. Shit, it actually happened a couple of fights.
“Dealing with the effects of the weight cut while drinking the entire camp was very hard to do. The weight didn’t want to come off. Not being drunk all the time, my body runs so much more efficiently and it explodes how it’s supposed to. I’m able to explode and be like, ‘All right, I’ll recover from this.’”
The bout marked Smolka’s UFC bantamweight debut, a division where he’ll likely make his home from now on if the UFC cuts flyweight. He intends to return in February or March.
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