Justin Gonzales (R) (Phil Lambert/Combat Press)

Contender Series: Season 3, Episode 2 Preview and Predictions

Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series is back for its third season.

The show, which moves to its new home on ESPN+ this year, aims to give top prospects a chance to impress the UFC brass in an attempt to earn a contract with the company.

The show’s second episode of the season takes place on June 25. The ESPN+ stream gets underway at 8 p.m. ET.


The Lineup

WW: Victor Reyna (9-3, All Power Fitness and Fighting) vs. Miguel Baeza (6-0, MMA Masters)

LHW: Alton Cunningham (7-1, Pura Vida BJJ/MMA) vs. Tony Johnson (7-2, American Kickboxing Academy)

FW: Zach Zane (12-7, Black House MMA) vs. Justin Gonzales (9-0, Top Notch MMA)

MW: Michael Lombardo (8-1, American Top Team) vs. Kyle Daukaus (6-0, Martinez BJJ)

BW: Miles Johns (8-0, Fortis MMA) vs. Richie Santiago (7-1, Tri-Force MMA)

Best Prospect: Daukaus

He’s incredibly unheralded, but Daukaus is very underrated and could be the best prospect on an episode with a couple other top prospects, including Miles Johns. Daukaus is an ace on the mat. All of his wins have come by way of submission, and they’ve all been impressive. He’s a strangler, with three wins by D’Arce choke and three more by rear-naked choke. He picked up a D’Arce victory over UFC veteran Jonavin Webb. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt has rapidly gotten better and is now in a position to score a UFC contract, which is crazy considering how unimpressive his amateur career was.

Best Fight: Johns vs. Santiago

Both Johns and Santiago are high-octane fighters with good output and solid fighting bases. They are strongest when grappling, so we could see some really exciting stuff if these guys hit the mat. There would be a lot of transitions, submission attempts and position changes. If their ground games canceled each other out, you could get a brawl on the feet that, while not the most technical, would still be very fun to watch. These guys open the card too, so they know they need to set the pace for what could be a wild night.

The Longshot: Zane

Sometimes a not-so-sexy record isn’t a true indicator fors a fighter. There are some guys with records that aren’t great in terms of numbers, but it’s due to their strength of record. Zane’s 12-7 mark includes wins over nobodies and losses to low- to low-mid tier opponents. If there is one thing to grant Zane, it’s that he’s tough and exciting. However, those attributes don’t necessarily translate to success. If Zane pulls off a victory over Justin Gonzales, it will be incredible. He’s definitely the fighter on this episode with the most to prove and the smallest odds of victory.

The Dark Horse: Gonzales

Gonzales is undefeated as a pro and an amateur (a combined 17-0 record). In most cases, this would make him more than a dark horse, but he’s spent his career with Sparta Combat League in Colorado, where he hasn’t gotten as much exposure as others. That’s a shame, as he’s not only very skilled, but tough and talented as well. He’s very well rounded, though more finishes on his record would definitely help him to stand out. He has a favorable match-up here against Zach Zane. Gonzales might need a finish or else he could be on the outside looking in when the UFC president starts handing out contracts.

Signing Predictions: Cunningham, Daukaus, Johns

Although Cunningham lost during the 2018 season of the Contender Series, he is nevertheless a light heavyweight, of which the UFC is always in need. If he scores a finish or wins a barnburner decision, he’ll get his shot.

Daukaus has the resume and finishing prowess to impress the UFC brass. The only way he doesn’t get signed, other than if he loses, is if he fights a meticulous mat fight and doesn’t score the finish.

Johns is a Legacy Fighting Alliance bantamweight champion, credentials that alone could net him a contract with a win here. He’s been on the radar, so a convincing performance would make him a no-brainer signing.

Fight Picks

Fight Pick
WW: Victor Reyna vs. Miguel Baeza Baeza
LHW: Alton Cunningham vs. Tony Johnson Cunningham
FW: Zach Zane vs. Justin Gonzales Gonzales
MW: Michael Lombardo vs. Kyle Daukaus Daukaus
BW: Miles Johns vs. Richie Santiago Johns