Hunter Azure (R) (Amy Kaplan/Legacy Fighting Alliance)

Contender Series: Season 3, Episode 3 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 third episode of the season takes place on July 9. The ESPN+ stream gets underway at 8 p.m. ET.


The Lineup

LW: James Wallace (9-2, Fisher’s Bang Gym) vs. Joe Solecki (7-2, Port City Sports Performance)

LHW: Antonio Trócoli (11-3, Gracie Barra Bahia) vs. Kenneth Bergh (6-0, Frontline MMA)

BW: Hunter Azure (6-0, The MMA Lab) vs. Chris Ocon (4-0, Nashville MMA)

MW: Maki Pitolo (11-4, West Oahu MMA) vs. Justin Sumter (7-2, Fighting Arts Academy)

LW: Jacob Rosales (10-4, CSW Training Center) vs. Jonathan Pearce (8-3, Knoxville Martial Arts Academy)

Best Prospect: Azure

The MMA Lab’s Hunter Azure is a former collegiate wrestler at Montana Northern. He is just 27 years old, but he has a big future ahead of him. Azure has strong takedowns, top-notch ground work, and brutal ground-and-pound. He’s been doing his best to round off his game, which makes him an even more intriguing prospect. In his win over Jaime Hernandez, Azure showed off some striking when he dropped Hernandez with a body kick and punches. Just imagine an Azure with a wrestling base and skilled striking. He’s the best prospect this card has to offer and a guy that you definitely need to keep tabs on.

Best Fight: Pearce vs. Rosales

Neither Jacob Rosales nor Jonathan Pearce are exactly world-beaters, but there’s one thing that will be true come fight night: they will absolutely throw down in a barn-burning brawl. Both men are exciting on the feet and on the mat. As the opening bout on the card, they will try to set the tone for the night. It won’t be the most high-level stuff or the most technical battle, but it won’t disappoint in terms of entertainment value.

The Longshot: Pearce

Pearce is definitely an exciting guy, but history shows that he’s the biggest longshot on a card that actually features a few longshots. His three losses come against fighters with a combined record of 6-2 — two were 1-0 — coming into their fights with Pearce. He’s shown some holes in his submission defense, which may play into the hands of his aforementioned opponent Rosales. Pearce is a finisher himself, but moving up in competition won’t be kind to him.

The Dark Horse: Solecki

Headliner Joe Solecki may be in the spotlight, but he’s still a dark horse on this card. His only losses came to UFC veteran Nikolas Motta and top prospect Cesar Balmaceda, but he has scored some solid wins, too. He’s a finisher with a good submission game. Solecki, 25, is also still young and has yet to hit his peak. He has promise, but he’s in the shark tank that is the lightweight division. Solecki has James Wallace on his plate at this event, which should serve as a good measure of Solecki’s further potential.

Signing Predictions: Bergh, Azure, Pitolo

Azure’s pedigree, MMA Lab connection, hype, and a finish over a favorable match-up in Chris Ocon will likely have him inking a contract by night’s end. He’s clearly the best young prospect on this episode, and the UFC brass knows it.

Kenneth Bergh — or Antonio Trócoli, should he score the win — will get the nod based purely on the fact that he is a light heavyweight. The division always needs bodies. This episode is actually very weak on overall talent, too, which should get him the nod.

Maki Pitolo is an exciting fighter that comes to bang every time. With a win and a finish, UFC President Dana White will be too excited to not offer him a contract. He’s not really at the highest level, but he’s definitely among the most exciting fighters in this lineup.

Fight Picks

Fight Pick
LW: James Wallace vs. Joe Solecki Solecki
LHW: Antonio Trócoli vs. Kenneth Bergh Bergh
BW: Hunter Azure vs. Chris Ocon Azure
MW Maki Pitolo vs. Justin Sumter Pitolo
LW: Jacob Rosales vs. Jonathan Pearce Rosales