Mallory Martin (Amanda Armstrong/Combat Press)

Contender Series: Season 3, Episode 9 Preview and Predictions

Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series continues its third season.

The show, which moved 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 ninth episode of the season takes place on Aug. 20. The ESPN+ stream gets underway at 8 p.m. ET.


The Lineup

WW: Leon Shahbazyan (7-1, Glendale Fighting Club) vs. Philip Rowe (6-2, Fusion Xcel Performance)

LHW: Marcos Brigagão (11-0, Parana Vale Tudo) vs. Jamal Pogues (6-2, Joe Stevenson’s Cobra Kai)

BW: Steve Garcia (9-3, Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA) vs. Desmond Torres (7-1, Team Oyama)

Women’s FlyW: Micol di Segni (7-2, Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA) vs. Mallory Martin (4-2, Tiger Muay Thai)

BW: Phil Caracappa (8-0, Dante Rivera BJJ) vs. Ricky Steele (5-0, Combat Fitness)

Best Prospect: Caracappa

Even though Phil Caracappa is opening the night’s festivities, he looks to be the best prospect in the lineup. The Ring of Combat bantamweight champion has consistently upped his competition level as he’s taken more pro fights. He even owns a victory over UFC veteran Louis Gaudinot. Caracappa is a well-rounded guy who can bang or outwork opponents on the ground. He’s under the tutelage of Dante Rivera, a very underrated coach. The 27-year-old does tend to fight to decisions, so that hurts him a bit. However, his overall abilities, experience and big-show readiness make him the guy to look out for on this solid card.

Best Fight: Garcia vs. Torres

Two big-show veterans clash when Hawaiian banger Desmond Torres takes a short-notice bout against Bellator veteran Steve Garcia. These are not inexperienced prospects; they are seasoned veterans. Neither man will be uncomfortable under the bright lights, and they should get to work right away. Torres is the submission specialist. Garcia is an aggressive banger who will try to knock off his opponent’s head. This is an intriguing grappler-vs.-striker match-up that has all the makings of an exciting battle. UFC President Dana White and the matchmakers will greatly enjoy this one.

The Longshot: di Segni

It makes sense that Dana White and the brass are interested in Micol di Segni. She does have the look the UFC prefers in its female fighters. This does not mean she’s ready for the next level. The Italian, who is unsurprisingly a model, spends some time with Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA, but she’s yet to prove herself against top competition. Her toughest test to date was Maria Ribeiro, an atomweight who fought up a weight class, and Di Segni was knocked out in 69 seconds by the Brazilian. If di Segni can get by Mallory Martin, then the UFC will sign her and the beauty she brings. However, nothing di Segni has done suggests that she’s ready for Martin.

The Dark Horse: Garcia

Steve Garcia will be in the best fight of the episode, but he’s also the dark horse of this edition of the Contender Series. Garcia is a Jackson-Winkeljohn rep who has high-level experience and an impressive resume. He’s only lost to notable talent, including recent Contender Series signee Aalon Cruz. He’s beaten some very solid guys too, including longtime veteran Abel Cullum and respected prospect Andrew Whitney. The 27-year-old ’s a finisher who likes to get things done in round one. He will be under the radar coming into the card, but he’s definitely a guy who could surprise everyone on this episode.

Signing Predictions: Shahbazyan, Brigagao, Caracappa

Leon Shahbazyan will likely score a finish in his fight with Philip Rowe. He’s further aided by his brother Edmen’s status as a current member of the UFC roster. The 23-year-old Californian trains at the gym Ronda Rousey ran with when she was active.

It’s a recurring theme here, but the UFC really is in constant need of light heavyweights. Therefore, the winner of the bout featuring Marcos Brigagão and Jamal Pogues — my pick is Brigagão — should ink a contract with a victory unless, of course, it’s a horrid snoozer.

Phil Caracappa’s championship status, in unison with a victory, should be enough to get him the call only if he finishes his opponent or wins a barnburner decision that sets him apart from the pack.

Fight Picks

Fight Pick
WW: Leon Shahbazyan vs. Philip Rowe Shahbazyan
LHW: Marcos Brigagão vs. Jamal Pogues Brigagao
BW: Steve Garcia vs. Desmond Torres Garcia
Women’s FlyW: Micol di Segni vs. Mallory Martin Martin
BW: Phil Caracappa vs. Ricky Steele Caracappa