Dana White’s Contender Series is back for its fourth season.
The show, which continues on its home on ESPN+, 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 fifth episode of the new season takes place on August 21. The ESPN+ stream gets underway at 8 p.m. ET.
LHW: William Knight (7-1, Thornton Martial Arts, USA) vs. Cody Brundage (5-0, Scorpion Fighting System, USA)
BW: Jose Johnson (11-5, StrKings, USA) vs. Ronnie Lawrence (5-1, Nashville MMA, USA)
FW: Dennis Bazukia (4-1, Longo and Weidman MMA, USA) vs. Melsik Baghdasaryan (4-1, Glendale Fighting Club, Armenia)
FlyW: Jimmy Flick (14-5, Forza Combat Sports, USA) vs. Nate Smith (6-0, Elevation Fight Team, USA)
Best Prospect: Smith
The flyweight division is still recovering from the post-Demetrious Johnson purge that left the roster for the weight class with under 20 fighters, so talent is hard to come by. However, this card has one of the best, most underrated prospects in the form of Smith, a former college wrestler who has looked beastly through six pro bouts. He’s a great natural athlete, he’s very strong for a 125-pounder, and he is nasty on the mat. He’s good at advancing positions and achieving back mount, where he’s finished four bouts (three by rear-naked choke and one via punches). Smith has a tough bout with Jimmy Flick, but a win here will prove he’s ready for the UFC.
Best Fight: Bazukia vs. Baghdasaryan
Though they are the least experienced pros on this card, you can bet that Bazukia and Baghdasaryan have a good chance of combining for the best fight on this card. Both guys are aggressive and look to get after it from the onset of the bout. If this contest remains primarily a striking affair, you can expect madness. It would also be a shock if this fight didn’t end in a violent finish.
The Dark Horse: Brundage
He is a 5-0 fighter with a solid wrestling base. While his record doesn’t feature the sexiest of competition, Brundage has used his wrestling as a great weapon to come out victorious. He’s a good athlete and quite strong, though he’s weighed in under the 205-pound limit before. He has a tough test, though, in the form of William Knight, who is sometimes more brawn than skill. Brundage’s wrestling will be key here, as Knight has shown he can be taken down.
The Long Shot: Lawrence
Lawrence could be quite good, but he’s the biggest long shot on the card. This is one of the most stacked lineups on this season of the Contender Series, and Lawrence is just 5-1 so far. He’s beaten solid regional fighters, but, in his only step up in competition, he was defeated by current UFC roster member Steve Garcia. He now takes on his most experienced foe to date in Jose Johnson. Perhaps he’s better than we think, but we won’t find that out until he steps into the cage across from Johnson on Tuesday.
Signing Predictions: Knight, Smith
UFC President Dana White has basically been signing everybody, but these two guys will be the clear-cut choices from this episode.
Knight is already 1-0 on the Contender Series. If he is able to prevail in his fight, he will get signed. He’s an exciting fighter and an absolute brute. White already loves this guy, so this is a no-brainer.
Smith is a top flyweight prospect with the right skills to make a quick run in a thin division. If he bests a Legacy Fighting Alliance champion like Flick, then it will be enough for the brass to ink him to a contract.
LHW: William Knight vs. Cody Brundage
BW: Jose Johnson vs. Ronnie Lawrence
FW: Dennis Bazukia vs. Melsik Baghdasaryan
FlyW: Jimmy Flick vs. Nate Smith
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