Dana White’s Contender Series is back for its fifth 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 second episode of the season takes place on Sept. 6 and streams live on ESPN+ starting at 8 p.m. ET.
LHW: Renato Bellato (8-1, Team Nogueira, Brazil) vs. Vitor Petrino (6-0, CM System, Brazil)
WW: Gabriel Bonfim (12-0, Equipe Samurai, Brazil) vs. Trey Waters (6-0, Ludus MMA, USA)
HW: Kevin Szaflarski (11-1, Akademia Sportow Walki, Poland) vs. Jimmy Lawson (4-1, American Kickboxing Academy, USA)
WFLY: Nayara Maia (7-0-1, Nova Uniao, Brazil) vs. Tereza Bleda (5-0, Hanuman Gym, Czech Republic)
Best Prospect: Abbasov
Possessing 28 wins, Nariman Abbasov is easily the best fighter on this episode. The man has spent his career fighting overseas and taking on tough competition, winning in impressive fashion. A list of scalps in his trophy case include Marif Piraev (32-4-1), Shamil Zavurov (40-6-1) and Kuat Khamitov (20-5-2), among others. He is an aggressive finisher, which makes him not only skilled, but exciting. He has an extremely tough matchup here in Ismael Bonfim. These are two of the best, if not the best, lightweights on this season of the Contender Series, and somehow they have been pitted against each other.
Best Fight: Abbasov-Bonfim
See above statement on this fight. These two are UFC ready fighters squaring off on the Contender Series, while other less experienced, less UFC-ready now fighters (including lightweights) have been squared off against each other. Both could be UFC fighters now, but now will compete for that spot in what should be a high-level scrap.
The Dark Horse: Bleda
In my mind, Tereza Bleda is the best female fighting prospect outside the UFC right now. The fighter, known as “Ronda,” has been a beast since entering MMA, even at an amateur level. She went 6-0 as an amateur, starting as a teenager. During COVID, she took three exhibition fights since pro fights were not being held at the time. She beat UFC veteran Lucie Pudilova, as well as top European prospects Lucie Szabova and Magdalena Sormova. She’s now 5-0 pro and has been dominant in all of those wins. Her opponent’s combined records are 32-13-1 in those fights, including a win over prospect Mabelly Lima. She takes on fellow undefeated prospect Nayara Maia in what should be an interesting one.
The Long Shot: Szaflarski
This episode is loaded with talent, so it’s hard to see a weak link here. However, the guy who should be considered the longest shot is Kevin Szaflarski. The Polish heavyweight is known for his first-round stoppage history, but his gas tank has been shown to be a weakness and he has a very tough matchup in outstanding wrestler Jimmy Lawson. If he can land a homerun punch early, he will be in good shape. Otherwise, Lawson’s athleticism, wrestling and deeper cardio well will be tough on the Pole.
Signing Predictions: Petrino, G Bonfim, Lawson, Abbasov, Bleda
Everyone gets signed on this episode. This is a very deep talent pool on this episode and unless there is just an abomination of a fight, they will all get inked.
LHW: Renato Bellato vs. Vitor Petrino
WW: Gabriel Bonfim vs. Felix Klinkhammer
HW: Kevin Szaflarski vs. Jimmy Lawson
LW: Nariman Abbasov vs. Ismael Bonfim
WFLY: Nayara Maia vs. Tereza Bleda
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