Dana White’s Contender Series is back for its seventh 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 first episode of the new season takes place on Aug. 8 and streams live on ESPN+ starting at 7 p.m. ET.
MW: Lucas Fernando (9-1, Refit Pro Fighters, Brazil) vs. Cesar Almeida (3-0, Corinthians MMA, Brazil)
LW: Bogdan Grad (11-1, ETTL Bros MMA, Austria) vs. Tom Nolan (5-0, Kachi MMA, Australia)
HW: Kevin Szaflarski (11-1, Akadamia Sportow Walki, Poland) vs. Caio Machado (7-1-1, Franco Kickboxing Pankration, Brazil)
BW: Reyes “Junior” Cortez (7-2, Fight Ready MMA, USA) vs. Payton Talbott (5-0, Reno Academy of Combat, USA)
FLY: Victor Dias (11-2, Tata Fight Team, Brazil) vs. Kevin Borjas (8-1, Pitbull Martial Arts Center, Peru)
Best Prospect: Fernando
On a solid first episode of Dana White’s Contender Series, the fighter I think with the best future looks to be Brazil’s Lucas Fernando. A disciple of MMA legend Pedro Rizzo, Fernando has had a strong start to his MMA career. Despite one blemish in 2020, Fernando has shown to be a long, rangy striker with a good range of technique and finishing ability. His last two wins have been the biggest of his career, knocking out Contender Series vet Jansey Silva and Bellator vet Fabio Aguiar. Those have been major steps up in competition and shown he’s big show ready. He has a tough matchup in Cesar Almeida, a Glory veteran who will test Fernando’s striking. We may see more of Fernando’s grappling here.
Best Fight: Cortez-Talbott
In terms of a fight that will be pure action and have the UFC brass on their feet, the bantamweight scrap between undefeated Payton Talbott and Contender Series vet Junior Cortez looks to be the one to watch. Talbott and Cortez love to bang on the feet and don’t like to take steps back. If this one goes to decision, I’d be surprised. That being said, while this fight lasts, it will be a dog fight that should be among the most entertaining fights of the first half of the season.
The Dark Horse: Talbott
Speaking of Payton Talbott, not only is he going to be in the best fight of the episode, but I think he’s the dark horse on the entire episode. He’s undefeated as both an amateur and a pro, with a 100% finish rate. He’s well-rounded and athletic, with his knockout power and striking being the thing to watch in his game. He’s the A1 Combat Bantamweight Champion, the promotion run by Urijah Faber in California. He may not be the biggest name on this episode, but he’ll be one to keep an eye on. He has similarities to another Contender Series alumni, Sean O’Malley.
The Long Shot: Borjas
In terms of the longest shots on this episode, I will go with Peru’s Kevin Borjas. He was originally supposed to fight Joshua Van in a fight I assume was to get Van over and sign to the UFC. However, the UFC signed Van for a last-minute fight at a recent UFC Fight Night (which Van won), so the UFC was on the hook to get Borjas a fight. Instead, he takes on the Titan FC Champion Victor Dias, who is talented and a tough fight for Borjas.
MW: Lucas Fernando vs. Cesar Almeida
LW: Bogdan Grad vs. Tom Nolan
HW: Kevin Szaflarski vs. Caio Machado
BW: Junior Cortez vs. Payton Talbott
FLY: Victor Dias vs. Kevin Borjas
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