Eli Aronov (@eliaronov51/Instagram page)

Contender Series: Season 7, Ep. 3 Preview and Predictions

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. 22 and streams live on ESPN+ starting at 8 p.m. ET.

The Lineup

MW: Eli Aronov (6-0, Spirit, Israel) vs. Zachary Reese (5-0, War Training Center, USA)


WW: Kaik Brito (16-4, Black Thai Team, Brazil) vs. Oban Elliott (8-2, Shore MMA, Wales)

WSW: Josefine Knuttson (5-0, Allstars Training Centre, Sweden) vs. Isis Verbeek (4-1, Team Bigi Boy, Netherlands)

FW: Luis Pajuelo (7-1, Contacto Livre, Peru) vs. Robbie Ring (6-0, Ring Combat Sports, USA)

FLY: Luciano Pereira (13-1, Combate Vilamar, Uruguay) vs. Felipe dos Santos (7-0, Chute Boxe, Brazil)

Best Prospect: Aronov

In terms of the best fighter and fighter with the best future on this episode, I think it has to be Eli Aronov. The 27-year-old is a physical beast with outstanding wrestling and submission grappling. He’s a bully in the cage and is coming off a massive win over Contender Series veteran Mariusz Ksiaszkiewicz, who is no pushover. It will be over a year since he’s last entered the cage when Aronov goes to work and has a tough opponent on his plate in Zachary Reese, but as of now, I believe him to be the best fighter on the episode.

Best Fight: Knutsson-Verbeek

If you are a fan of striking battles in 4-oz. gloves, Josefine Knutsson-Isis Verbeek should certainly water your bill. Knutsson is a Muay Thai stylist who has a technical style and a pro kickboxing background. She’s yet to take an easy fight as a mixed martial artist, with her biggest wins coming over Ye Dam Seo on a Road to UFC card, TUF veteran Lanchana Green and top prospect Jacinta Austin. Verbeek also has pro kickboxing background, as well as boxing and bare knuckle experience. She will gladly meet Knutsson in a battle of striking, which is why this should be a good one.

The Dark Horse: dos Santos

If you are looking for a dark horse to watch on this episode, it’s 22-year-old Felipe dos Santos of Chute Boxe in Brazil. The youngster is well-rounded and exciting, two things that will catch the eyes of Dana White and his compadres. He was originally to take on Contender Series Edgar Chairez, but he was signed to the UFC for a late notice opportunity. Instead, he fights a dangerous Luciano Pereira, a fighter that many compare to John Lineker in style due to his aggressive, head-down, power punching style that Lineker made famous. It will be a tough but intriguing test for dos Santos.

The Long Shot: Elliott

The fighter on this episode with the most to prove is going to be Oban Elliott of Wales. A disciple of Jack Shore and his father’s fight team, Elliott is a longtime Cage Warriors veteran who has found some success with that promotion. That said, he’s a heavy decision fighter, especially in his most recent fights. Also, his losses come to a two-fight Michal Figlak (who has turned into a strong fighter) and journeyman Madars Fleminas in late 2021. He is on a four-fight winning streak, but it has been against lower level talent. He has a lot to prove here and has a tough test in the form of the experienced, well-traveled Kaik Brito.

MW: Eli Aronov vs. Zachary ReeseAronov
WW: Kaik Brito vs. Oban ElliottBrito
WSW: Josefine Knutsson vs. Isis VerbeekKnutsson
FW: Luis Pajuelo vs. Robbie RingPajuelo
FLY: Luciano Pereira vs. Felipe dos Anjosdos Anjos