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 eighth episode of the new season takes place on Sept. 26 and streams live on ESPN+ starting at 8 p.m. ET.
WW: Raheam Forest (7-1, Memphis Judo & Jiu Jitsu, USA) vs. Danny Barlow (6-0, Law School MMA, USA)
HW: Alexander Soldatkin (14-3, Spitfire Gym, Russia) vs. Mario Piazzon (6-0, Galpao da Luta, Brazil)
FW: Angel Pacheco (7-1, Start BJJ, USA) vs. Danny Silva (7-1, UFC Gym, USA)
WFLY: Ernesta Karackaite (4-0-1, Fighter’s Land, Lithuania) vs. Sora Rakhmonova (4-1, Dar Pro Team, Kazakhstan)
BW: Vinicius Oliveira (18-3, Sombra Team MMA, Brazil) vs. Victor Madrigal (12-3, Mad Dogs MMA, Mexico)
Best Prospect: Soldatkin
A Russian heavyweight now training in Germany, Alexander Soldatkin is a solid prospect in MMA’s heaviest weight class who looks to be a top fighter on this episode. Soldatkin is a well-rounded fighter who can knock you out on the feet or tap you out on the ground. His last loss was in 2019, which came at the hands of now-Bellator contender Oleg Popov. Since then, he’s rattled off 11 straight wins, with 10 wins by finish. Notable wins in that time came over Contender Series vet Edivan Santos and former top prospect Roggers Souza. He meets undefeated Brazilian Mario Piazzon, which should be a solid fight while it lasts.
Best Fight: Oliveira-Madrigal
The best fight on the card pits an exciting, talented Brazilian against a hard-nosed, equally-exciting Mexican fighter. Vinicius Oliveira was likely on the fast track to the UFC until July of last year, when he was upset by Ali Taleb in the UAE Warriors promotion. The vicious fighter has, since, got back in the win column and now is going to get an audition for that UFC shot. He meets fellow dogfighter Victor Madrigal, who is well-rounded like Oliveira. He’s riding a three-fight winning streak, including a submission over UFC vet Jose Quinonez, and has beaten his brother and current UFC fighter Christian Quinonez. There is no way this fight is boring.
The Dark Horse: Rakhmonova
The sister of UFC contender Shavkat Rakhmonov, Sora Rakhmonova is a definite dark horse on this episode and has a chance to break out here. Three of her four wins come by way of finish ,and she has looked better and better every fight she’s stepped in the cage. Like her brother, her striking is solid and her wrestling is above average. Her lone loss is to another top prospect in undefeated Veronika Borisova. She now gets to perform on a bigger stage against another prospect with a low amount of pro fights in Ernesta Karackaite.
The Long Shot: Danny SIlva, Angel Pacheco, Danny Barlow
There are three fighters on this episode with lower-experience records that have not fought much quality competition. Those fighters are Danny Silva, an LFA veteran whose lone notable fight was a loss that came to Contender Series loser Canaan Kawaihae; Angel Pacheco, a veteran of several top regional promotions who, while a finisher, has yet to fight a notable opponent; and Danny Barlow, a CFFC vet who has yet to taste defeat, but has mostly fought .500-or-under opponents. All of these guys have a lot to prove when it comes to showing they are UFC-ready.
WW: Raheam Forest vs. Danny Barlow
HW: Alexander Soldatkin vs. Mario Piazzon
FW: Angel Pacheco vs. Danny Silva
WFLY: Ernesta Karackaite vs. Sora Rakhmonova
BW: Vinicius Oliveira vs. Victor Madrigal
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