Through the first five weeks of Season two of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, there have been a number of firsts that have transpired: the first time four contracts were handed out at once; the first time two returning competitors earned contracts; the first time sisters were on the UFC roster together; the first time the lights went out mid-fight.
Last week marked the first time that two 20-year-olds were awarded contracts, as Edmen Shahbazyan and Maycee Barber started and ended the show with impressive performances, the former defeating Antonio Jones in 40 seconds and the latter earning a late stoppage to wrap up a dominant performance against Jamie Colleen.
This week’s first was one fans have been waiting for all season and people in the fight game have been waiting for even longer, as talented lightweight Nick Newell made his first trip into the Octagon, taking on Team Alpha Male representative Alex Munoz in the Week 6 main event.
After handing out 13 contracts through the first five weeks, the UFC President offered up three more, bringing heavyweight Jeff Hughes, featherweight Sodiq Yusuff and light heavyweight Jim Crute to UFC deals while also extending a developmental deal to 18-year-old upstart Chase Hooper.
Here’s a look at how things played out inside the TUF Gym on Tuesday night.
NICK NEWELL vs. ALEX MUNOZ
The most talked about fight of the year closed out the sixth week of Season 2 as former World Series of Fighting title challenger Nick Newell stepped in against unbeaten Team Alpha Male fighter Alex Munoz.
Born with a congenital amputation on his left arm, Newell transitioned from collegiate wrestling into pursuing a career in the cage and had amassed a 14-1 record thus far, with his lone loss coming in a title fight against current UFC standout Justin Gaethje. While Newell received the bulk of the attention in the build up to this fight, Munoz is no slouch, posting a 4-0 record with three finishes heading into this one.
Jason Herzog with the main event assignment this week.
Munoz came out quick, pressing forward to start. Newell lands a flying knee, but Munoz uses it to complete a takedown, chopping at Newell’s legs as he gets back up. Newell attacks with an inside leg kick and follows with a pair of clean jabs, backing up Munoz. Halfway home and Newell lands a kick to the body, searching for the flying knee on the follow.
Munoz in on a single, sweeps the leg to complete the takedown. As Newell stands, Munoz locks his arms around his waist, dumping him back down momentarily before landing a short left on the break. Trading jabs with a minute to go, Newell scores with a pair of front kicks up the middle, but eats a counter as Munoz goes hunting with an overhand left.
Just before the horn, Munoz connected with an overhand left and a sharp uppercut, seemingly hurting Newell.
The second started with Newell connecting on the leg kick again as Munoz looked for a way to close the distance and connect. As Newell threw a kick, Munoz countered with a hard left that put him on the canvas. After a short burst of ground-and-pound, Munoz let Newell back up sporting a cut below his left eye.
Newell was undeterred though, continuing to press forward before Munoz dumped him off a caught kick, holstering a head kick to the downed Newell at the very last minute. On the canvas, Munoz drove knees in the midsection as Newell turtled, trying to fight hands and find a way to his feet, only getting there in the final seconds off the frame.
Newell out aggressive to start the final round, closing the distance and throwing a kick to the body before jumping in with a knee. Munoz avoided it and circled to his back, securing a waist lock before landing a knee up high on the break. Back in space, Newell connected with a lead hook as Munoz stayed mobile, countering with the jab.
With three minutes left, Munoz dove in for a takedown and Newell quickly looked to secure the guillotine, coming close to finding the finish before Munoz squirted free and moved around to a back ride along the fence. Back to the feet with under two to go, Newell went hunting, charging forward, only to get taken down easily by Munoz. As Newell tried to stand, Munoz moved to the back ride with wrist control, shutting him down and securing the victory.
Official Result: Alex Munoz def. Nick Newell by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
JIM CRUTE vs. CHRIS BIRCHLER
The ANZAC invasion that has washed over the UFC in recent weeks made its way to the Contender Series on Tuesday night as Australia’s Crute squared off with Birchler, a Pennsylvania-based former heavyweight dropping down to the 205-pound ranks after losing two of his last three outings.
Mark Smith with the officiating assignment for this one.
Crute came out firing, connecting with a low leg kick and coming forward with combinations, winding up and trying to hit a home run right away. Birchler stayed mellow, shook off the early offerings and started to respond, bruising Crute with a clean right hand and frustrating the Aussie by walking through his offense.
After settling in, Crute started landing with combinations, ripping shots to the body and finishing with an outside leg kick, but nothing seemed to bother Birchler, who kept marching forward and offering solid counters in return. With just under a minute left, Crute staggered Birchler with a big left hook, sending him into a wobbly backpedal, prompting Smith to jump in and stop the fight.
Official Result: Jim Crute def. Chris Birchler by TKO (left hook) at 4:23 of Round 1
SODIQ YUSFF vs. MIKE DAVIS
Featherweights manned the middle of the fight card on Tuesday with Team Lloyd Irvin representative Sodiq Yusuff squaring off with unbeaten New Yorker Mike “Beast Boy” Davis, who fights out of Daytona Beach, Florida.
While Davis entered with a perfect record, Yusuff had lost just once in six outings, losing to Contender Series alum Luis “El Tigre” Gomez before rebounding with a first-round knockout win over SBG Ireland youngster Dylan Tuke.
Jason Herzog joined Davis and Yusuff in the cage.
No touch for these two, though Davis offered. Thirty seconds in, they started fighting in a phone booth, with Davis connecting with a crisp 3-2 as Yusuff looked to chop out his legs with calf kicks before connecting up the middle with a front kick to the face. As Davis pressed forward landing big punches, Yusuff responded in kind, ripping shots to the body and head.
With just under two minutes left, Yusuff wobbled Davis with a big right hand, then put him on the canvas with a follow-up left, turning the unbeaten striker into a defensive wrestler. Yusuff defended and they got back to their feet, with Davis still trying to shake out the cobwebs as Yusuff continued to connect with big, clubbing blows through to the horn.
Davis came out firing to start the second, closing the distance and connecting with good shots, only to have Yusuff counter and cause him to look for a takedown. While Yusuff chopped at Davis’ leg, “Beast Boy” scored with his hands, but the power just wasn’t there. But Yusuff’s willingness to counter afforded Davis the chance to land and he started finding success with his jab, only to have his lead leg battered again before the horn sounded to end the middle stanza.
Both men came out with a little more zip to start the third, pawing with jabs and exchanging kicks over the opening minute. Yusuff continued to attack Davis’ calf, but the unbeaten prospect continued looking to close the distance, but Yusuff was unrelenting, hurting Davis and forcing him to switch stances. Yusuff recognized it and fired off a big right hand on cue, adding kicks to the head and body into the mix as well.
Down the stretch, Yusuff staggered Davis with another calf kick before looking high once more and cruising to the final horn.
Official Result: Sodiq Yusuff def. Mike Davis by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
JEFF HUGHES vs. JOSH APPELT
Veteran heavyweights looking to literally punch their ticket to the biggest stage in the sport collided in this one, with Ohio native and Stipe Miocic training partner Jeff Hughes taking on 21-fight vet Josh “The Juggernaut” Appelt.
Both men entered on three-fight winning streaks, with their last losses coming against familiar names – Hughes to former TUF contestant Dan Spohn and Appelt to WWE superstar and part-time MMA fighter Bobby Lashley in October 2016.
Mark Smith marshaled the heavyweights.
It didn’t take long for the big boys to start slinging, as Appelt pressed forward behind his left hand before searching for a takedown. Hughes defended well and started to find his range as they reset in the center before an inadvertent low blow halted the action momentarily.
Restarted, Appelt missed with a left-handed rocket and Hughes closed the distance, dumping “The Juggernaut” to the canvas and forcing him to carry his weight. A minute later, he was back in on another takedown, easily putting Appelt on the mat before unloading a torrent of left hands that prompted Smith to take a closer look.
Appelt got up, but Hughes fired off a massive uppercut that sent Appelt crashing to the canvas, clutching his face, ending the fight instantaneously.
Official Result: Jeff Hughes def. Josh Appelt by TKO (Strikes) at 4:26 of Round 1
CHASE HOOPER vs. CANAAN KAWAIHAE
Youngsters with unblemished records and UFC aspirations kicked things off in the featherweight division on Tuesday night as Chase Hooper put his 5-0 record on the line against 3-0 Hawaiian Canaan Kawaihae.
Based out of Enumclaw, Washington, the 18-year-old Hooper entered on a 10-fight winning streak overall and searching for his fourth victory already in 2018. Standing in his way was the 20-year-old Kawaihae, who began his pro career in January 2017 and picked up a first-round submission win last time out.
Jason Herzog shared the cage with the youngsters.
Kawaihae pressed forward behind hands right out of the chute, clipping Hooper with strong shots in close, forcing the 18-year-old to look for a takedown. A minute in, Kawaihae dropped Hooper with a clean left hand down the pipe, called him back to the feet and started pounding away with more short power shots as they clinched again.
Just past the midway point, Kawaihae put Hooper on roller skates, driving home another pair of left hands that left the mop-topped Washington state native on the brink of being finished. With a minute left in the opening frame, Kawaihae climbed on Hooper’s back, looking for the rear-naked choke, but Hooper was able to escape.
It was a much slower version of Kawaihae that came out to start the second and after a brief pause for an accidental low blow, Hooper pressed forward, initiating a grappling exchange with the Hawaiian. While Kawaihae was able to get free, Hooper stayed sticky on him and started turning up the pace along the fence, climbing to mount and connecting with a series of thudding elbows before chasing a rear-naked choke.
Kawaihae successfully rolled out and into top position, but Hooper climbed back into back mount, slipping his forearm under the neck before crashing home one last elbow before the bell.
Clearly exhausted, Kawaihae ducked in for a very weak takedown attempt and Hooper quickly capitalized, turning it into a series of dominant positions and submission attempts on the ground. Every time he got close to getting a stoppage, Hooper would chase a submission, showing his inexperience. With a minute left, “The Teenage Dream” climbed into mount and looked to pound out the finish, but Kawaihae managed to survive until the final horn.
What a crazy fight to start the night.
Official Result: Chase Hooper def. Canaan Kawaihae by unanimous decision (29-26, 29-26, 28-26)