The third season of Dana White’s Contender Series helped usher in the ESPN era in 2019, expanding the show from eight to ten episodes, nearly doubling the number of contracts awarded compared to the first season.
As we gear up for the fifth season of hopefuls from around the world vying for their shot at a UFC contract, let’s take a look back at the third season, where we heard some of the biggest up-and-coming names for the very first time.
*Asterisks denote athletes who were awarded UFC contracts following their performances.
Undefeated with all wins coming by way of finish, Punahele Soriano first stepped into the Octagon on June 18, 2019, in his Dana White’s Contender Series bout against Jamie Pickett at middleweight. The dominant decision victory earned Soriano his UFC contract, with his opponent earning a contract of his own the following season.
Heavyweight Yorgan de Castro earned his fourth professional knockout and a UFC contract of his own with a first-round finish over Alton Meeks. While Hannah Goldy and Bill Algeo didn’t leave the UFC APEX with UFC contract that night, they would both go on to make UFC debuts in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Episode 1 Results:
*Punahele Soriano def. Jamie Pickett - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Hannah Goldy def. Kali Robbins - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Brendan Loughnane def. Bill Algeo - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
*Yorgan de Castro def. Alton Meeks - TKO (leg kick and punches) - 4:45 of R1
Miles Johns and Miguel Baeza started off a night defined by unanimous decisions with strong enough statement wins to both earn UFC contracts. Both extended undefeated streaks with their wins inside the UFC APEX, and in their UFC debuts, and have since racked up three wins and just one loss inside the Octagon.
While middleweight Kyle Daukaus wasn’t awarded a contract on Contender Series, he was called up a year later to make his debut against Brendan Allen at UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs Hooker.
Episode 2 Results:
Tony Johnson def. Alton Cunningham - Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Justin Gonzales def. Zach Zane - Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
Kyle Daukaus def. Michael Lombardo - Unanimous Decision (30-25, 30-26, 29-27)
*Miles Johns def. Richie Santiago - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
*Miguel Baeza def. Victor Reyna - Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Something must’ve been in the air on July 9, 2019, as all five winners of their bouts were awarded UFC contracts before leaving the UFC APEX. Lightweight Joe Solecki has since strung together three wins, bringing his professional win streak to six.
Episode 3 Results:
*Joe Solecki def. Jesse Wallace - Submission due to a guillotine choke at 3:49 of round 1
**Antonio Trocoli def. Kenneth Bergh - No Contest (Overturned by NSAC)
*Hunter Azure def. Chris Ocon - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
*Maki Pitolo def. Justin Sumter - TKO (punches) at 1:37 of round 1
*Jonathan Pearce def. Jacob Rosales - Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
**Antonio Trocoli’s submission victory was overturned to a no contest and his contract revoked after a failed drug test.
Following in the wake of a generous third episode, episode four gave way to four more UFC contracts in a night filled with finishes. Three submissions by three different methods and a TKO left Dana with no choice but to award the most entertaining performers with contracts of their own.
Middleweight Brendan Allen, who had an extensive professional career prior to landing inside the Octagon, has made the most of his time since earning his contract on Contender Series, going 5-1 since he first joined the UFC roster two years ago.
Episode 4 Results:
*Antônio Arroyo def. Stephen Regman - Submission due to a head and arm choke at 3:31 of round 2
*Ode’ Osbourne def. Armando Villarreal - Submission due to an armbar at 4:39 of round 1
*Don’Tale Mayes def. Ricardo Prasel - TKO (punches) at 4:49 of round 1
Kevin Syler def. Lance Lawrence - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
*Brendan Allen def. Aaron Jeffrey - Submission due to a rear-naked choke at 3:23 of round 1
While just three contracts were awarded on episode five, three more athletes who fought on this night would go on to earn UFC contracts on their own. Knockouts were the secret ingredient for success, as Sean Woodson’s flying knee and Jamahal Hill and Billy Quarantillo’s TKOs by way of punches spoke louder than any words could have, and all three winners by finish left the UFC APEX with contracts in hand.
Welterweight Jordan Williams and featherweight Kamuela Kirk made their debuts in 2020 and 2021, respectively, and who can forget Terrance McKinney stepping in on short notice to take on Matt Frevola in his UFC debut at UFC 263, which he managed to end in just seven seconds with a single combination?
Episode 5 Results:
Ramazan Kuramagomedov def. Jordan Williams - Split Decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
*Sean Woodson def. Terrance McKinney - KO (flying knee) at 1:49 of round 2
JJ Okanovich def. Christian Lohsen - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
*Jamahal Hill def. Alexander Poppeck - TKO (punches) at 4:29 of round 2
*Billy Quarantillo def. Kamuela Kirk - TKO (punches) at :22 of round 3
Seven of the ten athletes competing on episode six made their way to the UFC, either by winning a contract thanks to their standout performances, or a little further down the line. Heavyweight Rodrigo Nascimento opened the night with a first-round submission and while Daniel Rodriguez’s unanimous decision victory wasn’t enough to get it done in the APEX, he’d join the UFC six months later, submitting Tim Means in his debut.
The final three fights of the night delivered in big ways, with flyweight Tracy Cortez, featherweight Aalon Cruz and light heavyweight Aleksa Camur all coming away from their performances with UFC contracts. Fabio Cherant and Mariya Agapova also went on to break into the UFC following their appearances on Contender Series.
Episode 6 Results:
*Aleksa Camur def. Fabio Cherant - TKO (flying knee and punches) at :48 of round 2
*Aalon Cruz def. Steven Nguyen - TKO (flying knee) at 4:36 of round 3
*Tracy Cortez def. Mariya Agapova - Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-27)
Daniel Rodriguez def. Rico Farrington - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Rodrigo Nascimento def. Michal Martínek - Submission due to an arm triangle choke at 3:16 of round 1
In episode seven, finishes once again dictated whose laps the contracts landed in, as middleweight André Muniz, featherweight Herbert Burns and lightweight Omar Morales all managed to get it done inside the distance.
Burns, the younger brother of recent welterweight title challenger Gilbert Burns, had a standout performance over Darrick Minner, who also joined the UFC’s featherweight division just over six months later.
Episode 7 Results:
*Omar Morales def. Harvey Park - TKO (punches) at 1:06 of round 2
Lucrezia Ria def. Marilia Santos - Split Decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)
*Herbert Burns def. Darrick Minner - Submission due to a triangle choke at 2:29 of round 1
*André Muniz def. Taylor Johnson - Submission due to a rear-naked choke at 1:46 of round 1
Dwight Joseph def. Jay Perrin - Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Episode eight gave way for four more UFC contracts, with William Knight earning a developmental contract with his finish over Herdem Alacabek with just 26 seconds remaining in the fight, and Brok Weaver, Sarah Alpar and Tony Gravely all walked away from the UFC APEX with contracts of their own.
Bantamweight Shanna Young went on to make her UFC debut in February 2020 against Macy Chiasson.
Episode 8 Results:
**William Knight def. Herdem Alacabek - TKO (punches) at 4:34 of round 3
*Brok Weaver def. Devin Smyth - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Sarah Alpar def. Shanna Young - Submission due to a rear-naked choke at 2:55 of round 2
*Tony Gravely def. Ray Rodriguez - TKO (punches) at 2:16 of round 3
Julius Anglickas def. Karl Reed - Submission due to a rear-naked choke at 3:25 of round 3
**William Knight was awarded a developmental league contract
Only one performance in episode nine did enough for Dana to award a contract, and it was Phil Rowe who got to sign his name on the dotted line to secure his spot in the UFC. Rowe’s third-round TKO over Leon Shahbazyan was followed by a year-and-a-half layoff before making a proper debut in February of 2021.
Strawweight Mallory Martin and now-featherweight Steve Garcia each eventually made their UFC debuts following their performances on Contender Series. Martin stepped in to take on Virna Jandiroba less than four months after first fighting in the APEX, while it would be a year and a half before Garcia had the opportunity to grace the Octagon.
Episode 9 Results:
*Phil Rowe def. Leon Shahbazyan - TKO (punches) at :16 of round 3
Jamal Pogues def. Marcos Brigagao - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Steve Garcia def. Desmond Torres - TKO (punches) at 4:35 of round 1
Mallory Martin def. Micol Di Segni - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Ricky Steele def. Phil Caracappa - Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Following the previous week’s relative lack of fireworks, the final week of season three of Dana White’s Contender Series delivered in a big way, with three statement victories leading to UFC contracts for middleweight Duško Todorović, lightweight Peter Barrett and featherweight TJ Brown.
While Impa Kasanganay’s unanimous decision victory over Kailan Hill wasn’t enough to get the job done in the APEX the first time around, he made a return the following year to secure his contract on the fourth season of Contender Series before making his debut, all inside two weeks in August of 2020.
Episode 10 Results:
*Duško Todorović def. Teddy Ash - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Impa Kasanganay def. Kailan Hill - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
*Peter Barrett def. Sang Hoon Yoo - Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Ben Sosoli def. Dustin Joynson - No Contest (eye poke) at 2:08 of round 1
*TJ Brown def. Dylan Lockard - Submission due to an arm triangle choke at 2:59 of round 3