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Dana White’s Contender Series: Week 3 Preview

A Look At The Bouts Of Episode 3 On Tuesday Night, July 9

After a one-week pause as International Fight Week descended upon Las Vegas, Season 3 of Dana White’s Contender Series picks back up with another collection of five fights at the UFC Apex this Tuesday.

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Here’s a look at the matchups on tap for Week 3.

Jesse James Wallace (9-2) vs. Joe Solecki (7-2)

Lightweight finishers with a penchant for handling their business quickly clash in the final bout of Week 3 as Jesse James Wallace lines up across from Joe Solecki.

Representing “The Magnolia State,” Wallace ventures from Mississippi to Las Vegas looking to extend his winning streak to five and push his record to 9-1 over his last 10 fights after splitting the first two appearances of his career. He’s rebounded nicely from his last defeat, registering four straight submission wins, while only venturing beyond the opening round once during that stretch.

Solecki has been to the cards a couple more times than Wallace, but he’s also been competing on a tougher circuit, having spent most of his time fighting under the Cage Fighting Fury Championships banner. Based in Wilmington, North Carolina, the 25-year-old has bounced back from a knockout loss last July with back-to-back victories and boasts six finishes in seven career victories.

Antonio Trocoli (11-3) vs. Kenneth Bergh (6-0)

The light heavyweight division has been gaining momentum over the last year and these two are hopeful they can add their names to the growing list of emerging talents competing in the 205-pound weight class.

Trocoli began his career at welterweight and has a resume littered with familiar names, including current UFC fighter Dhiego Lima. But after a three-fight skid that culminated with him throwing in the towel at the close of the second round in a bout against Marcelo Barbosa, the six-foot-five Brazilian relocated to light heavyweight, where he’s earned consecutive victories to carry him into Tuesday’s bout in Las Vegas.

Ardent fans of The Ultimate Fighter might remember Bergh from the elimination round on Season 23, where Eric Spicely quickly submitted the 30-year-old Norwegian. He had won three straight before that meeting and has won three straight since, but spent all of 2018 dealing with injuries and fight cancellations.

Christian Ocon (4-0) vs. Hunter Azure (6-0)

Someone’s “0” has got to go as undefeated bantamweights collide in a battle to make an impression on the UFC brass and hopefully net an invite to the biggest stage in the sport.

The 23-year-old Ocon has never tasted defeat inside the cage, having parlayed a 3-0 amateur run into a 4-0 start as a professional. Last time out in March, the Nashville-based newcomer scored a unanimous decision win over Reginald Adams, marking the first time he’s gone the distance since turning pro.

Azure is the latest upstart from The MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona to work his way into position to potentially graduate to the UFC level. Head coach John Crouch has always done an outstanding job cultivating talent, guiding them through their amateur careers and into life as a professional fighter and thus far, the 27-year-old Azure has experienced nothing but success.

He’s emerged victorious in 13 straight trips into the cage dating back to his amateur days and another triumph on Tuesday could very well earn him a UFC contract.

Maki Pitolo (11-4) vs. Justin Sumter (7-2)

Returning fighters haven’t fared so well so far this season, which is something Sumter hopes to change as he makes his second appearance on the Contender Series.

Last season, the Fighting Arts Academy representative squared off with Ian Heinisch, landing on the wrong side of a first-round stoppage loss. He got back into the win column in February with a second-round submission win and given how much success “The Hurricane” has gone on to enjoy in the Octagon, the 29-year-old Sumter deserves a second look.

Pitolo started his career with a win, lost his next two fights and then built a ton of momentum by stacking up eight-straight victories, the last three coming under the Victory FC banner. A two-fight skid slowed his progress, but the Hawaiian has since rebounded with consecutive victories to put himself on the cusp of a UFC call-up once again.

Jonathan Pearce (8-3) vs. Jacob Rosales (11-4)

In the opening bout of the night, lightweights from established gyms on four-fight runs look to earn a place in the deepest division in the UFC.

Pearce’s professional career has been a series of streaks — he started with four straight victories, suffered three straight losses, and has since responded by rattling off four consecutive stoppages to push his record to 8-3. Representing The MMA Lab, you know the 27-year-old will be well prepared in advance of Tuesday night’s curtain-jerker.

Fighting out of Erik Paulson’s Combat Submission Wrestling Training Center, Rosales has won four straight and 10 of 12 dating back to 2016, most recently securing a third-round submission victory in early April. The 23-year-old “Lil’ Badger” is tall for the division, standing five-foot-11, but will actually be giving up an inch in height to Pearce, which could be an interesting element to watch as they get the night started in Las Vegas.