On Tuesday night, Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series returns for its second season, and while the show was a mystery when it debuted last year, this time around, anticipation is high to see what rising stars emerge and get the nod for a UFC contract from the boss himself.
That was the premise that intrigued fight fans in 2017, when White announced the series and the hook – that at the end of each weekly card, someone was likely going to leave with a UFC contract. It was the opportunity of a lifetime for the fighters signed to compete on DWTNCS, and they all arrived in Las Vegas looking to not just win, but impress.
And they did impress, with 16 fighters emerging with UFC contracts after their victories. Even several fighters who didn’t get contracts on fight night - Julio Arce, Ricky Simon, Dan Ige,
Mike Santiago, Steven Peterson and Zu Anyanwu – were brought into the UFC, proving that they had made an impression.
But it was the sweet sixteen that got the lion’s share of attention after their DWTNCS victories, led by week two winner Sean O’Malley, whose highlight reel finish of Alfred Khashakyan was capped off by the proclamation, “Welcome to the Sugar Show.”
Even rapper and season one commentator Snoop Dogg got into the act, as he tweeted a photo of the two with the caption, “Skinny boys. I'll walk down any alley wit o malley.”
O’Malley has since gone on to win two UFC bouts, decisioning Terrion Ware and Andre Soukhamthath, the latter victory earning him a Fight of the Night bonus.
He’s not the only intriguing prospect to emerge from the show thus far, though. Charles Byrd, who took two tries on DWTNCS to get his contract, impressed in his Octagon debut with a first-round submission win of John Phillips, and Benito Lopez, Lauren Mueller, Geoff Neal and Karl Roberson all picked up wins in their first UFC bouts.
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Flyweight Alex Perez, who defeated Kevin Gray on week five, is already 2-0 in the Octagon thanks to wins over Carls John de Tomas and Eric Shelton. And week four winner Brandon Davis has been keeping up a Cerrone-esque schedule since earning his contract, with three UFC bouts in 2018 thus far, including a Fight of the Night win over week seven’s Peterson in February.
And no one could forget “The Cuban Missile Crisis,” Julian Marquez, who made highlight reels around the world with his knockout of highly touted Phil Hawes on week four, then picked up a Fight of the Night submission over Darren Stewart four months later.
Needless to say, it was a debut season to remember, as the gates of the Octagon were opened to a new generation of fighters expected to make plenty of noise in the coming years.
So who’s next? Season two begins tomorrow.