The hits just keep on coming on this season of Dana White’s Contender Series.
Last Tuesday was another explosive week of action inside the UFC Apex and it resulted in four more contracts being handed out, bringing the total for the season up to 20. In addition to flying knee finishers Aleksa Camur and Aalon Cruz, whose finish of Steven Nguyen landed him the top spot on the ESPN SportsCenter Top 10 Countdown, last week’s episode also resulted in Brazilian Rodrigo Nascimento joining the UFC heavyweight ranks — with the UFC President already teasing an August debut — and Tracy Cortez becoming the first female fighter of the season to earn a contract, winning over White and the matchmaking tandem of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard with her unrelenting win over Mariya Agapova.
With16 of the 20 contract recipients this year coming over the last four weeks, the stakes are even higher than normal as another five pairs of fighters make their way to Las Vegas and into the Octagon in hopes of taking the next step forward in their combat sports careers.
Here’s a closer look at what’s on tap for Week 7 of Dana White’s Contender Series.
Lightweights go on last this week, as the unbeaten Morales squares off with the seasoned 33-year-old Park in Tuesday’s headlining tilt.
Morales has been largely untested over a staccato career that began all the way back in 2011 and most recently produced a 58-second knockout win last August. The 33-year-old from Venezuela hasn’t been in with UFC-caliber opposition yet, but he’s done exactly what a fighter in his position needs to do in those matchups — dominate.
Park has become a fixture on the LFA roster over his last four fights. While he dropped his promotional debut to current UFC fighter Austin Hubbard, the Jackson’s MMA representative has bounced back with three straight victories, culminating in a first-round finish of Demarques Jackson last time out to capture the promotion’s vacant lightweight title.
Both men are a little older than traditional upstarts looking to make the leap to the biggest stage in the sport, but that could very well send them into the cage with a greater sense of urgency. If things play out the way they have for each of them individually over their respective careers, we should get an entertaining scrap to close out this week’s show when they step into the Octagon together on Tuesday.
This international affair takes place in the women’s flyweight division and features a pair of fighters with a ton of promise looking to graduate to the UFC’s 125-pound weight class.
Santos has earned 10 wins in 12 starts, with the most telling element of her resume being whom she’s lost to inside the cage. While the 26-year-old Brazilian has managed a handful of solid victories, her two setbacks came against current UFC talents — Mayra Bueno Silva, who defeated Gillian Robertson in her Octagon debut, and Weili Zhang, who is set to challenge for the strawweight title later this month.
Ria’s first career loss came to a current UFC fighter as well, having dropped her debut to Mara Romero Borella back in 2015. Since then, the 27-year-old has won seven of eight, including five straight heading into Tuesday’s showdown with Santos.
The flyweight ranks are still developing and adding new, exciting fighters to its ranks every couple months. Will one of these two hopefuls be the next to graduate to the UFC level and make their mark on the main roster?
Three featherweights have earned contracts already this year and now Burns and Minner look to add to that total in what should be one of the more entertaining clashes of the season.
Burns, the younger brother of UFC standout Gilbert Burns, isn’t as decorated a grappler as his older brother, but he’s enjoyed a great deal of success on the regional circuit to this point in his career. He opened his career with six straight wins, including finishes of Edward Kelly, Honorio Banario, and Timofey Nastyukhin. After back-to-back losses, “The Blaze” has rebounded with consecutive wins under the Titan FC banner.
Minner is one of the most experienced competitors to enter the cage on the Contender Series, brandishing 22 wins in 31 appearances. The 29-year-old has a resume littered with familiar names, including handing durable former UFC featherweight Clay Collard his lone loss since returning to the regional circuit.
This is a classic case of a seasoned, regional vet facing off with a prospect sporting a familiar name and it will be interesting to see how this one shakes out.
Surging middleweights look to join Punahele Soriano, Maki Pitolo, Antonio Arroyo and Brendan Allen as 185-pound competitors to earn contracts this season as Muniz and Johnson collide inside the UFC Apex.
One of several fighters to earn a victory, but not a contract, during last year’s all-Brazilian edition of the Contender Series, Muniz has won three straight and 11 of his last 12 dating back to 2014. The Tata Fight Team representative is a submission specialist, having registered 11 of his 17 career wins by tap out.
While Muniz has already made a first impression with the UFC brass and brings an abundance of experience to the cage, Johnson is in the formative stages of his fighting career, but sports an unbeaten record and a collegiate wrestling background. Training out of Victory MMA in San Diego, “Tombstone” is ready to be anybody and everybody’s Huckleberry and, thus far, dueling with the 28-year-old has been a bad decision for his opponents.
This week opens in the bantamweight division with a pair of competitors on extended unbeaten streaks vying against one another in hopes of being the one to maintain their winning ways.
Born in Liberia, Joseph is unbeaten in his last seven fights, sporting six victories and one no contest result over that span. He’s dominated the competition on the rugged Midwest circuit, ending four of those six victories inside the distance, and between his professional and amateur appearances, the 29-year-old has a combined 16-1 record with one no contest.
Three years Joseph’s junior, Perrin has put together a five-fight winning streak heading into this week’s opener, with the last four of those victories coming under the Cage Titans banner. He’s gone the distance and secured unanimous decision wins in each of his last two appearances, each of which represented a step up in competition, which indicates the 26-year-old is still developing and is trending in the right direction.