After becoming an instant sensation with fight fans seeking an early-week fix during the month of July, the first August edition of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series kept the momentum going with an action-packed collection of matchups inside the Ultimate Fighter Gym.
Tuesday night’s fights felt like a game of “Anything you can do, I can do better,” as each successive contest raised the bar a little more, making the task of determining which fighters would go home with a UFC contract an even more difficult undertaking than usual.
With a handful of deserving options to choose from, UFC President Dana White opted to hand out a pair of contracts once again, tapping Alex Perez and Mike Rodriguez to join the UFC roster.
Here’s a look back at how they got there and what transpired on week five of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.
Week five’s featured bout took place in the light heavyweight division, with Joe Lauzon pupil Mike Rodriguez taking on former collegiate wrestler Jamelle Jones.
While they call him “Slo Mike,” Rodriguez needed only half a round to collect a victory and impress the hell out of Dana White and leave matchmaker Mick Maynard looking astounded by what he saw as Rodriguez flew across the cage and planted a knee right on the button to drop Jones. A sniper shot left followed as referee Mark Smith rushed in to wave things off, giving the 28-year-old his fourth straight first-round stoppage win.
Official Result: Mike Rodriguez def. Jamelle Jones by Knockout (Flying Knee) at 2:15 of Round 1
Regional standouts in the featherweight division went toe-to-toe in the penultimate pairing this week as Titan FC and Victory FC veteran Peter Petties squared off with Ring of Combat standout Julio Arce.
After an opening round where Petties seemed to get the better of the exchanges and control things along the cage, Arce came out hunting in the second and put it on Petties. Walking him down behind clean strikes from range, Arce teed off with combinations, rocking Petties with a series of strikes that brought referee Jason Herzog in for a closer look.
With Petties clearly hurt, Arce refused to let off the gas, crashing home patient, powerful blows to get the stoppage. Feeling like he didn’t perform up to his abilities when White and crew were in town for an episode of Lookin’ for a Fight, Arce made the most of his second chance to impress the UFC brass, picking up a dominant second-round stoppage win to extend his winning streak to five.
Official Result: Julio Arce def. Peter Petties by Technical Knockout (Punches) at 2:39 of Round 2
ALEX PEREZ vs. KEVIN GRAY
Flyweights held it down in the middle of this week’s five-pack of fights as one of the most experienced fighters to appear on the Contender series, Alex Perez, locked up with Nebraska’s “Pocket Herc,” Kevin Gray, who earned a win over current UFC flyweight Eric Shelton earlier in his career.
From the outset, Perez’ experience advantage was obvious, as the Team Oyama representative found his range early and began picking at Gray with low kicks and sharp punches, keeping him on the outside. When Gray finally committed to trying to get inside, Perez made him pay, landing a heavy knee and quickly locking up an anaconda choke as Gray looked to scramble free.
As Perez rolled to his back, tightening his squeeze, Gray went out, bringing the fight to a halt and giving the seasoned 25-year-old his fifth straight victory.
Official Decision: Alex Perez def. Kevin Gray by Submission (Anaconda Choke) at 2:54 of Round 1
DONOVAN FRELOW vs. RICKY SIMON
One of the best on-paper matchups to hit the cage to date on the Contenders Series, this bantamweight pairing between former WSOF title challenger Donovan Frelow and Pacific Northwest standout Ricky Simon was as good as anticipated.
A classic clash of styles between a striker and a grappler, the opening five minutes were a chess match as Frelow pressed forward behind big swings with bad intentions and Simon countered with a steady diet of takedown attempt, including a sequence reminiscent of Matt Hughes’ iconic scoop-carry-slam on Frank Trigg.
Frelow, the older brother of UFC light heavyweight prospect Khalil Rountree, opened up a cut over the left eye of Simon early in the second and seemed to get spurred on by seeing successful returns as he did a better job avoiding the takedowns and popping right back up to his feet when Simon did manage to put him on the mat.
Over the opening three minutes of the third, the duo chomped down on their gum shields and started trading, with Simon pressing forward behind confident hands before hitting a well-timed takedown with two minutes remaining. From there, the once-beaten Gracie Barra Portland product was able to maintain control, neutralize Frelow and put the finishing touches on a strong performance.
Official Result: Ricky Simon def. Donovan Frelow by Split Decision
The big boys got things started this week as unbeaten American Top Team prospect Everett Sims jumped in with Team Lloyd Irvin representative Shelton Graves in a battle of heavyweights looking to impress White and the UFC matchmakers.
As odd as it may sound, the opener was both a dominant one-sided effort and fairly uneventful as Graves put repeatedly put Sims on the canvas and kept him there. The twist, however, is that in each round, the Maryland native only followed up with light ground-and-pound, never really doing any significant damage.
But after urging Sims to fight back throughout the second round without much of a response from the unbeaten prospect, referee Mark Smith called things to a halt once Graves returned to a dominant position and started landing standing knees to the midsection with Sims turtled up on the canvas.
Official Result: Shelton Graves def. Everett Sims by TKO (Knees) at 2:20 of Round 3