The summer’s outstanding showcase of up-and-coming talent came to close this week with the eighth installment of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, as the final 10 athletes stepped inside the Octagon in search of an elusive invite to compete on the biggest stage in the sport.
In a surprise ending to the season, UFC President Dana White handed out a trio of contracts, inking Allen Crowder, Lauren Mueller and Matt Frevola to contracts, while singing the praises of Adam Antolin and Casey Kenney and explaining that middleweight prospect Bevon Lewis would be sent to the regional ranks, where the organization can keep tabs on his development without rushing him to the UFC too early.
It’s the first time all year that three contracts were awarded, and all three were merited.
Crowder showed good poise and control in finishing highly regarded heavyweight prospect Don’Tale Mayes in the opener, while Mueller showed up on short notice fighting up in weight and dominated the action against Kelly Velasco.
In the final bout of the season, Frevola showed a ton of aggression and upside in tapping out Luke Flores, pressing forward behind sound, powerful striking before bringing the fight to the ground and locking up a tight head-and-arm choke to win the battle of unbeaten prospects.
It was a tremendous night of action to close out the opening season of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.
Here’s a look back at how each of the five fights played out.
MATT FREVOLA vs. LUKE FLORES
Undefeated lightweights locked it up in the final fight of the season as Texas native Jose Flores put his 7-0 mark on the line against Tampa, Florida’s “Steamrolla,” Matt Frevola.
Right out of the gate, Frevola dropped Flores with a right hand, but the southpaw weathered the follow-up blows, got to his feet and smashed home two devastating kicks to the body that clearly hurt Frevola. Undeterred, the aggressive Floridian kept coming forward, dragging Flores to the canvas and jumping on his back, searching for a choke down the stretch and to the horn in the first.
Round 2 started just as hot, with Frevola burying a kick into Flores’ midsection before hitting another takedown, only to have Flores threaten a guillotine before executing a slick butterfly sweep to gain control and get back to his feet and land an elbow as he broke free from the clinch. Yet again, Frevola pressed forward undaunted, timing another takedown and sliding out of a quick armbar attempt before locking in a D’arce choke attempt of his own.
While he couldn’t complete the initial choke, Frevola continued hunting for a finish, lacing up a head-and-arm choke and squeezing out a tap from Flores.
Official Result: Matt Frevola def. Luke Flores by Submission (Head-and-Arm Choke) at 3:32 of Round 2
BEVON LEWIS vs. ELIAS URBINA
Middleweights tied up in the second to last fight of the season as Jackson-Wink MMA product Bevon Lewis looked to continue his journey to the top in a matchup with TUF 23 contestant Elias Urbina.
Showing some Jon Jones influences and offense, Lewis found success in close and on the ground, hurting Urbina with short elbows both when they were standing and during an early stretch of time in top position on the mat. But Urbina had positive moments of his own, opening with a hard left and a flying knee and connecting whenever Lewis stayed in the pocket.
Early in the second, Lewis hurt Urbina and the South Florida-based fighter was never able to fully recover. After letting him off the hook the first time he hurt him, Lewis didn’t make the same mistake after dropping Urbina with a right hand later in the round. A series of follow-up strikes crashed home with Urbina on the canvas, and referee John McCarthy stepped in to stop the contest.
With the victory, the 26-year-old Lewis moves to 4-0 and establishes himself as someone to watch in the 185-pound ranks going forward.
Official Result: Bevon Lewis def. Elias Urbina by Technical Knockout (Punches) at 2:47 of Round 2
CASEY KENNEY vs. ADAM ANTOLIN
Familiar names in the flyweight division met in the swing bout of the evening, as TUF 24 alum Adam Antolin jumped in against Week 2 winner Casey Kenney, who looked to join Charles Byrd and Joby Sanchez as two-time victors who got the call up to the big show.
While he’s a black belt in judo, it was the striking of Kenney that was on display in the opening round, as he thumped home several serious kicks to the body and legs of Antolin, mixing in a few sharp punches as the two got close over the opening five.
Both men had some success in the second, with Kenney doing more work with his hands while continuing to pepper the TUF alum with kicks to the legs and body. But it was Antolin who emerged as the aggressor in the second half of the frame as he appeared to figure out Kenney’s timing and started finding a home for his own offense.
In the third, Antolin continued to press forward, showing the superior conditioning and better movement, landing the greater number of shots and effectively slipping a high percentage of what the flagging Kenney had to offer down the stretch.
The fight went the distance and the judges were split, with Antolin coming out on the happy side of a split decision verdict that left Kenney wondering what went wrong and had UFC President Dana White congratulating both fighters as they came out of the Octagon.
Official Result: Adam Antolin def. Casey Kenney by Split Decision
LAUREN MUELLER vs. KELLY VELASCO
Invicta FC alum Kelly Velasco squared off with Alliance MMA representative Lauren Mueller in the second female fight of the summer and it was electric from the outset as these two twenty-something prospects came out ultra-aggressively and produced an entertaining battle.
Mueller opened the round by charging across the cage and planting a high kick on the right side of Velasco’s face and continued to be the one dictating the action throughout the frame. After walking Velasco down and landing sporadic clean shots over the first four minutes, Mueller turned up the intensity, connecting with big shots and putting her 22-year-old foe on the brink of being finished when the horn to signal the end of the round sounded.
She picked up where she left off at the start of the second, crashing home enough powerful shots to force Velasco into a desperation takedown attempt as she looked to survive. After weathering the storm, Velasco started to find success working counters as Mueller started to tire, sticking enough hard right hands in her face to open up a cut under her right eye and keep the fight close.
In the final frame, a right hand from Mueller stung Velasco and backed her into the fence, but the Invicta FC alum was able to clinch up and avoid further damage. With 90 seconds to go, Velasco drove home a Superman punch and a follow-up right, only to get caught with a perfect spinning backfist and a pair of heavy knees to the midsection.
The pair pushed through to the final horn, earning a standing ovation from the crowd in attendance inside the Ultimate Fighter Gym for their gusty, entertaining effort. When the tens and nines were tallied, it was Mueller who came away with the decision win.
Official Result: Lauren Mueller def. Kelly Velasco by Unanimous Decision
DON’TALE MAYES vs. ALLEN CROWDER
A battle of promising heavyweight hopefuls opened up the season finale with the 3-1 Mayes locking up with Crowder, whose 6-2 record includes a meeting with rising UFC contender Curtis Blaydes.
Expected to be a battle on the feet, this fight instead was largely contested on the canvas, with both fighters having brief periods of success on the mat in the first before Crowder took control of the fight in the second, finishing the frame with a deep kimura locked on Mayes’ left arm that likely would have ended the fight if time hadn’t expired.
In the third, North Carolina native Crowder continued to press forward against the exhausted Mayes, dragging him to the floor with three minutes remaining, transitioning to mount a minute later and attacking with a keylock before unloading with elbows and punches and forcing referee Jason Herzog to stop the contest.
Official Result: Allen Crowder def. Don’Tale Mayes by Technical Knockout (Elbows) at 4:12 of Round 3