The UFC’s return last weekend was a triumphant one, as UFC 249 more than met expectations.
And while UFC 249 will be remembered forever as the first major live sporting event back, it was really just the start of a crazy week in Jacksonville, FL, as the UFC has two more events locked and loaded to go May 13 and May 16 from VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
Of the 42 fighters set to make the walk to the Octagon this week, 12 of them competed on Dana White’s Contender Series. To have that many DWCS alums on these two combined cards is a testament to the show’s success and the talent that appears on those summer events in Las Vegas.
Take a look at which fighters from UFC Jacksonville and UFC Florida started out with the world’s toughest job interview:
Since his appearance on DWCS, featherweight Danny Ige has put together a record of 5-1 in the UFC and has impressed many during his five-fight win streak. His most recent bout resulted in a decision victory over the highly respected Mirsad Bektic and helped Ige break into the UFC’s featherweight rankings.
Up next for Ige is the dangerous Edson Barboza, who is dropping to featherweight after spending years as a top contender at lightweight.
The first thing you should know about Kevin Holland is that he likes to talk, the second thing you should know about him is that he is one heck of a fighter. In his UFC debut he fought Thiago Santos. Yes, the Thiago Santos who most recently faced Jon Jones at UFC 239. After Santos, Holland put together a three-fight win streak before dropping a contest against fellow up and comer Brendan Allen.
On May 16, Holland will take on fellow DWCS grad Anthony “Fluffy” Hernandez. Without further ado…
How could you not love a guy with a nickname like “Fluffy”? Anthony Hernandez faced a tough task in his UFC debut when he took on UFC veteran Markus Perez at UFC Fortaleza and wasn’t able to come away with his hand raised. But that doesn’t mean the future isn’t bright for the fighter from California. He bounced back by beating Jun Yong Park via anaconda choke last August.
Now he looks to get the win over Holland and continue trending in the right direction.
It took back to back knockouts on DWCS to get Don’Tale Mayes into the big show, but he left no doubt that he deserves a spot on the roster. In his UFC debut he lost by submission to surging heavyweight prospect Ciryl Gane in the final fifteen seconds of the bout.
Now the knockout artist is back and ready to get his hand raised for the first time since joining the promotion. He will take on undefeated Brazilian Rodrigo Nascimento Ferreira on May 16. Speaking of Ferreira…
Seven fights, seven finishes. Rodrigo Nascimento showed up at DWCS, got a first-round finish and signed the contract. Now it’s time for him to make his UFC debut against the aforementioned Don’Tale Mayes.
It’s going to be an exciting fight that you won’t want to miss.
In Mike Davis’ DWCS bout he faced future featherweight contender Sodiq Yusuff in one of the highest-level fights we have seen on the show. Dana White and the rest of the UFC brass loved what they saw despite the loss and eventually signed Davis to the UFC. But he didn’t get an easy bout for his first appearance in the Octagon, as he stepped up a weight class to face Gilbert Burns. Davis would go on to lose that bout by submission to one of the best jiu-jitsu players in the sport.
He finally was able to get his first win under the UFC banner with an exceptional performance against Thomas Gifford at UFC Tampa last October. Now he hopes to get a streak going by defeating Giga Chikadze at UFC Florida.
Like his UFC Florida opponent, Giga Chikadze wasn’t successful in his DWCS bout, but that wouldn’t stop him from making his way to the Octagon. Since doing so, the Kings MMA fighter has put together a pair of split decision wins and shown that he has what it takes to both be exciting and grind out a win.
Davis is an appropriate test for Chikadze and it should be an interesting chess match between two high-level strikers. Keep your eyes on this one.
Undefeated and ready to make some noise, Miguel Baeza earned a contract on DWCS and immediately made good on it at UFC Tampa less than four months later. His overall performance against veteran Hector Aldana raised some eyebrows and indicated that Baeza could be a standout graduate from the show.
And besides, how great is the nickname “Carmel Thunder”?
Another undefeated prospect from DWCS to already gain some hype in the Octagon is Hunter Azure, who completely dominated The Ultimate Fighter 27 winner Brad Katona in his UFC debut. Azure is a combined 16-1 in professional and amateur MMA, a four-time state wrestling champion and has tons of potential.
At UFC Jacksonville he will face bantamweight veteran Brian Kelleher in a featherweight bout. It will be interesting to see how he matches up with “Boom’s” slick submission game once things hit the canvas.
Omar Morales, who represents his home country of Venezuela, fights out of Hard Knocks 365 in Florida alongside beasts like Kamaru Usman, Gilbert Burns and Vicente Luque. He’s undefeated and was excellent in his DWCS bout, earning a contract in his decision victory before moving to 1-0 in the Octagon last December by defeating Dong Hyun Ma.
Right out of the gate he has a big test in Gabriel Benitez.
Ricky Simon burst on to the UFC scene in a big way, winning his first three UFC bouts over respected opponents Merab Dvalishvili, Montel Jackson and Rani Yahya. This set up a co-main event bout with UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber last July. And while that didn’t work out, there is no doubt that the 27-year-old prospect still has his best days ahead of him.
He will take on former flyweight title challenger Ray Borg at UFC Jacksonville.
After building a solid rep on the regional scene, Thiago Moises made the most of his big shot when he defeated Gleidson Cutis via first round TKO on DWCS Brazil to punch his ticket to the big show. Currently 1-2 in the Octagon, Moises can even up his UFC slate with a win over Michael Johnson at UFC Jacksonville.
Make sure you tune into UFC Jacksonville on Wednesday and UFC Florida on Saturday to see all of these DWCS grads in action.
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