Fresh off an entertaining start to its second season, the action on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series continued this week with a loaded collection of contests that left everyone in attendance at the Ultimate Fighter Gym and those watching on UFC FIGHT PASS thoroughly entertained.
All five bouts ended inside the distance, with only two of the bouts escaping the first round, making it far more difficult for UFC President White to make his contract decisions than it was in Week 1.
For the first time in the history of the series, White handed out four contracts, offering featherweight Matt Sayles, welterweight Dwight Grant, middleweight Anthony Hernandez and light heavyweight Ryan Spann the opportunity to compete in the UFC.
It was a thrilling and historic evening in Las Vegas. Here’s a look at what transpired on Week 2.
MATT SAYLES vs. YAZAN HAJEH
Featherweight hopefuls each with six professional victories under their belts collided in this week’s finale.
Having already earned a victory in front of the UFC President on a previous episode of Lookin’ for a Fight, Sayles was looking to make a strong second impression by adding a second straight win to his resume after suffering the first loss of his career at the close of 2016. For the 25-year-old Hajeh, this was a chance to maintain his perfect professional record by putting on a show in front of the organization’s chief decision-makers.
Right out of the chute, Sayles connected with a clean right hand, backing up Hajeh, who countered with a series of kick attempts before pressing forward for a takedown. While Hajeh looked for flashy attacks, Sayles kept it fundamental, flooring “Yazzle Dazzle” with another right hand before climbing into mount and punching out a first-round finish.
Official Result: Matt Sayles def. Yazan Hajeh by TKO (Strikes) at 1:57 of Round 1
ANTHONY HERNANDEZ vs. JORDAN WRIGHT
Unbeaten middleweight hopefuls clashed in the penultimate bout of this week’s five-pack of fights, with the Jackson-Wink standout Wright squaring off with Hernandez, a member of the MMA Gold Fight Team that also includes UFC fighters Max Griffin and Aspen Ladd.
After avoiding a couple early kicks from Wright, Hernandez continued to press forward and unleashed hell on “The Beverly Hills Ninja,” swarming him with a string of punches. With Wright stumbling to the canvas after eating a big left hand, Hernandez pounced and pounded out the finish.
Official Result: Anthony Hernandez def. Jordan Wright by Knockout (Punches) at 0:40 of Round 1
While last week’s swing bout in the middle of the card drew eyeballs as a clash between two former NFL defensive linemen, this week’s third fight captured people’s attention as it marked the Octagon debut of Chikadze, a respected kickboxer with a 5-1 mixed martial arts record, in a showdown against Springer, a veteran of the Pacific Northwest regional scene who came up short in his bid to make the cast on Season 22 of The Ultimate Fighter.
After a minute of feeling each other out, Chikadze launched a high kick that grazed the head of Springer, prompting a takedown attempt from the more seasoned MMA fighter. But Chikadze defended well and connected with a clean left hand as Springer rushed in. The fight hit the canvas midway through the round after Chikadze missed with a flying knee and Springer was able to keep him there for a large portion of the frame, scoring with ground-and-pound from top position.
Early in the second, Chikadze connected with a thunderous kick to the body, but Springer simply ate it, trying to turn the connection into a takedown attempt to no avail. Late in the frame, Springer finally drove forward with a takedown attempt and dumped Chikadze on the canvas, landing in half-guard, but he wasn’t able to keep the kickboxer there for long and didn’t do much damage when he was there.
As the third opened, it was Chikadze once again initiating the offense, mixing strikes to different levels, keeping Springer guessing and preventing him from offering any real offense of his own. A right hand off a caught kick put Springer on the canvas, but Chikadze couldn’t follow up and that would prove to be crucial.
With two minutes left, Springer dropped down for a takedown, eating a knee on the way in before finishing and advancing to mount. As Chikadze gave up his back, Springer fished his arm under the neck, securing the choke and earning the victory.
Official Result: Austin Springer def. Giga Chikadze by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) at 4:10 of Round 3
RYAN SPANN vs. EMILIANO SORDI
Back for a second time, Spann hoped things would go differently this time around after landing on the wrong side of a rapid finish when he took on Karl Roberson on Week 3 of the Contender Series last season. The 27-year-old Sordi, meanwhile, was looking to replicate Roberson’s performance and push his own winning streak to three while taking the next step forward in his career.
Ten seconds into the fight, Spann put Sordi on the canvas with a clean right hand, and as the Argentinian tried to get to his feet, “Superman” locked up a deep modified guillotine choke, getting the tap and a measure of redemption after last year’s disappointing performance.
Official Result: Ryan Spann def. Emiliano Sordi by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 0:26 of Round 1
"He put him to sleep!"@Superman_Spann locks up the first round guillotine submission!
DWIGHT GRANT vs. TYLER HILL
Business kicked off in the welterweight division with a pair of fighters with ties to UFC talents locking horns.
Fighting out of the American Kickboxing Academy, Grant got a shout out from his teammate Justin Willis after one of his victories and looked to make good on “Big Pretty” name-dropping him by adding a seventh straight victory to his record. Working out of the same D’Iberville, Mississippi gym that Jason Knight, Brandon Davis and Chase Sherman call home, Hill has incredible size for the division and has picked up consecutive victories after suffering the first and only loss of his pro career.
This one started as a kickboxing match with both men content to keep it standing, Hill pressing forward with Grant playing the role of the counter-fighter, stinging “The Zombie” with sharp lefts and rights as he came in. Late in the first, Grant caught a low kick and turned it into a brief takedown, opening Hill up over the right eye as he returned to his feet before following up with a heavy kick to the body.
In the second, Hill initially found more success, catching Grant as he had him moving backwards, but midway through the round, the AKA product unleashed a hellacious overhand right that landed flush, followed by a big left hook that put Hill on the canvas and brought the fight to a close.
Official Result: Dwight Clark def. Tyler Hill by Knockout (Punches) at 2:08 of Round 2