Following a debut season that introduced fans to rising stars Sean O’Malley, Julian Marquez and Lauren Mueller and saw upwards of 20 competitors from the program matriculate into the UFC Octagon, Season 2 of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series kicked off Tuesday evening at The Ultimate Fighter Gym in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The opening five fights of the season featured a battle of former NFL defensive linemen looking to take the next in their mixed martial arts careers, one of the top welterweight prospects in the sport and a returning competitor hoping that a second impressive showing in front of Dana White, Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard would finally earn him a shot on the biggest stage in the sport.
Just as this series came out of the gates hot last summer, it was more of the same as Season 2 kicked off on Tuesday night with the UFC President handing out contracts to first-round finishers Alonzo Menifield and Greg Hardy.
While Menifield will make an immediate transition into the light heavyweight division, White explained that Hardy’s entrance into the heavyweight ranks will be delayed while the promotion and his coaching staff work together to allow the former football player more time to develop and get a little more experience under his belt before hustling him into the Octagon.
Here’s a look at what transpired inside the cage on Tuesday’s season premiere of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contenders Series.
ALONZO MENIFIELD vs. DASHAWN BOATWRIGHT
After overwhelming UFC veteran Daniel Jolly in a Week 3 showdown last season, Menifield returned with two more stoppage wins on his resume, hoping to earn the contract that eluded him last season. Returning to the cage after an 18-month layoff, Boatwright looked to upstage Menifield and make this year’s initial main event his personal coming out party.
All it took was eight seconds for Menified to pick up his second Contender Series win, as he planted a right hand on Boatwright’s jaw right out of the gate, following him to the ground with a torrent of punches, prompting referee Mark Smith to stop the fight.
Official Result: Alonzo Menifield def. DaShawn Boatwright by TKO (Strikes) at 0:08 of Round 1
CHRIS CURTIS vs. SEAN LALLY
Long considered one of the top regional talents in the 170-pound ranks, Team Quest’s Curtis entered on a five-fight winning streak, eager to ascend to the next level in the sport. Standing on the opposite side of the cage, Lally carried the same hopes and dreams, as well as a five-fight winning streak of his own.
Lally opened up with several low kicks against the southpaw Curtis, who was content to eat the strikes and press forward, looking for openings. A series of tight uppercuts connected for Curtis, who continued to show poise and confidence standing in front of Lally.
While he didn’t throw a lot of volume, Curtis was effective with his economical output, connecting at a high rate and stinging the second Team Sityodtong representative to step into the Octagon on Tuesday night.
The middle stanza mirrored the first, with Lally being the more active of the two, but Curtis connecting with greater significance, stinging the former Army Ranger with his educated left hand.
After starting the third with greater urgency, Lally settled back in to letting Curtis stalk forward and the former CES welterweight champion dropped him with a lead hook kick that put him on the canvas. A quick series of strikes followed and referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight.
Official Result: Chris Curtis def. Sean Lally by TKO (Strikes) at 1:37 of Round 3
GREG HARDY vs. AUSTEN LANE
A pair of players selected in the 2010 NFL Draft manned the middle position on Tuesday’s second season kick-off show with fifth-round pick and former Pro Bowler Hardy making his professional debut against Lane, a sixth-round selection of the Jacksonville Jaguars who has posted four straight first-round stoppage wins since turning pro after earning five such finishes as an amateur.
There was no feeling out process in this clash of heavyweights, as both men came out slinging to start. A brief pause for an eye poke didn’t do anything to slow the pace though, as the former football players kept firing and until Hardy connected with a right hand that sent Lane down to a knee before a follow-up left brought the fight to a close.
The reaction from @danawhite is all you need to know about the power of @greghardyjr... WOW#UFCFIGHTPASS pic.twitter.com/EGJaLzA06s
— UFC Fight Pass (@UFCFightPass) June 13, 2018
Official Result: Greg Hardy def. Austen Lane by Knockout (Strikes) at 0:57 of Round 1
RICO DISCIULLO vs. MONTEL JACKSON
An East Coast veteran and a Midwest upstart with a shared dream of cracking the lineup in the loaded bantamweight division served as the second bout of Season 2, as the Team Sityodtong product DiSciullo shared the cage with the unbeaten Jackson, who trains alongside UFC welterweight Zak Ottow and women’s bantamweight hopeful Leah Letson at Pura Vida BJJ/MMA in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
This one was a study in contrasts, with DiSciullo jittering around the cage, feinting and firing strikes from the orthodox stance while the southpaw Jackson stood stoic and tall, being hyper-selective in his shot selection.
Two minutes into the first, Jackson stung DiSciullo with a clean left hand, initiating a flurry that had the Boston native covering up, trying to avoid getting finished. A clear elbow to the back of the head prompted a stop in the action and cost Jackson a point, while an inadvertent groin kick caused a second pause, but not a second point to be deducted.
Opening the second with more forward movement, Jackson initiated the clinch a minute into the frame and dragged DiScuillo the ground, peppering him with shots along the fence when he got back to his feet. A slam put DiScuillo back on the canvas, with Jackson staying sticky throughout, smashing home punches right in front of his coaches for the remainder of the round.
After an energetic start to the third, the fight was halted for a third time due when Jackson poked DiScuillo in the eye while pawing with his lead hand. Once again, referee Herb Dean took a point. The penalty seemed to spur Jackson on, however, as he connected with a knee that split DiScuillo open moments later and he poured on the offense from there, forcing Dean to stop the fight.
Official Result: Montell Jackson def. Rico DiScuillo by TKO (Strikes) at 2:15 of Round 3
WILL SANTIAGO vs. KEVIN HOLLAND
The opening contest in Season 2 was contested in the middleweight division, with Jackson-Wink MMA product Will Santiago squaring off against Texas native Kevin Holland, who entered on a three-fight winning streak and sporting an 8-1 record over his last nine bouts.
After spending the first two minutes trying to establish his range and tasting Santiago’s power, Holland began pressing forward behind his strikes and bumping his gums in the cage, talking to his opponent and responding to the directions being offered by his corner. Though he got the better of the few exchanges that took place, Holland fell well short of his prediction to finish Santiago before the opening five minutes expired.
While Holland spent the opening half of the second showboating and throwing spinning attacks, Santiago began the frame out-striking the confident betting favorite. In the second half of the frame, Holland opened a small cut under Santiago’s left eye with a flurry along the cage, but much like the first round, he spent as much time looking to style in the cage as he did landing significant blows.
Santiago started the third round with far more urgency, connecting with another powerful left hand that backed Holland up. But he couldn’t follow up or find a home for any more power shots after that, leaving the 25-year-old Holland to command the center of the Octagon, connect with the occasional shot and continue to showboat more than he scored.
Official Result: Kevin Holland def. Will Santiago by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)