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Dana White's Contender Series

Season 5, Episode 1 Preview | Dana White's Contender Series

MATHEUS SCHEFFEL VS. AZAMAT MURZAKANOV

Matheus Scheffel vs Azamat Murzakanov Preview | Dana White's Contender Series, Season 5 Episode 1
Matheus Scheffel vs Azamat Murzakanov Preview | Dana White's Contender Series, Season 5 Episode 1
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The first week of the new season wraps in the light heavyweight division, as Brazil’s Matheus Scheffel squares off with undefeated Russian Azamat Murzakanov.

Scheffel arrives in Las Vegas having won six of his last seven, but fighting for the first time since October 2019. The 28-year-old has faced off with a handful of familiar names over the years, including former UFC talents Klidson Abreu and Rodney Wallace, and current UFC competitor John Allan, and scored a first-round stoppage win in his last outing to claim the Future FC light heavyweight title.

Unbeaten in nine professional fights, Murzakanov has also been out of action since the tail end of 2019, when he earned a first-round stoppage win over Mohammad Fakhreddine to claim the Brave CF openweight title. “The Professional” was tabbed to compete in the UFC several years ago, but it never came to pass, and now he ventures to Las Vegas with designs on making that happen.

Both men have earned their stripes on the regional circuit, and now it’s time to see which of them can secure a victory in this main event showcase inside the UFC APEX and impress Dana White enough to earn a call to the Octagon.

JOANDERSON BRITO VS. DIEGO LOPES

Brazilian featherweights with strong records and high finishing percentages square off in the penultimate pairing on this year’s first show as Joanderson Brito takes on Diego Lopes.

The 26-year-old Brito lost two of his first three fights and sported a 2-2-1 record after five appearances, but since the start of 2017, he hasn’t dropped a fight, rattling off nine consecutive victories heading into Tuesday’s contest. He’s earned finishes in eight of those contests, including his most recent outing, when he stopped Jose “Chepe” Mariscal in just 44 seconds at LFC 65.

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Lopes similarly struggled with inconsistency out of the gate, opening his career with three wins, followed by two losses. Since then, the LUX Fight League titleholder has gone 16-1, including victories over former UFC competitors Rony Jason, Marco Beltran, and Masio Fullen, with 13 of those triumphs coming inside the distance.

Given their shared propensity for handling their business without the help of the judges and the top form each has been in of late, this has all the makings of an opening week contender for “Fight of the Season” during this fifth installment of Dana White’s Contender Series.

VICTOR ALTAMIRANO VS. CARLOS CANDELARIO

Victor Altamirano vs Carlos Candelario Preview | Dana White's Contender Series, Season 5, Episode 1
Victor Altamirano vs Carlos Candelario Preview | Dana White's Contender Series, Season 5, Episode 1
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Mexican veteran Victor Altamirano looks to earn his third win over a former DWCS competitor this week as he steps in with the returning Carlos Candelario, the first two-time contestant of the season, in this flyweight affair.

The 30-year-old Altamirano has been a staple under the Legacy Fighting Alliance banner throughout his career, posting a 9-0 record inside the LFA cage, with his lone career setback coming in a different promotion. He’s knocked off former Contender Series competitors in two of his last three bouts, edging out Chris Ocon by split decision three fights back before out-pointing Nate Smith in a headlining assignment in February to claim the company’s flyweight title.

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Candelario competed on the first season of Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2017, earning a unanimous decision win over Ronaldo Candido, standing as one of only four fighters — and the lone winner — from that Week 4 collection yet to compete inside the Octagon. The 30-year-old suffered a knee injury in his previous appearance in Las Vegas and only returned to action in July, registering a unanimous decision win over Miguel Restrepo to push his record to 8-0 overall.

Will the LFA flyweight titleholder Altamirano continue cutting down former Contender Series competitors or will Candelario pick up his second win on the annual talent search series and finally punch his ticket to the UFC?

LEONARDO DAMIANI VS. AJ FLETCHER

Leonardo Damiani vs AJ Fletcher Preview | Dana White's Contender Series, Season 5 Episode 1
Leonardo Damiani vs AJ Fletcher Preview | Dana White's Contender Series, Season 5 Episode 1
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Surging Italian welterweight Leonardo Damiani makes the trek to the UFC APEX with designs on joining the UFC roster but standing in his way is unbeaten prospect AJ Fletcher.

Brandishing an impressive 10-2-1 record overall and riding a four-fight winning streak, Damiani ended a two-year absence last November with a second-round submission win and followed it with a victory under the Cage Warriors banner 34 days later before picking up his first win of 2021 in early February, good for three victories in 14 weeks. He’s yet to defeat anyone with a ton of experience, but Damiani has effectively handled his business over the last five years, and a strong outing on Tuesday could land him a spot in the UFC.

After wrapping his amateur career with three straight wins, Lafayette’s Fletcher has gone 8-0 to begin his pro career, earning finishes in seven of those eight contests, including each of his victories earlier this year. A training partner of UFC lightweight superstar Dustin Poirier when he’s back home, “The Ghost” is a physical specimen with the potential to be the next intriguing hopeful to arrive in the Octagon from “The Bayou State.”