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A general view inside UFC APEX prior to Dana White's Contender Series season 5, week 9 on October 26, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Dana White's Contender Series

Season 5, Week 10 Preview | Dana White’s Contender Series

The fifth season of Dana White’s Contender Series comes to a close on Tuesday night, as the final set of hopefuls makes the walk to the cage inside the UFC APEX, focused on delivering the kind of performance that prompts the UFC President to offer them the opportunity to compete inside the Octagon at the end of the night.

A record-tying 37 contracts have already been awarded this season, including five last week, with the results of Tuesday’s finale sure to establish a new high-water mark for the annual talent search series.

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And just like every other week this season and throughout the show’s history, there are a bunch of athletes with legitimate UFC potential set to step into the cage on Tuesday night in Las Vegas.

Here’s a closer look at what to expect on this week’s Season 5 Finale of Dana White’s Contender Series.

Maheshate vs Achilles Estremadura

The final bout of the season takes place in the lightweight division, as China’s Maheshate takes on Canadian Achilles Estremadura.

Just 22 years old, Maheshate lost his professional debut, but has earned five straight victories since, including a first-round stoppage win earlier this year. It was rough going for Chinese athletes last week in Las Vegas, as Xiao Long, Yan Qihui, and Xie Bin all landed on the wrong side of the results, but the surging young prospect hopes to reverse that and end the season by collecting the biggest win of his career and a UFC contract.

Unbeaten in seven appearances, Estremadura is the reigning lightweight champion for Battlefield Fight League, the Vancouver, British Columbia-based promotion that has graduated a handful of talents to the UFC over the last few years. He successfully defended his title with a first-round stoppage win over Curtis Demarce earlier this year and looks to join recent BFL champs Arjan Bhullar and Cole Smith as the latest athlete to make the leap to the Octagon.

This is a big step up in competition for Maheshate and a critical opportunity for the 29-year-old Estremadura, so expect both to be locked in and ready to go as soon as the cage door closes on Tuesday night.

Yohan Lainesse vs Justin Burlinson

It’s a battle of unbeaten welterweights as Canadian Yohan Lainesse squares off with England’s Justin Burlinson in a battle where someone is leaving with their first professional loss.

Yohan Lainesse vs Justin Burlinson Preview | Dana White's Contender Series S5 E10
Yohan Lainesse vs Justin Burlinson Preview | Dana White's Contender Series S5 E10

After earning three victories under the TKO banner in Quebec to begin his career, Lainesse has logged his last four appearances inside the CFFC cage, posting four consecutive victories, most recently earning a second-round stoppage win over Evan Cutts in July. The 29-year-old “White Lion” has passed every test he’s faced with flying colors and will look to join Jasmine Jasudavicius as the second Canadian to earn a Contender Series victory this season.

The 24-year-old Burlinson is 6-0 as a professional and has earned 21 straight victories overall after closing out his amateur career with a 15-fight winning streak. He returned from a two-year absence earlier this year and picked up right where he left off, registering a second-round stoppage win over David Bear at Cage Warriors 124.

Each of these men have deftly handled their business to this point in their respective careers, and now they cross paths with a chance to compete on the biggest stage in the sport potentially hanging in the balance. Each will be looking to maintain their undefeated record, which means we should be in for a terrific clash in the welterweight division when these two step in for the penultimate bout of the season on Tuesday.

Qiu Lun vs Erisson Ferreira da Silva

Flyweights man the middle of this week’s fight card as Qiu Lun looks for his third victory of the year when he takes on Brazilian veteran Erisson Ferreira da Silva.

A teammate of headline Maheshate, the 24-year-old Qiu enters with a 14-7 record overall and a three-fight streak, having earned a pair of first-round stoppage wins already this year. Like several of the Chinese talents that have passed through the Contender Series and the UFC this year, Qiu has a ton of experience at a young age, but has faced limited competition, making this an opportunity to get a clearer read on his skills and potential going forward.

The 30-year-old da Silva has earned four straight victories heading into this one, but hasn’t fought since earning a stoppage victory in February 2020. LIke Qiu, “Gato” has also faced limited competition to this point, so although he’s earned 10 wins in 11 starts, this clash should provide the clearest picture of what he brings to the table and what his future may hold.

Jonas Bilharinho vs Canaan Kawaihae

Brazilian veteran Jonas Bilharinho returns to action for the first time in two years, while Canaan Kawaihae makes his second Contender Series appearance in this featherweight clash on Tuesday night’s fight card.

The 31-year-old Bilharinho has earned eight wins in 10 professional appearances, but has fought sporadically since debuting in 2011. Best known to UFC fans as the man Jose Aldo brought in to mimic Conor McGregor ahead of their clash at UFC 194, Bilharinho hasn’t fought since October 2019, when he earned a first-round stoppage win over Junior Duarte at Future FC 9.

Jonas Bilharinho vs Canaan Kawaihae Preview | Dana White's Contender Series S5 E10
Jonas Bilharinho vs Canaan Kawaihae Preview | Dana White's Contender Series S5 E10

Kawaihae appeared on the second season of Dana White’s Contender Series in 2018, suffering a unanimous decision loss to current UFC featherweight Chase Hooper. Now 24 years old and having earned back-to-back victories, the more mature, more experienced Hawaiian looks to make the most of his second chance to compete in front of the UFC brass.

Each man has had different tangential connections to the UFC, but Tuesday night, they get the opportunity to potentially punch their ticket to the biggest stage in the sport, so it will be interesting to see which one of them rises to the occasion in this compelling featherweight battle.

Shang Zhifa vs Juan Puerta

Flyweights open the final show of the season as Chinese veteran Shang Zhifa squares off with Juan Puerta.

Shang Zhifa vs Juan Puerta Preview | Dana White's Contender Series S5 E10
Shang Zhifa vs Juan Puerta Preview | Dana White's Contender Series S5 E10

The 35-year-old “Northeast Flying Tiger” carries a 32-7 record and incredible 20-fight winning streak into the UFC APEX on Tuesday, aiming to reverse the run of disappointing results for Chinese athletes this season. Although he’s faced limited competition throughout his run of success, you don’t win 20 consecutive fights by accident, regardless of whom you’re facing, which makes Zhang an interesting veteran to watch in the opener.

Puerta arrives in Las Vegas on a lengthy winning streak of his own, having earned 11 consecutive victories, most recently registering a first-round submission win over Lloyd McKinney in early May. The 33-year-old veteran is a former Titan FC flyweight champion and trains with the crew at American Top Team, so you know he’ll be prepared for whatever he encounters on Tuesday night.