Four fighters per week earning a UFC contract — that’s the average through the first eight weeks on this fifth season of Dana White’s Contender Series.
After starting white-hot and cooling a little through the middle section of the season, things picked up again with last week’s episode, as four of the five victorious fighters impressed the UFC President and punched their ticket to compete inside the Octagon, bringing the total for the year up to 32 new additions.
Still on pace to break the record for the most contracts handed out in an individual season, this week’s penultimate episode of the year comes with an additional fight, as six sets of athletes will make the walk to compete inside the UFC APEX on Tuesday, looking to add their names to the roll call of talent matriculating to the UFC this season.
Here’s a closer look at what’s on tap for Week 9 on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Gadzhi Omargadzhiev vs. Jansey Silva
Talented middleweights looking to make the leap to the next level in their MMA journeys clash in the final pairing of Week 9 as Gadzhi Omargadzhiev takes on Jansey Silva.
Undefeated in a dozen professional appearances, Omargadzhiev has earned finishes in four of his last five bouts and only been the distance twice in his career, which he’s spent competing exclusively in his native Russia. The 28-year-old has trained with a litany of familiar names over the years and recently logged time in Paris at the MMA Factory, so he should be fully versed on what to expect when he makes the walk on Tuesday and ready to make the most of his opportunity when he steps into the cage.
Silva arrives in Las Vegas on a three-fight winning streak, most recently securing a first-round stoppage win in March. The 26-year-old Brazilian is 7-1 in his professional career and has an impressive reach for the middleweight division at 79 inches, and represents the Tata Fight Team, which has helped guide Thiago Santos, Polyana Viana, and Sarah Frota to the UFC in the past.
This should be a competitive affair between a pair of promising middleweight competitors looking to land an opportunity to compete against the best in the world in the 185-pound ranks.
Xiao Long vs. Christian Quinonez
Despite still being quite young, Xiao Long and Christian Quinonez both carry a ton of experience into their bantamweight clash on Tuesday night.
The 23-year-old Xiao already sports a 16-6 professional record, having earned two of those victories already this year and five wins in 2020. After landing on the wrong side of the results in six of his first 10 fights, the Chinese prospect has earned a dozen consecutive victories heading into his appearance on the Contender Series this week, competing exclusively under the WLF W.A.R.S. banner for his last 14 fights.
Two years his opponent’s senior, Quinonez already has 18 appearances on his resume, carrying a three-fight winning streak and a 15-3 overall record into his clash with Xiao at the UFC APEX on Tuesday. The second member of the team training out of Tijuana’s Entram Gym competing this week, “Problema” looks to follow in the footsteps of Michael Morales and Genaro Valdez, who earned UFC contracts in Week 4 and Week 6, respectively.
Oron Kahlon vs. Javid Basharat
Oron Kahlon and Javid Basharat square off in a battle of undefeated lightweights 10 years apart in age but sharing the same dream of competing on the biggest stage in the sport.
The 36-year-old Kahlon is 16-0, earning two wins in one night twice at the outset of his career before returning from a 10-year sabbatical at the end of 2016 and rattling off another dozen consecutive victories. He was scheduled to face Collin Anglin last summer on the Contender Series, but the bout never came together, and now he returns to Las Vegas, where he fought twice as an amateur under the Tuff-N-Uff banner.
Visa issues forced Basharat out of a pairing with Saimon Oliveira earlier this season, but the unbeaten 26-year-old returns here to make the walk and square off with Kahlon on Tuesday evening. He’s earned all 10 of his wins inside the distance and has been around the bright lights of the UFC in the past, cornering teammate Amir Albazi when he was victorious at UFC 257 earlier this year.
This is such an intriguing and compelling contest, as both men have dominated the competition they’ve faced to date but remain difficult to read in terms of their overall skill level and potential going forward. This meeting should clarify some of that as they battle it out to see who will remain unbeaten and who will taste defeat for the first time.
Yan Qihui vs. Karine Silva
Flyweights Yan Qihui and Karine Silva meet on Tuesday in another battle of experienced competitors looking to take the next step forward in their respective careers.
Yan arrives in Las Vegas on a three-fight winning streak and having won 10 of her last 11 fights overall. After competing five times in 2018, Yan has been limited to just five appearances over the last three years, having most recently secured a unanimous decision victory in January.
Representing the Gile Ribeiro Team that has produced UFC competitors Augusto Sakai, Rogerio Bontorin, and Wellington Turman in the past, Silva touches down in the desert on a four-fight winning streak that includes back-to-back first-round submission wins. Though she’s been a pro since 2013 and has already logged 17 appearances, “Killer Karine” is only 27 years old and just now starting to show what she’s fully capable of inside the cage.
Kolton Englund vs. Manuel Torres
Kolton Englund looks to impress Dana White and the UFC brass for a second time this year as he steps into the cage with the first of two Entram Gym representatives slated to compete on Tuesday night, Manuel Torres, in what should be an entertaining lightweight affair.
Englund earned a victory in March at Fury FC 46 when the UFC President and the Lookin’ for a Fight crew were in town, and a couple months later, he picked up his third win of 2021 with a third-round finish of Alec Williams, extending his record to 9-3 in the process. A Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt, the 28-year-old Englund began this journey as an amateur in 2012 and aims to keep the momentum he’s already amassed this year rolling when he steps in against Torres on Tuesday.
While he’s only fought once this year, Torres made the most of that opportunity, securing his second straight first-round submission win with a 25-second finish of Carlos Enrique Canada in June. Training alongside Quinonez and the rest of the talent assembled at the Entram Gym will ensure that Torres is locked in and fully prepared when he makes the walk inside the UFC APEX, and it will be interesting to see if “El Loco” can set the tone for the team on Tuesday night with a big victory over Englund.
Xie Bin vs. Olivier Murad
Tuesday night’s action gets underway in the featherweight division with a bout that was originally scheduled to take place two weeks earlier, as Xie Bin faces off with Olivier Murad.
A pro since 2016, the 23-year-old Xie carries a seven-fight winning streak into this clash with Murad, which was pushed back a couple weeks. The Chinese prospect has competed exclusively under the ONE Championship banner until now, but has been out of action since earning a decision victory over Edward Kelly in August 2019.
Murad pushed his record to 5-0 while claiming the vacant Titan FC featherweight title with a unanimous decision win over former Contender Series competitor Muhammad Naimov. That contest was the first time the 27-year-old had gone the distance in his career, and he’ll look to get back to his finishing ways when he squares off with Xie this week in Las Vegas.