After handing out a record four contracts following an explosive second week inside the TUF Gym, just four additional competitors have gotten the call to the Octagon in the subsequent weeks, as the blistering performances have given way to more closely-contested battles over the last two weeks.
Coming off a week where the two returning competitors from Season 1 delivered strong performances and earned contracts, the action on Week 5 of the second season of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series featured the lone returning fighter taking on one of the most promising prospects in the sport in the main event, with a collection of compelling and competitive matchups coming before it.
It didn’t take Dana White very long to make his decision this week, offering up a trio of contracts while singing the praises of everyone that stepped into the cage on Tuesday night.
Unbeaten Glendale Fighting Club prospect Edmen Shahbazyan, bantamweight Domingo Pilarte and strawweight super-prospect Maycee Barber all got the call and will get the chance to compete on the biggest stage in the sport later this year after delivering impressive performances inside the TUF Gym.
Here’s a look at what transpired on Week 5 of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.
MAYCEE BARBER vs. JAMIE COLLEEN
Colleen proved her toughness and tenacity last season, rallying from being down two rounds to submit Tiffany Masters in the closing seconds of her Week 6 triumph. The Daniel Gracie student suffered a knee injury during the contest and hasn’t competed since as a result, but showed enough in that performance to earn a call back to the Contender Series.
Just 20 years old, Barber is nicknamed “The Future” because she and many others believe she is the future of the female side of the sport. Her aim is to break Jon Jones’ record as the youngest fighter to ever win UFC gold and with four wins, including three stoppages, she’s headed in the right direction.
Herb Dean had the headlining assignment.
No touch of gloves for the ladies, with Barber opting instead to press forward right away and clinch with Colleen against the fence, landing a big forearm smash in close. Colleen looked to break free, but Barber was having none of it as the tandem traded knee and body shots inside. Three minutes in, they finally separated into space, with Barber throwing and landing kicks while catching a right hand from Colleen.
With just under a minute left in the round, Barber once again pressed forward into the clinch, feeding Colleen a diet of knees to the thighs and midsection through to the horn.
The 20-year-old southpaw started the second with a kick to the body, the lead leg and the head, pressing forward and connecting with a lead-leg kick up high before eating a counter right hand from Colleen. Barber continued to press forward, offering an assortment of kicks to various levels, keeping the Season 1 winner guessing and unable to fire anything of substance in return.
Tied up in the center of the cage with just under two minutes remaining, Barber completed an outside trip to land in top position, crashing home elbows and advancing to side control before Colleen recovered guard, looking for the armbar without any success.
Early in the third, an inside leg kick caused Barber to slip to the floor and give Colleen an opening to clinch, but the 20-year-old quickly reversed the position along the fence, feeding her opponent more knees and elbows in tight. She kept Colleen there until the final two minutes before taking advantage of her aggression to complete a takedown.
One of several elbows along the fence cause a massive cut on the bridge of Colleen’s nose, prompting the referee to step in and wave things off.
Official Result: Maycee Barber def. Jamie Colleen by TKO (elbows) at 4:15 of Round 3
DOMINGO PILARTE vs. VINCE MORALES
A pair of bantamweights clashed in the penultimate bout of the evening as the 31-year-old Houston native Pilarte locked up with the Oregon-based upstart Morales. The six-foot Pilarte entered on a four-fight winning streak, while Morales looked to get inside and get his sixth straight victory.
Chris Tognoni had the assignment in this one.
The lanky southpaw Pilarte started by pressing forward, offering kicks and missing with a couple big swings while calling Morales in and shaking off the kicks coming his way. A right hand from Morales scored along the fence and a head-body combo followed it, but he couldn’t stay inside to build off the blows. Right at the midway point of the round, the duo started slinging, catching each other with a couple good shots, Pilarte continuing to nod off everything Morales landed with.
After Morales put a right hand on Pilarte’s chin, the Houstonian pressed forward and started firing off shots, catching Morales with several good shots that seemingly had him circling the drain. But Morales fired back with a right than rocked Pilarte before dropping him and opening up a nasty gash over his right eye that had him covering up and spilling crimson through the horn.
Right out of the gate to start the second, Pilarte shot for a takedown, but couldn’t keep Morales on the mat for more than a second. But he hit a beautiful foot sweep a minute in and quickly jumped on Morales’ back, hunting for a the rear naked choke. Morales fought hard, but Pilarte refused to relinquish his grip and Morales went out, prompting the stoppage.
Official Result: Domingo Pilarte def. Vince Morales by submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:52 of Round 2
ANTHONY ADAMS vs. CHIBWIKEM ONYENEGECHA
Undefeated middleweights manned the middle of Tuesday’s festivities with Adams stepping in on short notice to face Onyenegecha.
Originally scheduled to face Maki Pitolo, the 24-year-old Onyenegecha had been off for over a year prior to stepping into the UFC cage in Week 5, but has finished all six of his professional victories, while the 7-0 Adams made the quick turnaround after collecting a decision win at the end of June.
Herb Dean marshaled the middleweights in this one.
Onyenegecha took the center of the cage in this one, trading kicks with Adams to start and keeping the short notice sub guessing and reaching with his responses. Three minutes in, Adams finally connected with a couple short punches inside, prompting Onyenegecha to hastily return fire without much success. Clinched along the cage near the end of the round, Adams connected with a short-range spinning elbow, potentially stealing the frame by landing the more significant blows.
Onyenegecha once again looked to lead the dance to start the second, with Adams happy to accept the counter-fighter role, firing off punches as Onyenegecha offered kicks. Following a minute of trading low kicks, Onyenegecha pressed forward a little more, connecting with a clean right hand as Adams looked to score with the spinning elbow for a second time to no avail. Over the final 90 seconds of the round, Onyenegecha continued to chop at Adams’ leg, likely drawing level on the scorecards.
Just as he did in the opening two rounds, Onyenegecha took the center of the cage to start the third and began the frame throwing more punches than he did in the first and second, taking the fight to Adams. Midway through the round, Adams telegraphed a takedown attempt that was easily stuffed.
With just under two minutes left in the third, the lights in the TUF Gym went out, prompting a pause in the action and some sly self-deprecating comments from Michael “The Count” Bisping on commentary.
On the restart, Adams connected with a good left, followed by a hook to the body, but Onyenegecha continued to press forward, offering offense of his own and stuffing another obvious takedown attempt before chasing down Adams and eating another spinning elbow just before the horn.
Official Result: Chibwikem Onyenegecha def. Anthony Adams by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Unbeaten through his first four professional bouts, Vanderford lobbied for his chance to compete on the Contender Series and got his wish, landing opposite Team Alpha Male’s Trevino in a quality matchup of welterweight hopefuls.
Vanderford, who is engaged to UFC star Paige VanZant, turned pro just over a year ago, collecting all four of his wins in 2017, while the 7-2 Trevino had won four straight prior to this one, most recently picking up a decision win over veteran Justin Baesman in April.
Chris Tognoni shared the cage with the welterweights.
After a minute and change of trading punches and each landing a couple good shots, Trevino was the first to look for a takedown, diving in on a single after getting tagged, eventually working around to Vanderford’s back. But the NAIA champion slipped out the back door and started grinding along the cage, looking for a takedown of his own, but Trevino defended well, leading to a break with 90 seconds remaining.
With just a minute left in the frame, Trevino stepped out and starched Vanderford with a big right hand, prompting the Team Alpha Male fighter to swarm in search of the finish, only to have Vanderford survive and make it to the end of the round.
Trevino came out looking to press the action to start the second, but it was Vanderford who got the better of things in the early stages of the round, catching the 25-year-old with a good left hook and a kick to the body before dropping him with another left and a clean right hand that left Trevino grasping for a panic takedown. As they hit the ground, Trevino gave up his back and Vanderford sunk in the hooks and the choke, collecting the comeback submission win.
Official Result: Austin Vanderford def. Angelo Trevino by submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:42 of Round 2
EDMEN SHAHBAZYAN vs. ANTONIO JONES
The 20-year-old Shahbazyan made his pro debut last February and has not let off the gas since, collecting six stoppage victories in six appearances over the last 17 months. Training out of the Glendale Fighting Club, the California middleweight took a serious step up in competition by signing on to face Jones in Tuesday night’s opener.
A winner of four straight, including victories over UFC vet Roger Narvaez and Artenas Young, the 33-year-old Jones may have only logged two more professional appearances than his opponent, but he’s faced far superior opposition prior to their clash.
Herb Dean supervised the middleweights in the Octagon.
Shahbazyan came out like a rocket, firing off quick hands that Jones couldn’t contend with. An uppercut in the clinch put the Pete Spratt protégé on slippery feet and the 20-year-old didn’t let up. A series of clean shots in close quarters put Jones on the canvas and a torrent of follow-up blows prompted Dean to step in and stop the fight.
Just an electric showing from the youngster.
Official Result: Edmen Shahbazyan def. Antonio Jones by TKO (punches) at 0:40 of Round 1