Last week’s event might have been the best individual night of action in the history of Dana White’s Contender Series, and that’s including the uneventful heavyweight scrap that slowed the momentum heading into the main event.
Six fighters garnered contracts, including two athletes that were on the wrong side of the results, which is the first time each of those things happened at the close of the show; six contracts have been awarded before, but Shannon Ross’ deal came after the fact.
We had back-to-back slobberknockers that stand amongst the best fights ever to transpire on the series, and an electrifying performance from Danny Barlow to close things out, all of which combines to set a mighty high bar for this week’s hopefuls to clear as they step into the UFC APEX for their moment in the spotlight.
But the measurement shouldn’t be whether they’re able to match or exceed the efforts put forth last week — it’s simply about how well they perform on Tuesday night, and whether they’re able to do enough to impress the UFC CEO and garner their own opportunity to compete on the biggest stage in the sport.
Here’s a look at the hopefuls headed into the cage on the penultimate week of Season 7 of Dana White’s Contender Series.
Murtaza Talha vs Rodolfo Bellato
Light heavyweights earn top billing for the second time this season as Murtaza Talha faces off with Rodolfo Bellato.
Representing Bahrain, Talha is a former undefeated IMMAF champion who has gone 6-0 since turning pro. He’s yet to see the third round as a professional and has won each of his last five outings in the opening stanza, while facing opponents with a combined record of 25-6 overall.
Bellato returns to the UFC APEX for a second time and simply needs to steer clear of Vitor Petrino, as the current UFC light heavyweight prospect is responsible for each of his two career defeats. The 27-year-old “Trator” has earned consecutive victories since last season’s loss to Petrino, most recently claiming the interim LFA light heavyweight strap with a win over veteran Acacio dos Santos.
Will Talha keep rolling and land a UFC contract or can Bellato remain unbeaten against guys other than Petrino and join his nemesis on the UFC roster?
Eduardo Torres Caut vs Victor Hugo
Streaking bantamweights collide in Las Vegas on Tuesday as Eduardo Torres Caut takes on Victor Hugo.
Chile’s Torres enters on a five-fight winning streak and brandishing a 16-1 record overall, with his lone setback coming two years ago against UFC vet Nohelin Hernandez. He’s earned nine finishes in his 16 career victories, including in each of his two wins this year, and looks to join Ignacio Bahamondes as the second fighter from Chile on the UFC roster.
The 30-year-old Hugo has posted a dozen consecutive victories to push his record to 23-4 heading into Tuesday’s fight. He’s split his wins almost evenly between knockouts, submissions, and decisions, but has avoided the scorecards in each of his last three outings and five of his past six fights.
This should be a spirited, competitive affair between two athletes who seem to be trending in the right direction and firmly in the prime of their professional careers.
Jose Daniel Medina vs Magomed Gadzhiyasulov
The first of this week’s two light heavyweight pairings features Jose Daniel Medina taking on Magomed Gadzhiyasulov.
A native of Bolivia, Medina is a 32-year-old veteran with an 11-2 record and six-fight winning streak. He has faced limited competition over the course of his career, but has largely handled his business accordingly, registering 10 wins inside the distance.
A teammate of Talha, Gadzhiyasulov is similarly undefeated as a professional after enjoying a great deal of success in the amateur ranks. Like his opponent Medina, the 29-year-old Russian representing Bahrain has yet to face many experienced foes on the way to Las Vegas this week.
Matchups like this between somewhat untested, but largely successful, competitors can be difficult to forecast, as dominant outings against overmatched foes don’t always allow you to see the full depth of an individual’s talent. Tuesday’s contest should be a great measuring stick opportunity when it comes to assessing what each man brings to the table, and whether either is ready to compete on the biggest stage in the sport.
Mauricio Ruffy vs Raimond Magomedaliev
Once-beaten welterweights face off in the second bout of the evening as Mauricio Ruffy shares the cage with Raimond Magomedaliev.
A member of the Fighting Nerds team that has already graduated Caio Borralho, Bruna Brasil, and Jean Silva to the UFC, Ruffy arrives in Las Vegas on a three-fight winning streak capped by a second-round TKO victory over UFC alum Ronys Torres. He’s earned all eight of his victories inside the distance and via some form of knockout, so expect Ruffy to come out swinging.
The 33-year-old Magomedaliev has earned five straight victories, including consecutive wins over former UFC fighters Anthony Njokuani and Impa Kasanganay under the Eagle FC banner. His lone loss came nearly five years ago against former LFA champ James Nakashima, and while he doesn’t have a 100 percent finishing rate like his opponent, Magomedaliev has still earned stoppages in seven of his 10 career wins.
Will the Brazilian follow his teammates to the UFC Octagon or can Magomedaliev pick up a sixth straight victory and a spot on the UFC roster?