Tonight Dana White’s Contender Series was back for the first time in 2021 with eight prospects hoping to win UFC contracts. It was a night full of action and these fighters seemed hungrier than ever to earn themselves a contract.
There were four great fights tonight and ultimately, Dana White ended up handing out a record number of UFC contracts for one night. The boss handed out five contracts and for the first time, there was one fight where the winner and loser were given contracts.
Murzakanov was the biggest betting favorite of the evening. In the first couple of minutes of the fight, both men were just feeling out the range but they were swinging big shots.
You could tell that Murzakanov was just waiting for his opportunity to explode and get on the inside. Well, three minutes into the first round he did just that. He exploded with a huge combination that put Scheffel out cold. There’s a reason why there was a lot of hype around Murzakanov. He earned his UFC contract with an exclamation point.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) September 1, 2021
The first contract came from the very first fight this evening. AJ Fletcher (9-0) took on Leonardo Damiani (10-2-1) in the welterweight division. Both of these guys were being looked at as two highly valued prospects in the eyes of the UFC.
In the opening portion of the first round, Damiani was actually getting the better of the striking. He was the one backing Fletcher up and appeared to him in desperation mode at one point forcing Fletcher to shoot for a double leg takedown.
However, late in the round, everything changed. Fletcher opened up with a spinning back kick that seemed to give him confidence. Seconds later, he blasted Damiani with a flush flying knee that put the Italian out. That performance was enough to earn him a UFC contract.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) September 1, 2021
Victor Altamirano and Carlos Candelario
One of the more anticipated matchups of the evening was the flyweight contest between Victor Altamirano (9-1) and Carlos Candelario (8-0). The UFC is always looking for flyweight talent and this matchup promised to be fireworks.
Candelario briefly retired after his first contender series appearance a few years ago, but his fire is back and he was looking for a contract. In the first round, both men came out extremely fast and both had success on the feet. Candelario stole the round with good takedowns and ground and pound.
In the second round, Candelario started out strong with his boxing. However, he looked a little tired and started going for takedowns. Altamirano defended takedowns well initially and was landing big shots of his own. Candelario was able to land takedowns late in the round and it proved to be a very close round.
In the third round, Altamirano really looked a lot better and took over. Candelario was slowing down and Altamirano started doing work to the body. Candelario had a good first two round, but Candelario hit a wall and Altamirano dominated the majority of the round.
The fight was razor close and Altamirano won a split decision. Because the fight was so close and both men brought it, Dana White gave both of them UFC contracts.
The co-main event was a battle between Diego Lopes (19-3) and Joanderson Brito (11-2-1).This matchup between prospective UFC featherweights was a ton of fun. I was a little surprised by the start. Brito is known for his aggressive striking style, but he shocked everyone by coming out with a takedown attempt.
Lopes almost locked in an armbar halfway through the round and that forced Brito to stand up. From there, the two men spent the rest of the round just exchanging massive power shots. In the second round, we saw a lot of the same.
Brito ended up shooting for a takedown again in the second and Lopes almost got guillotine choke. Lopes came close a number of time on submissions, but Brito powered through. In the second, Brito landed some of the nastiest ground and pound I’ve ever seen and heard.
The final round started with both men embracing. However, the action didn’t last long. Lopes was accidentally poked in the eye by Brito and the fight was called off.
Brito was docked a point and they went to the scorecards. Ultimately, Brito got the decision win and because of the exciting action throughout, Dana White gave Brito a UFC contract.