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Diggin’ Deep on Dana White’s Contender Series - Week 6

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Scope out the inner workings of this weeks prospects on Dana White’s Contender Series, featuring Randall Wallace meeting the returning Charles Byrd in the feature contest of the night.

It only took six weeks, but we finally have a women’s bout on the Dana White’s Contenders Series. You’d think with the lack of depth in each of the women’s divisions that the UFC would be featuring at least one contest every week. Then again, it isn’t like the UFC hasn’t been trying to sign up every woman worth giving a tryout as it is. To shed a little perspective on the situation, the competitors – Tiffany Masters and Jamie Colleen – only possess a combined six professional contests between them. Basically, the UFC has already sucked up all the other viable talents with more experience. Are they ready for the big stage? We’ll find out.

The action begins at 8:00 PM ET/ 5:00 PM PT on Fight Pass tonight.

Charles Byrd (8-4) vs. Randall Wallace (15-6), Middleweight

The first two-time competitor on the Contender Series, Byrd looks to cash in on his second opportunity on the show. Showing more patience than normal in his last appearance, it almost came back to bite Byrd in the ass as he was taken and held down for the first few minutes of the contest before securing an impressive arm-triangle choke. Typically an aggressive striker who is always looking for the finish, it will be worth watching to see if Byrd returns to his more aggressive roots in this contest as Wallace isn’t nearly the wrestler that Jamie Pickett his, Byrd’s previous opponent on the show.

Speaking of Wallace, he’s taking this contest on short notice, filling in for Gabriel Checco. Having just 10 days in between contests, Wallace – like Byrd – has considerable experience in fighting at welterweight. Also like Byrd, Wallace is usually the aggressor, stalking down opponents with body kicks and basic one-two combinations. He has a bit of wrestling and grappling in his repertoire, though it is clear he’d much rather stand and bang… so long as he can get away with it. Wallace is smart enough to know when he is outmanned in a specific area and will try to take the fight where he can be more effective whether it is the ground or standing.

Losses to the likes of Max Griffin and James Terry have set a ceiling for Wallace in the eyes of many. However, he’s only 28 and has reeled off three straight victories since his last loss, leading to the question of whether he has improved in that time or if his list of victims were simply a step down in competition. It’s difficult to assess. Byrd is closer to the likes of Griffin and Terry than Wallace’s most recent competition. Though it isn’t difficult to picture Wallace winning, I’m picking Byrd until I see something out of Wallace to make me believe he’s improved enough to break through his present ceiling. Byrd via TKO, RD2

Grant Dawson (11-1) vs. Adrian Diaz (11-4-1), Featherweight

A teammate of James Krause, Dawson has made a lot of noise in the midwest regional scene, mostly at lightweight. Win or lose, not one of his fights has gone the distance yet as Dawson’s unrelenting pressure doesn’t allow opponents any room to breathe. An outstanding wrestler, Dawson drags his opponent to the ground time and again while grinding away with brutal ground-and-pound, typically leading to opponents exposing their backs for Dawson to finish with a RNC. His standup is still a bit wonky and he could stand to add a steady jab, but the pieces are there for him to become a regular threat on the feet.

Representing Team Alpha Male – aka Team Guillotine -- it should come as no surprise that Diaz has picked up every one of his submission victories via guillotine choke. Aside from his propensity to catch a hold of his opponent’s neck, there is very little flash to Diaz’s game. Utilizing a very meat-and-potatoes boxing approach, he has relied on his supreme conditioning at times to wear down an opponent before capitalizing on an opening. What does surprise is Diaz’s wrestling not being up to par with the usual Team Alpha Male level as he’s merely adequate in that field.

It's hard to look at footage of Dawson and not get the feeling the kid is something special. While he applies constant pressure, he doesn’t do so recklessly and finds a way to make ground-and-pound and positioning enjoyable to watch for the viewing audience. Diaz will make things difficult for him in what should be an entertaining scrap, but expect Dawson to walk away the victor. Dawson via TKO, RD2

Karl Reed (2-0) vs. Cameron Olson (6-3, 1 NC), Light Heavyweight

Reed represents the typical light heavyweight that has been represented on the series thus far: a long, athletic, 205er who is too big to shrink down to middleweight. Oh yeah…raw too. A collegiate wrestler, Reed has relied heavily on those skills to grind away at his opposition whether it be against the cage or on the ground. He has flashed some kickboxing skills from the outside, particularly his head kicks. However, he doesn’t stay outside for long as he looks to close the distance in a hurry as his instinct is still to get the fight to the ground.

Olson falls in line with a lot of the regional light heavyweight talent that has immigrated over to the UFC in recent years in that he appears likely to drop to middleweight should he make it to the big show. A Roufusport representative, he did fight at 185 early in his career, but has found far more success since he stopped cutting those extra 20 pounds. Mostly a hard-hitting brawler, Olson is a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. His motor and toughness are his best attributes, though he has been putting together striking combinations more efficiently in his recent contests.

Olson doesn’t strike me as UFC material. That doesn’t mean he can’t beat Reed as Reed is still very raw whereas Olson has faced some quality regional competition. That can often make all the difference in the world. Though I don’t believe Reed is quite ready for the big stage either, he does have far more upside than his opponent. His natural physical skills will be enough for him to pick up a win here. Reed via decision

Martin Day (5-1) vs. Jaime Alvarez (6-1), Flyweight

Many fans are at least familiar with Alvarez from his time on TUF 24, being eliminated in the opening round of the tournament by Ronaldo Candido with a first-round submission. A pressure fighter with slick striking and a lot of power at 125, Alvarez’s over-aggression led to his loss to Candido as well as his lone professional loss. When Alvarez can settle into his groove, his volume overwhelms opponents as he strings together kick-punch combinations in a hurry. Though he has shown he is more than competent in his wrestling and grappling, he rarely resorts to taking the fight to the ground, preferring to stand and trade.

Day is a similar fighter to Alvarez in that he utilizes a lot of pressure with a wide variety of attacks. What marks the biggest difference is his penchant for throwing a greater amount of high-risk attacks such as spinning or leaping attacks. The amateur kickboxing champion has a deep repertoire of kicks too thanks to his taekwondo background. Day’s ground game is still very undeveloped, showing an inability to get back to his feet once taken to the ground and an avoidance to go to the ground himself.

Both are lanky flyweights with Day having about two inches in both the height and reach on Alvarez. Both have potential in the flyweight division. Hell, both are a lot of fun to watch. However, Day’s list of victims is far less impressive than the opponents Alvarez has disposed of. Alvarez is a big step up for the young Hawaiian. Look for Alvarez to take the fight to the ground early and often, all the while searching for a finish. Alvarez via TKO, RD2

Tiffany Masters (2-0) vs. Jamie Colleen (3-1), Women’s Strawweight

Despite the lack of professional experience on her resume, Masters has received some hype due to her aggressive and entertaining style. Including her amateur record, she has won her last six contests – all finishes -- with only one of them leaving the first round. However, the only recent footage is highlight reels, making it difficult to accurately gauge her improvements. Those reels indicate some powerful ground-and-pound for a strawweight and some improved wrestling skills, but how much can be taken from that? Masters’ standup is still clunky, but she is still very young.

Unlike Masters, Colleen doesn’t have youth on her side as she checks in at 31. However, she does have a very disciplined approach with legit one-punch power. Her counter-heavy style makes it difficult for her to pile up points should the fight go to decision, but Colleen has been fortunate enough to score KO’s in each of her victories. Though her takedown defense has been impressive, her overall grappling skills don’t seem to extend beyond basic defense skills. Worth noting is that she holds a victory over UFC strawweight Danielle Taylor on her resume.

There is no clear-cut favorite in this contest. Masters appears to have a higher ceiling, but she has also run roughshod over some questionable competition whereas Colleen has already faced UFC level talent… and won. So long as Colleen’s timing hasn’t dissipated – she last competed 17 months ago – her chances of catching Masters running in recklessly are high. Colleen via KO, RD3

Who gets the contract?

Unless Reed can score a head kick KO, I don’t think his grinding style is going to impress Uncle Dana that much, even if light heavyweight can use as many active young bodies as possible. Byrd has the advantage of having impressed once already while Colleen would benefit from the need for viable fighters at strawweight. Despite that, I like the aggression Dawson and Alvarez show and expect one, if not both of them, to walk out with UFC contracts. If I am picking just one though, Grant Dawson.