Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series often serves as a reminder that there’s no precise science to getting into the UFC. Winning on the show doesn’t guarantee a contract, even if the wins are impressive. It’s a few steps above The Ultimate Fighter, sure. But this year’s fights — more than the inaugural run last year — have a handful of promising prospects, talent that’s not quite there, and a few fighters that for some reason aren’t being signed outright to the UFC.
This leads to fights that aren’t exactly mismatches, but feel somewhat unnecessary. The show is still great, with talent that has tremendous potential putting their skills on display. The pacing has remained great, the action delivers, and we get a bit of their personality in the process. The selection portion remains a bit arduous and pretty arbitrary and unfair, but the show is still a net gain in terms of action and talent acquisition.
First up is New England’s Tim Caron (9-1), a middleweight that built his record on the Northeast scene via Reality Fighting, CES and two fights in Bellator. While he’s coming off back-to-back finishes and demonstrates true skill as a fighter, he unfortunately has some wins on his record against suspect opposition. Finding quality opposition on the regional circuit isn’t easy, but fighting guys that are 9-16, 17-28 and 7-8 raises some questions (although he did have the good fortune to win this fight). Caron has serviceable striking, good wrestling and does his absolute best work from side control. He’ll be up against Jordan Williams (7-2), a fighter from the Northern California circuit. Williams is a bit rough around the edges, using his bodylocks effectively and making his opponents carry his weight to tire them out and beat them down. His lone Bellator match is a good indicator of his base skillset, but his left hand is also lethal.
Next up, we’ve got Jamall Emmers (13-3) working to get a contract. Emmers was scheduled to fight current UFC fighter at CES 48 in February, but that bout was cancelled when Bessette was called up to the UFC. Now the featherweight brings his cautious but polished boxing in with a good takedown clinch from against the fence, a combination that has helped him brutalize opponents on the ground. He’s only getting sharper, as seen in his last fight in LFA. Across from him will be a former Ultimate Fighter contestant and UFC talent Julian Erosa (21-5). Juicy J was released after a loss to Teruto Ishihara, but racked up a respectable set of performances that include a loss to UK’s Paddy Pimblett and wins over Austin Springer (seen last week on the series, and unfortunately the only one to not get a contract) and a brutal TKO over Team Alpha Male prospect Erick Sanchez.
Boston’s Greg Rebello (24-8) attempts to make things right this time around as he aims to take out fellow heavyweight Josh Parisian (6-2). Rebello was on last year’s Contender Series, where he lost due to a thundering knockout at the hands of Azunna Anyanwu. He promptly went back to CES and laid out Derrick Brown, then totally slept Travis Wiuff for the then-vacant CES heavyweight belt. Michigander Parisian is a hard hitting fighter with a decent sprawl that uses strength and doesn’t stay inactive for long when it comes to ground strikes.
Lightweights get an opportunity to impress when MMA Lab’s Te’Jovan Edwards (5-1) challenges himself against Austin Tweedy (10-1). Edwards has faced decent opposition while consistently growing as a fighter, showing patience in his last bout. Tweedy has been doing work on the Midwestern scene, and has had also had some very questionable opponents with records of 10-19 and 1-7, and his latest win against journeyman Jay Ellis, who was 14-64 at the time.
None of this is to say he’s not skilled. His fights can be crazy fun. Tweedy has a good degree of athleticism and loves offense, and is capable of taking damage. He’s even got something of an Ong-Bak thing going on. His unpredictability can get him in trouble, but he’s won 7 straight and has a knack for getting out of really bad spots almost instantaneously.
The grand finale is a women’s flyweight fight between Antonina Shevchenko (5-0) and Jaimee Nievera (7-3). Antonina needs little introduction. She earned a championship at Lion Fight and has had a very decorated striking career. After making her pro debut in her native Kyrgyzstan, she went on to Korea and a pair of fights for Phoenix FC. With a perfect record, she hasn’t really been challenged on the ground. As expected, she’s got precise striking, a strong clinch, and loves targeting the midsection with knees.
Nievera had a promising start to her pro career, with wins over Jillian Lybarger (twin sister of former UFC fighter Jocelyn Lybarger) and Stephanie Frausto. She suffered consecutive losses against Sarah D’Alelio and Jamie Thorton, but racked up three straight wins. Her most recent victory was in LFA against the very tough Katy Collins. Nievera’s a calm and composed striker that likes to use her overhand right, but may be defensively compromised. She loves armbar attempts from guard and knees from the clinch as well.
Adjustments: Greg Rebello originally scheduled to fight Mexico’s Oscar Ivan Cota, who had visa complications and had to withdraw. Rebello was then supposed to fight former World Series of Fighting talent Angel De Anda, who also withdrew. Argentina’s Silvana Juarez Gomez suffered an injury that saw her bow out of her scheduled fight against Antonina Shevchenko. Tim Caron was scheduled to fight LFA’s Andrew Todhunter, who pulled out due to injury and a staph infection.
Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series starts this Tuesday at 8:00pm EST, streaming live exclusively on UFC Fight Pass.