After what was perhaps a needed break last week due to the holiday, Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series returns with a quintet of bouts featuring hungry prospects ready to do battle in hopes of snagging UFC contracts.
This week, a lot of very scrappy fighters are on deck for what should be an exciting night of fights. As a reminder, not all winners get contracts. This will be relevant later, I promise.
Main event honors go to Joey Gomez (7-0) as he gets set to tangle with Kevin Aguilar (14-1). Gomez cut his teeth on the Hawaiian scene, submitting Ray Cooper III (who just demolished Jake Shields last week) and Robby Ostovich (brother of UFC fighter Rachael Ostovich). His last fight was in September of last year against Isaac Ware in Washington state, and he’s been to the judges’ scorecard only once. Four of his seven wins are by submission, with two via strikes.
Known as “The Angel of Death“, Aguilar’s last Legacy Fighting Alliance featherweight title defense was against former Ultimate Fighter contestant (and participant in last year’s Contender Series) Thanh Le, and he sent Le to the land of wind and ghosts. Prior to that, he had a hard-fought battle against former UFC fighter Damon Jackson. That ended violently as well. Both fighters are capable of doing major damage, so either one could take this in a big way.
Next up, Jackson/Winklejohn product Bevon Lewis (5-0) steps in against Alton Cunningham (5-0). Lewis was also on last year’s version of the show, where he defeated Elias Urbina by TKO. While carrying a slender frame, he brings a lot of physicality with his style. Slick boxing with good timing on his ground transitions lend him periods of control to continue to hurt opponents in the long run with ground strikes. Milwaukee’s Cunningham has spent time training out of Pura Vida BJJ, home to UFC (and former Invicta) fighter Leah Letson, as well as Zak Ottow and Rick Glenn. He’s got good handspeed and accuracy with his punches, with quick leg kicks and a good sense of range. He really hits harder when he gets comfortable and loosens up, leading to disastrous results for his opponents.
Toby Misech (10-5) seems like the kind of fighter the UFC would have signed outright (or at least as a good late replacement opponent), but he gets to show off his skills this week. A product of the Jesus Is Lord gym out of Hawaii (run by Bob Ostovich, father of UFC fighter Rachael Ostovich), Misech has suffered losses at the hands of former UFC fighter Dustin Kimura and last episode’s Austin Springer. However, he holds wins over RIZIN standout (and Kid Yamamoto protegé) Yusuke Yachi, and a sustained showcase beating against Jared Mazurek at Alaska Fighting Championship. He’ll be taking on hard-hitting Ricky Palacios, who has spent time training under Tito Ortiz at the Punishment Training Center in California. Palacios gained some notoriety in Combate Americas, with a deadly KO against Benji Gomez. He was slated to participate in the inaugural Copa Combate event in November, but failed to make weight and was released. He’s got an aggressive style that leans heavily on offense over defense, and usually is able to power out of bad situations on the ground.
Jordan Espinosa (12-5) also returns from last year, this time against Rilley Dutro (13-3). Espinosa’s performance last year led to a win over Nick Urso, whom he had previously fought in a bout that ended in a no-contest. Training with Luttrell-Yee MMA, he’s got a submission win over Team Alpha Male’s Bobby Escalante and former Ultimate Fighter contestant Rafael de Freitas. That fight I mentioned against Urso from last year? He dropped Urso and latched on to put him to sleep. His finishing instincts are great, and his movement and timing are going to serve him well.
Finally, Max Mustaki (6-2) faces California’s Jalin Turner (6-3). Mustaki started his career off in Japan, oddly enough. He racked up four straight finishes before seeing a decision, a win against Florida’s Elvin Brito at Island Fights 39. Two back to back losses followed before he pasted Socrates Pierre this past February. Turner is a fighter with a long reach and very vicious striking. You may remember him from his performance at Bellator 170 last year, where he nailed a sit-down knockout of Gabriel Green. All of his wins have been finishes, and his athleticism and control during hectic moments can take him far in this sport.
Full card is as follows:
Joey Gomez vs Kevin Aguilar - Lightweight
Bevon Lewis vs Alton Cunningham - Middleweight
Toby Misech vs Ricky Palacios - Featherweight
Jordan Espinoza vs Rilley Dutro - Flyweight
Max Mustaki vs Jalin Turner - Lightweight
Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series starts at 8:00pm ET, and will be streaming live exclusively via UFC Fight Pass.