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Preview - Dana White’s Contender Series 2019: Week 3

The compelling series is back with more fights, more prospects, and a lot of intrigue.

After some early controversy just weeks ago, Contender Series returns with the usual goal of finding the next hot prospects fighting for a spot on the UFC roster.

This week, we start off with the lightweight division, where California’s Jacob Rosales (11-4) steps in against Jonathan Pearce (8-3). Rosales has spent time in Bellator and LFA, and only three of his wins have come by decision. Rosales has had some tough bouts against serious regional competition and was set to face another promising prospect in Arthur Estrazulas in LFA last month, a bout that was cancelled as he got the call up for this fight. His boxing is sharp, and his submission game is calculated with some serious whipping around to dive on a hold and secure it with his whole body.

His opponent is well-coached, well-trained, and well-rounded. Pearce trains out of the MMA Lab in Arizona, with two bouts in the Bellator/Monster Energy/NASCAR events that took place. After starting his career at 4-0, he slid due to three losses in a row, but has bounced back in a big way and hopes to stomp his way into the UFC. Four straight wins, all finishes. That’s what he’s riding on right now.He’s got a hell of a story, too. This could end up being the most competitive match of the night, so keep your eye on it.

Next up is a middleweight bout between Hawaiian standout Maki “Coconut Bombz“ Pitolo (11-4) against New England head buster Justin Sumter (7-2). Pitolo’s got some solid performances under his belt under Victory FC, Destiny, Cage Fury and Bellator’s banners, with dogged determination in every outing. An early loss on his record to fellow Hawaiian Chris Cisneros was avenged in his last outing, putting an exclamation point on the rivalry.

Sumter’s had a rougher road, working on the always underestimated New England scene and racking up wins against other promising prospects in the amateur ranks (including an amateur loss to current UFC fighter Eryk Anders in 2013). A loss in last year’s edition of Contender Series against Ian Heinisch led to a bounceback win against Reginaldo Felix in the Bellator cage. With a handful of submission finishes and a refusal to be bullied in any aspect of the fight, Sumter should be ready to offer Pitolo a major challenge.

Tennessee’s Chris Ocon (4-0) will square off against another MMA Lab rep in Hunter Azure (6-0) at bantamweight. Azure’s had a bunch of amateur fights and got a little shine on LFA and brings a serious wrestling pedigree. Ocon’s only had one decision win so far as a professional, with one submission, but a vicious squeeze.

Next up are a pair of light heavyweights as Brazilian grappling ace Antonio Trócoli (11-3) meets Norway’s Kenneth Bergh (6-0). Bergh’s name may be familiar to some, as he was on The Ultimate Fighter back in 2016 and was eliminated by current UFC talent Eric Spicely. He’s had some time off since his last fight, a submission over Norman Paraisy in Cage Warriors back in 2017.

But Trócoli is a different kind of odd, with some earlier fights at welterweight that included losses to former UFC talent Jacob Volkmann and heavy hitter Dhiego Lima in 2016. Most of his opposition has been spotty, to say the least. His win over former UFC fighter Wendell Oliveira could be seen as his best to date, but some of the lesser opposition he’s faced make it hard to get a read on where he is in his development and how he’d fare against better competition.

Finally, another lightweight bout closes the night with southern gentleman James Wallace (9-2) taking on Joseph Solecki. Wallace is a certified finisher, having never won a single fight by decision and riding a four-fight win streak in which each win was as submission. He’s a threat standing, and can run a good pace on the feet. Solecki started as an amateur in 2015 but has been very busy racking up wins since then and with four rear naked choke victories on his pro record. Taking on increasingly tougher opposition, Solecki has done well for himself in the very tough Cage Fury/Ring of Combat circuit, coming into this fight with back to back wins. This should be a great scrap wherever it goes, but a very special treat if it becomes a grappling match for an extended period of time.

Full card is as follows:

James Wallace vs Joseph Solecki - Lightweight

Kenneth Bergh vs Antonio Trócoli - Light Heavyweight

Chris Ocon vs Hunter Azure - Bantamweight

Maki Pitolo vs Justin Sumter - Middleweight

Jonathan Pearce vs Jacob Rosales - Lightweight

Dana White’s Contender Series will be streaming live on ESPN+, starting at 8:00pm EST.