While the lighter weight classes have gotten most of the shine so far (even with middleweight being the biggest beneficiary to date), this week’s edition of Contender Series offers two light heavyweight fights. Even better, there’s a chance for a new female bantamweight to fight under the big bright lights of the UFC.
The main event should be a true banger. William Knight (5-0) has had over 15 amateur fights and only went to a decision twice with one loss in that time. One of those decision wins was against another Contender Series fighter, Yorgan De Castro. Other than that, it’s been all finishes. Anyone can throw punches from top position on the ground, but Knight really loads up and lands bombs on people. With a stout frame and patient striking approach, his takedowns mostly come from the clinch, but he’s not afraid to go for a massive slam if necessary. Despite struggling with some larger and stronger opponents, he’s managed to survive some scares and still hit his opponent harder.
He’s gonna need that resilience, too. Herdem Alacabek (5-0) is a Swedish fighter that has a quick 1-2, some great knees from the clinch and stays very busy from top position. While not as dynamic an athlete as Knight (no shame in that, Knight is a very powerful athlete), Herdem can still use range and work those knees in close when Knight clinches up. All five of his fights have been finishes, and he’s looked very impressive from fight to fight.
Prior to that, we have a welterweight clash between Florida’s Brok Weaver (13-4) vs Devin Smyth (9-1). Weaver’s had a hell of a ride to get to this point, having fought for Titan FC and Island Fights. He’s racked up six wins in a row, including a split decision over Charles Bennett, The Artist Formerly Known As Crazy Horse and had a bare knuckle boxing match against Joe Riggs. Weaver’s just tough. He’s a clever brawler that keeps pushing forward, outlasting opponents and outworking them from different positions. He was originally slated to fight Leon Shahbazyan in Week 1 of this year’s Conteder Series, but Shahbazyan had not been medically cleared at the time. His opponent won’t be a walk in the park, though. Smyth lost his pro debut and hasn’t lost since. His style seems to take a cue out of Tekken, and that’s rather impressive when it works. Smyth has fight-changing power, and doens’t take his foot off the gas when it counts.
A women’s bantamweight fight is on this card, which is somewhat odd considering the UFC has paid little attention to that division overall. Sarah Alper (8-4) and Shanna Young (6-1) duke it out in an interesting bout that could tell us a lot about where both fighters are. Alper has fought some more recognized names, such as Brenda Gonzales, Heather Jo Clark, Delaney Owen and Carina Damm. Unfortunately, she’s come up short in each of those bouts. However, she has an earlier career win over Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger and managed to fend off up and coming Joselyne Edwards. Maybe she’s really good at fighting women with those names. I dunno. Her striking has progressed, but her physicality and ability to control the pace are not great.
Meanwhile, Young has her lone loss in her only Invicta appearance against Lisa Spangler, but has managed to record some finishes as well as a decision win over current Invicta champion Pam Sorenson. Young’s style is gritty, her striking is pretty wild, and she also gets by on being super tough while having a strong and controlling grappling game. Her positional advancement is good, even in fights that haven’t been very exciting, but she’s a tough challenge here for Alpar.
Bantamweight gets a bit of love with two excellent prospects. Once again, the UFC has reserved a bout on a Contender Series card between two fighters that they realistically could have just signed to a standard contract. But, this is the space we operate in. Tony Gravely (18-5) meets Ray “The Judge“ Rodriguez (15-5, no relation) in this one, which could very well be fight of the night. Graveley cut his teeth in the very tough New England scene, surviving a submission scare to slam his way to the CES bantamweight championship. His boxing is slick and composed, his grappling is savvy and he’s great at making adjustments from round to round. After some earlier career losses to the UFC’s Merab Dvashvili and Manny Bermudez, as well Bellator’s Ricky Bandejas and Patrick Mix, he’s sharpened his skillset and has six consecutive wins.
As for Rodriguez? He’s a capable fighter that’s competed for LFA, Fury FC and Combate Americas, with an active and accurate striking game paired with good takedowns and a good submission game. While suffering losses to current UFC fighters Steven Peterson and Chris Gutierrez, he’s got wins over former UFC fighter Joseph Sandoval, Jimmy Flick and another fighter named Ray Rodriguez (also no relation).
Finally, we have another light heavyweight fight between Julias Anglickas (6-1) vs Karl Reed (6-1). Anglickas is another Certified Finisher™, with three rear naked chokes, good counterstriking and some punishing body work. Reed’s been a teammate of Stephen “Wonderboy“ Thompson, and is a bit of a generalist with decent takedowns and good use of range. He may get a bit passive in some fights, but he makes up for it by working counters and staying busy from top control.
You can check out the weigh-ins here:
... and the faceoffs here.
Full card is as follows:
Karl Reed (205.5) vs. Julius Anglickas (206) - Light heavyweight
Tony Gravely (136) vs. Ray Rodriguez (135) - Bantamweight
Shanna Young (134.5) vs. Sarah Alpar (135.5) - Bantamweight
Brok Weaver (170) vs. Devin Smyth (171) - Welterweight
Herdem Alacabek (205) vs. William Knight (204) - Light heavyweight
Dana White’s Contender Series airs this Tuesday as usual, starting at 8:00pm. The entire event streams live exclusively on ESPN+.