Now that the UFC has its feet firmly back on Vegas soil, Contender Series gets to resume to end the run for the year. This should add some more action for the week if you’re in the market for more fights during your week and care to see the new crop of exciting prospects.
And what a crop this is. Main event honors for this week go to Carlos Ulberg (2-0), a City Kickboxing rep and teammate of UFC champs Israel Adesanya and Alex Volkanovski. While his MMA record is shallow, he’s a pretty exciting kickboxer that’s been doing damage and looks to stay on the MMA side of things. But he’s first got to do a little dance with Brazil’s Bruno Oliveira (8-1), who only last year had his first and only fight stateside for Titan FC. That fight was tough to watch, because maybe the ref had better things to think about during the fight. Also a teammate of former RIZIN talent and Jungle Fight champ Bruno Cappelozza, Oliveira has a fair amount of polish on his striking but may be overpowered here. His takedown and ground game may be enough to get him by, but Ulberg seems to be the more technical and disciplined of the two, and clearly the one with the better support system and coaching staff.
Co-main is another one of the strange bouts we’ve been treated to in Contender Series, with Chilean Ignacio Bahamondes (10-3). Training out of Illinois along with Alejandro Flores and Yair Rodriguez, he’s got patience, some slick hands and not-quite-great takedown defense but can work his way back up off the floor. He’s still green, but has a fair amount of upside as a prospect.
And his opponent is Edson Gomez, a fighter that’s 6-1 despite being a pro since 2015. His first few fights were in Gladiator Challenge, then he moved up to King of the Cage. One of his Gladiator Challenge opponents was 0-8 at the time, and his bounceback fight after his lone loss in King of the Cage was against a fighter that at the time was 2-5. He’s a strong striker that muscles his way through takedowns, but this is an odd matchup from top to bottom. Perhaps Gomez has an impressive enough set of finishes for the brass to overlook everything else here, but there’s almost always a fight on these cards that has a handful of red flags, and this is it.
Next up we’ve got Team Alpha Male’s Vince Murdock (12-3), who has a great name for a character from the Punisher series. He’s had a few losses to Jeremiah Labiano and Jesse Arnett, two fellow prospects at the time that don’t reflect badly on his record.
Luis Saldaña, a 5’11 featherweight that has a bunch of finishes from different directions, and who is currently on a three-fight win streak. Nothing against Murdock, but Saldaña’s fought much more stable and proven competition so far, and that level of experience may be a big factor in this fight.
Heavyweight Jared Vanderaa (10-4) was originally scheduled to fight Oscar Ivan Cota this week, but Cota had to withdraw for the second time from Contender Series. Now the West Coast native meets Kentucky’s Henry Hunsucker (6-2). Vanderaa was bouncing around until he found some serious traction in South Africa’s EFC. After a good run there he defeated former UFC fighter Ruan Potts for their heavyweight title and went on to LFA (where he suffered a rough submission loss) but is coming off a win over the immortal Tony Lopez.
Hunsucker is in as a late replacement, and while on a five-fight win streak, his last two opponents were 15-17 and 9-14. That’s not saying he doesn’t have a chance, but some fighters are more developed than others and this is a very concerning booking.
Dana White’s Contender Series is back this Wednesday (due to the elections) and will begin at the usual 8:00pm EST start time. This card streams exclusively on ESPN+.