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Dana White’s Contender Series 2020 - Week 3 preview

There’s some good fun to be found here, but a lot of “wait and see“ to go with it.

Victor Reyna vs Louis Cosce

Reyna (11-4) is a slick and athletic welterweight that’s been up and down in the Texas regionals since 2012 as a professional. With fights in XKO, Legacy and Combate Americas, he’s now getting a second shot in Contender Series after suffering a decision loss against Miguel Baeza last year. He’s got very good and patient boxing with a good wrestling base. Reyna does a lot of things well, but has pretty low output. While he controls well in terms of pace, forward movement and top control, he’s missing some explosiveness, which can put him at a disadvantage in some bouts.

Meanwhile, Cosce (6-0) has a blitzing style to get the fight where he wants it: with his opponent staring up at the lights as he punches them. Fighting out of California, he’s another fighter that’s come through Dragon House and while undefeated and clearly talented, has a concerning record. Fighting guys with records like 4-8 and 18-42 isn’t the end of the world when you have less than ten fights and are trying to make a name for yourself on the regionals. It does make it a little more difficult to truly gauge how good he is and can be.

And look, it may not matter in the end. Plenty of fighters have had questionable early opposition, and it’s not like his record is completely suspect. He’s strong, pretty fast and has some good instincts about him while running a rough pace. This should be a very good bout.

Cheyanne Buys vs Hilarie Rose

Let’s put this simply, Buys (formerly Vlismas, 4-1 pro, 7-5 amateur) is a firecracker. She’s quick on the draw with strikes while moving forward. She’s mostly about scrambles and scrappy grappling to get to advantageous positions to do damage from controlling spots. She’s been outmuscled and outworked by stronger grapplers. Working over at Fortis MMA, she’s got a somewhat chaotic way about her fights, but she’s managed to make it work as a pro and has shored up her defense while piling on the volume striking.

And Rose (4-1) is a very good test to see where she’s at. A patient and more technical striker, Rose is also a scrambler that works strong takedowns but often ends up in bad positions with the landing. She’s got scary good top control with big strikes from there to go with her submission game. Buys has a slight advantage in terms of experience as she’s had more amateur fights, but Rose can match her strength and spend more time controlling the fight.

Orion Cosce vs Matt Dixon

Well, this is unusual. Orion Cosce (6-0) is the brother of Louis Cosce, and wow, is this going to be awkward. After his brother Louis defeated Daniel McWilliams (then 18-42), it was Orion’s turn to face him immediately after. But that’s the only questionable matchup on his record so far. Much like his brother, he’s going in guns blazing and has utmost confidence in his grappling and athleticism to get the job done, with tons of punches from top position. Also, here’s a grappling match between him and UFC fighter Max Griffin.

Dixon (9-0) is a finishing marvel, having six finishes in nine professional fights. With wins over very tough fighters on the regionals like Chauncy Foxworth and Justin Patterson, his scrambles are fun and his right hand is money. He’s dealt with bigger and stronger opponents before, so he won’t be intimidated by Cosce. This may be a higher pace than what he’s used to, and this could be the most interesting fight of the night.

Josh Parisian vs Chad Johnson

Parisyan (12-3) has had the most confusing and absurd path to the UFC. A former Contender Series contestant from 2018, he managed to knock out New England heavy hitter Greg Rebello with a sensational backfist sequence. Instead of a contract he got a chance to be a contestant on the then-upcoming edition of The Ultimate Fighter, where he was bumped in the first round from Cuban standout wrestler Michel Batista. Once out from under the UFC umbrella, he was submitted in his first fight back on the regionals but has come roaring back to rack up five straight, all finishes.

Impressive, right? That’s undoubtedly a good thing. But in the interest of clarity we do need to highlight that some of that opposition — as is the case with a disturbing amount of contestants — has not been good at all. Four of those recent wins have come against opponents that are 3-6, 4-11, 4-4, and 8-10 at the time they faced Parisian. He’s still a durable striker with very heavy hands, serviceable takedown defense and a good chin. He’s still lacking on the ground, his cardio isn’t great, and he’s at his best in wild brawls. There isn’t too much to figure out, but he’s physically imposing and can create problems for a good amount of heavyweights.

So he’ll be facing a taller and more athletic Chad Johnson (6-1), a Roufusport product that has range and physicality on his side. Just don’t expect him to fight pretty. His takedowns rely on his strength and ability to bumrush others. None of his wins have gone to the judges, and all but one have been finishes within the round as there’s a bout where his opponent quit on the stool between rounds. These two are big dudes that are into hitting hard and making the other fall, but it’s a gamble for both considering neither has particularly great cardio to outlast the other. This could end up anywhere and possibly become a barnburner between sluggers. Just don’t bank on it.

Kevin Syler vs Kenny Cross

Syler (10-0 pro, 8-0 amateur) wrecked shop on the way up, splitting his time between Bolivia and Florida. Now at American Top Team, he’s sharpened his skills to take another bite at the apple. He didn’t get a contract after his appearance here last year, but he got another submission win in his interim fight last December. Here’s what I had to say about him last year:

Syler is the younger brother of former Ultimate Fighter: Latin America alum Bently “Dr Bolivia“ Syler, and didn’t get into the sport until he got out of high school. Under his brother’s guidance, he’s put in time at American Top Team. So far in both his amateur and pro experience, he’s netted no KO/TKO wins on record, winning by either submission or decision.

That remains the same now, and he demonstrated then that he had room to grow and improve. With more controlled and measured striking to complement his ground game, he looked very polished compared to previous performances. Maybe he could have gotten that contract as things were last year, but perhaps an additional fight outside the UFC and a lot of extra hours in the gym might have helped.

Cross (10-3 pro, 8-0 amateur) was supposed to fight a few weeks ago against Damonte Robinson in a bout that was cancelled, so i’ll just give you what I said about him then. It all still holds true now:

Kenny Cross (10-3) has a fair amount of footage on him out there, and he’s a problem. Using his range along with hard knees to the body from the clinch, he’s not afraid to mix things up while using very good control from top position once he gets there. His stifling top pressure leads to him eventually making opponents break (and sleep), and he doesn’t let up on offense. Sometimes he gets a little thrown off with feints and comes in upright to throw shots, and he can be submitted as all three of his losses were subs. He still keeps his composure in the ugliest of moments and packs a punch late. He’s in a bit of an odd spot, though - his two previous opponents, Kevin Syler and Arthur Estrazulas both withdrew from fighting him.

So, uh... guess he’s fighting Kevin again. No disrespect to Robinson, but this is a bit more compelling as a matchup. They’ve both got a similar level of experience at the amateur and pro level, and love to get extra scrappy with some great transitions from striking to grappling and back again. This might be fight of the night due to the potential for chaos.

Dana White’s Contender Series takes place this Tuesday night at 8:00pm EST, streaming live and exclusively on ESPN+.