Another week, another set of fresh talent lined up to punch their ticket (and their opponent) for a chance of a lifetime.
And we should expect a lot of punches, there are some interesting pairings here. On paper, it doesn’t seem like the most exciting set, but the thing about a lot of these events is that you’ll have some fighters perform with a greater sense of urgency or the matchup just lends itself to draw more intense performances.
But the main fight here should absolutely deliver. Solomon Renfro (8-1) is a do or die fighter with back to back wins and some nice finishes. His lone loss was to recent Contender Series winner Mike Malott, and he’s a hard hitter with submission chops.
His opponent is a man with a very odd path. Jonny “The Paradox“ Parsons made his pro debut against an already 6-2 Glenn Sparv. Not sure how that made any sense from a booking perspective, but Parsons understandably lost that one. And that’s fine, Sparv is a good talent and was too much, too soon. He won his second bout and inexplicably fought Mr. International himself, Shonie Carter in only his third bout. This was in 2015, when Carter was 51-30 (with 7 draws). His most notable opponent since was former Contender Series contestant Tyler Hill, and he’s also a striking coach at Syndicate MMA.
Not sure how this can go. It’s a rather chaotic matchup, but it should be fun.
Brazil’s Valesca Machado (a.k.a. Tina Black, 8-2) holds a win against Julia Polastri, who fought on Contender Series earlier this year, and has a strong kickboxing base. Unfortunately, her technique is all over the place. She puts on a lot of pressure and hits hard, but her whole game feels clunky overall. It works for her, as she’s able to overpower opponents and counter with hard shots.
Her opponent is Venezuelan Piera Rodriguez (no relation, 6-0), who loves firing off 1-2s and hooks on the inside. There’s not much else of note here, because much like Machado, her game is all over the place.
And that’s not to disparage either fighter, here. It would be a disservice to you, the reader, to not note the very obvious problems with this fight and other bouts like it. They both love to throw punches but have severe development deficiencies almost everywhere else. Whether it’s takedowns, submissions, clinchwork, leg kicks — any of these things — they’re both sorely lacking. I’m not gonna suggest that you ever listen to Gianni the Greek, ever. This week, it may not really hurt because it may not really matter.
Personally, I’m not sure either is ready to be tossed into a division as deep or as talented as strawweight at the UFC level. Both need a lot of development to round out their game and be successful, but have a ton of tenacity and good instincts when it comes to hunting for a finish. You can’t teach either, it just makes for a bewildering fight.
Two submission threats face each other as Caio Borralho (9-1) meets Jesse Murray (8-3). You may remember Borralho as the winner against Canada’s Aaron Jeffery back in late September. Well, he’s back with the quick turnaround at middleweight. Here’s what I said about him then:
Caio Borralho (8-1) is a middleweight with a wide stance that loves to throw kicks and punish opponents with counters and thudding body kicks. Bouncing around the Brazilian circuit, he’s faced a mixed bag of opponents and has gotten by with some great timing, hard striking, and nice setups for his offense.
And while I didn’t expect him to win, he added some wrinkles to his game and had improved striking defense. That, paired with his submission acumen, should give Murray a lot of problems.
Also of note is the fact that Murray’s had some middling-to-atrocious opponents on his record despite a handful of finishes. Make of that what you will.
Next up, Armenian-Italian Armen Petrosyan (70-21 kickboxing, 5-1 MMA) will try to walk the path Giga Chikadze had by making his way to the UFC by way of contender series. Also known as the brother of kickboxing sensation Giorgio Petrosyan, he’s got a major advantage coming into this bout and massive expectations. And the man that will be testing that as a bar for entry is Bulgaria’s Kaloyan Kolev (10-0).
Kolev’s best odds here are to wrestle, and he can absolutely do that. He’s got a fine striking game, but probably won’t want to get into extended exchanges on the feet with a fighter that’s been striking since he was a teenager. The larger concern (yes, again) is strength of opposition.
Yeah, 10-0 looks great for a pro. No doubt about that. That doesn’t erase the fact that at 9-0 he was facing someone making their pro debut and faced opponents that were 0-4 and 1-6. His record isn’t littered with those kinds of wins, but it leads to major questions of what he can do if he wins and gets a contract. Again, it only harms the fighter in question because of the hype buildup and usual lack of fighter development once they’re already through the door.
Finally James Barnes (14-4) will be appearing, after making his bones out in Gladiator Challenge. And yes, there’s some of what you’d expect. He did hold wins over 0-14 Chris Chavez and 0-5 Jacob Shropshire. He did manage to improve and earn wins over former UFC fighter Albert Morales and two former Combate Global talents in David Duran and Joey Ruquet. He’s up against Nova União rep Pedro Falcão (14-3), who is 8-1 in his last nine bouts.
Weigh-ins were still dreadfully long, but they’re here:
Full card is as follows:
Jonny Parsons (171) vs. Solomon Renfro (170) - Welterweight
Valesca Machado (115.5) vs. Piera Rodriguez (115.5) - Strawweight
Caio Borralho (204) vs. Jesse Murray (203) - Light heavyweight
Kaloyan Kolev (205.5) vs. Armen Petrosyan (201.5) - Light heavyweight
James Barnes (135) vs. Pedro Falcao (136) - Bantamweight
Dana White’s Contender Series starts this Tuesday night at 8:00pm EST, and streams exclusively on ESPN+.