The end of the road is almost here.
Contender Series reaches its penultimate week, and we get six fights on this card that could end things with a bang. There’s a few of the usual problems with it, but we’ve come to expect these things at this point.
Main event honors go to Gadzi Omargadzhiev (12-0), a Russian up-and-comer that has fought a mixed bag of opposition but has a Sambo background that gives him strong baseline for a middleweight to succeed on a higher level. He’s got a nice spinning back kick to the midsection and some snappy takedowns and relentless top pressure strikes. He’s great at making moment to moment adjustments under the advice of his corner, keeping himself from taking damage anywhere.
His opponent is Brazilian striker Jansey Silva (7-1), who has very little polish and can be easily tied up with underhooks against the cage. He’s got power in his shots, and I personally suspect that it was this performance that got him here. Silva can put people away, but his overall game has major gaps that are rife for exploitation by an opportunistic grappler like Omargadziev. Compounding this problem is that Gadzi can strike effectively and phase-shift beautifully, working quickly and efficiently. Silva’s going to have a very tough time keeping it upright, and that’s what will ultimately make this a short night at the office for him. Barring any major changes in his style or additions to his skillset, Omargadziev should be hilariously favored to win this.
Next up is Long Xiao, with a respectable 16-6 record. But here’s where it gets frustrating yet again watching these fights. There is no reason for a 12-6 fighter, for example, to fight someone that’s 1-0 unless that person is an internationally accomplished kickboxer or grappler. But he was 9-6 fighting someone that was 1-3 in a bout that he won (as expected), then went on to face someone that was 2-2.
Here’s the thing about Xiao’s record. He fell into a hole early going 4-6 in his first ten. He dug himself out to even out at .500 and go past that, leading him to his current 12-fight win streak. Only 5 of those 12 fighters currently hold a win ratio of .500. What’s available in terms of fight footage on him shows he’s got decent striking but his offensive and defensive wrestling is subpar.
And he gets the short end of the stick, because he’s up against Christian “Niño Problema“ Quiñonez (15-3), a dazzling Mexican youngster that runs a rough pace and uses length with his striking. His knees from the clinch add up over time, and his takedown defense is pretty solid. Backed by his training over at Entram Gym, he’s got a good set of coaches and can bring a lot of pressure on Xiao that will add up quickly.
Oron Kahlon (16-0) is a bit of a mystery. Having turned pro in 2005, he inexplicably has two fights listed as amateur bouts in 2009 and 2010. Currently 36 years old, he also missed weight for this bout. Everyone he fought in his first seven listed pro fights was making their pro debut. He took a break from 2010 to 2016, where he resurfaced in Bellator. He faced three straight opponents that were 2-0 in 2018, well into his pro career. Armed with a dangerous submission game, a sharp jab, and a great sense of timing for his leg kicks, he’s got some good things going on for him.
But you have to admit, that’s really weird. What can be made of this?
He’s going to be facing Javid Basharat (10-0). An Afghan fighter training with London Shootfighters, he’s mostly made his bones on the UK scene. While he’s also faced opponents that were 0-6 and 2-39 (massive yikes), he’s got a more complete skillset by sitting down on his punches while remaining mobile in his feints and setups. His ground striking game is rough, and he’s got a lovely sprawl to fend off takedown attempts. Basharat’s submission defense is nice, but his offense is also worth looking at.
Despite that, he shouldn’t get too comfortable. Kahlon has a very advanced submission game with years of BJJ under his belt. There’s some bad blood coming into this one as well after Basharat refused to shake Kahlon’s hand, presumably because Kahlon missed weight. Kahlon responded by calling Basharat a terrorist.
Oron Kahlon (left) missed weight (3lbs too heavy) for his scheduled fight tomorrow at #DWCS. He will be fined 20% of his purse.— Marcel Dorff (@BigMarcel24) October 25, 2021
Javid Basharat wasn't happy about it and didn't shake hands with Kahlon. Kahlon called him a terrorist soon after.... pic.twitter.com/N5pflxW2wU
So no, this is not easy to pick and it’s not gonna get any nicer.
Moving along, we’ve got Brazil’s Karine Silva (13-4). She’s another fighter that racked up a spotty record on the Brazilian record and had the unfortunate experience of having her ceiling defined very, very early. Two of her only notable opponents have been Maryna Moroz and Marina Mokhnatkina, both of whom she lost to pretty badly. The third was former Pancrase champion Sidy Rocha, whom Silva defeated in a bout where Rocha suffered a horrible arm fracture. Silva’s got some submission skill and a lot of forward movement, but not an entirely cohesive game altogether.
But she’s up against another fighter that has an even more egregious record. Qihui Yan (11-3) has a slew of finishes, but surprise! Four fights against debuting fighters, including one as recent as two fights ago when Yan was 9-3. The fight prior to that was a win against a fighter that was 0-4 while Yan was 8-3.
Slim pickings or not, this is another massive red flag. Only this time it’s both opponents with incredibly weak records and very likely not much evolution left in them. They’re basically finished products and will struggle mightily to adapt to the UFC’s rigors, even in a division as small and as underdeveloped as flyweight. Put money on whoever you want, it’s whatever.
Kolton Englund (9-3) is a lanky lightweight fighting out of Texas that loves his ground strikes, and he should. While he muscles through some of his takedowns, he’s hard to buck off and runs a solid pace. He’s hittable while standing, but tough to put away. He’ll be facing Manuel Torres (11-2), who is also a lanky lightweight but with far better use of distance striking and a very crafty submission approach.
Finally former ONE Championship submission ace Xin Bie (8-2) meets Titan FC featherweight champion and durable finisher Olivier Murad (5-0).
You can watch the weigh-ins if you have the patience right here:
Full card is as follows:
Gadzhi Omargadzhiev (186) vs. Jansey Silva (185.5) - Middleweight
Christian Quinonez (135.5) vs. Xiao Long (136) - Bantamweight
Javid Basharat (136) vs. Oron Kahlon (139)* - Bantamweight
Karine Silva (125) vs. Yan Qihui (125) - Flyweight
Kolton Englund (155.5) vs. Manuel Torres (155.5) - Lightweight
Xie Bin (146) vs. Olivier Murad (146) - Featherweight