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Contender Series 2021: Week 10 preview, weigh-in results

The last episode of the 2021 season is upon us.

Last time we’ll be looking at this for a bit, yeah.

Alright, folks. We made it.

End of the line for this year’s Contender Series, with all the ups and downs that come with it. It’s brought us some excellent talents and typical trappings, but we’re not gonna focus on the series as a whole for today. That’s a conversation better suited for later. Instead let’s dive in on the final card of the year and who’s gonna be auditioning for a spot in the world’s biggest MMA league.

LIGHTWEIGHT MAIN EVENT: ACHILLES ESTREMADURA vs MAHESHATE

First up is Canada’s Achilles Estremadura (7-0), is a ferocious athlete that hits hard and has his basics down; throws some body kicks here and there while landing big punches. His last bout was on Fight Pass and ended with a big finish, which no doubt got him some attention here. He’s had his entire pro career in BFL and has been their lightweight champ since 2018, and he’s just got some amazing power. Check out his pro debut. Grand opening, grand closing.

Yes, he did fight a guy that was 14-26, and another that was 18-15. Other than that, nothing really out of the ordinary from a prospect that has less than ten pro fights.

He’s paired up against another striker, Enbo Fight Team’s Maheshate (5-1), a WLF veteran. He’s got some... problems.

Losing his pro debut isn’t so bad in and of itself. Plenty of excellent fighters have stumbled out of the gate. He’s been undefeated since with his second fight being his first win against an opponent that was 10-11 then. That was followed by two fighters making their debut, a guy that was 10-13 and his last bout against a guy that was 0-2.

It’s a somewhat familiar story on the Contender Series. Some guys come in with a record that looks like a million bucks with. But, more often than not, those records aren’t worth a damn. Check out the second round of his loss to Nikolay Goncharov (Maheshate’s pro debut).

It starts with the replay of the notable moments from the first round. And as far as I can tell, the guy can’t grapple, his striking is mid at best, and he’s being fed to a far more athletic opponent. At least he gets a trip to Vegas for his troubles.

That said, Goncharov is actually a good fighter, the only one Maheshate has faced that has a considerably high ceiling.

WELTERWEIGHT BOUT: YOHAN LAINESSE vs JUSTIN BURLINSON

Next up we’ve got Justin Burlinson (6-0), an English welterweight with an extensive amateur career that saw him rack up a slew of finishes. Undefeated as a professional, he’s yet to see a judge’s decision, finishing opponents with punches and submissions. He’s controlled and smooth, making a lot of these finishes look easy as he sets everything up behind a snappy jab.

His opponent is another well-developed prospect, Canada’s Yohan Lainesse (7-0). Fighting out of Canada’s TKO and Mid-Atlantic’s CFFC, he hasn’t really had any gimmes. While not as likely to throw up submission attempts as Burlinson, he has his own share of weapons such as his takedown threats and punching from off-angles. Or stuff like this. Burlinson may out-hustle Lainesse on the takedown attempts, and they’re both really, really good at getting and keeping top control. This is undoubtedly the most evenly-matched bout of the card, and both of them would be excellent additions to the UFC’s welterweight division.

FLYWEIGHT BOUT: LUN QUI vs ERISSON FERREIRA

This next one is a doozy. Erisson Ferreira (10-1) blazed his way through the Brazilian flyweight scene to win his first six fights before facing his first pro loss. He hasn’t dropped a bout since, and his last win was against a pretty good fighter. The problem? That win was a doctor’s stoppage between rounds and all of his other opponents have been... not good. You can’t be too hard on a fighter with a certain amount of fights (see Estremadura above) facing guys with records at around or under .500 when you consider the environment and region they’re in and where they’re at in their development. But when a guy is just feasting on 0-1, 1-4, 0-2 and 2-3 opponents in Brazil, where competition isn’t that scarce?

Can he fight? Sure. He hung tough with an experienced opponent, gave him some fits and nailed some good shots. But, even with a win here, would anyone be able to look at his recardand say he’s capable of holding his own in what is perhaps the most competitive division in the UFC with the highest skill baseline?

But, who is he facing? Well, that would be another WLF vet, Lun Qiu (14-7). Not a bad record, right? OK, consider this:

He’s coming off three straight wins, and the records for them are 3-1, 1-0 and 1-0. Is this the level of competition anyone with over 15 fights should be facing?

That’s not to say he can’t fight. He definitely has some skills.

He’s wily and he can sprawl, but isn’t particularly adept at stopping takedowns from competent wrestlers. He feints from way outside for some reason, telegraphs takedown attempts and is rather limited. What does he look like against someone that can actually grapple and work submissions effectively? It ain’t good. An utter waste of a fight. Nobody wins here even if they get a contract. They’ll get stubbed out like a cheap cigarette against anyone in the already established flyweight ranks.

FEATHERWEIGHT BOUT: JONAS BILHARINHO vs CANAAN KAWAIHAE

Jonas Bilharinho (8-1) has been a sensation in Jungle Fight for years now, and for very good reason. A seasoned striker with decent takedown defense, he’s got exceptional timing and great instincts for finishes. He’s going to really have to work for it this time around, because he’s up against Hawaii’s Canaan Kawaihae (6-1, 1 NC). Canaan’s been here before, losing a tough decision to Chase Hooper, but he’s a bright prospect with an aggressive game but paces himself when he needs to. Check out his last win in LFA, where he immediately punished a takedown attempt with finesse. Or this Von Flue choke. He’s got a big frame for featherweight, and he distributes his weight well while hunting submissions. This should be another very good bout.

FLYWEIGHT BOUT: ZHIFA SHANG vs JUAN PUERTA

Finally, Juan Puerta (22-6) and Zhifa Shang (32-7) have a wealth of experience, and they’ll both compete at flyweight on this card.

You can check out the weigh-ins here:

Full card is as follows:

Maheshate (156) vs. Achilles Estremadura (156) - Lightweight
Justin Burlinson (170.5) vs. Yohan Lainesse (171) - Welterweight
Erisson Ferreira da Silva (125.5) vs. Qiu Lun (125.5) - Flyweight
Jonas Bilharinho (146) vs. Canaan Kawaihae (145.5) - Featherweight
Juan Puerta (125) vs. Zhifa Shang (125.5) - Flyweight

Dana White’s Contender Series signs off for the year with their final event Tuesday night, starting at 8:00pm EST. The event streams exclusively on ESPN+.