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Contender Series 2021: Week 4 preview, weigh-in results

More prospects go at it for UFC contracts (which are getting less and less elusive).

These guys have made like, five logos or something. Can you tell?

The Tuesday night fight train is arriving at the station again, with some fine prospects and some odd but good matchups lined up.

Jordan’s Hashem Arkhaga (6-0) is a middleweight to keep your eyes on. He’s got a thundering overhand right, patiently draws out counters and works a good pace to set up his finishing shots. While his grappling hasn’t been as tested, he’s clearly someone that should be considered.

AJ Dobson (5-0) might actually upset the apple cart, though. Coming out with long strikes including curved hooks to the body and sharp knees in the clinch, he’s got a pretty good striking game and uses his lanky frame well.

What may be more of a problem is the possibility of Dobson getting bullied by a larger opponent, but Hashem’s got to contend with leg kicks and speed as well.

Next up we’ve got 21-year-old Michael Morales (11-0) out of Ecuador, who is an animated striker that has some good fits of offense but can be flustered with counters on his way in. He’s looked great so far, but mostly in a scene that is largely underdeveloped. He meets Nikolay Veretennikov (9-3), another tall welterweight that’s done some work in LFA and Fury FC. Neither is as dynamic an athlete or has anything that truly elevates them above the other, it’s two long strikers that outhustle opponents that attempt to take them down. Veretennikov may have a clinch advantage here and may be considered a favorite, but it’s not that cut and dry.

Steven Nguyen (7-1) meets Theo Rlayang (5-0) at featherweight in what promises to be a fun bout. While I do have to add the obligatory caveat that Rlayang has mostly feasted on questionable opposition (5-7, 3-11), it’s not really egregious for a fighter that’s finding his footing as a pro at 5-0 with a few amateur bouts under his belt. Rlayang mostly gets busy on the ground with strikes and submission attempts, and is pretty strong when it comes to keeping guys in one spot.

Nguyen has a lot of grit and a powerful right hand that he times very well for his counters. He’s hit or miss with fencing in opponents while their back is to the cage, but works well from range and also does some good damage on the ground.

Santo Curatolo (6-1) could be the breakout performer of this card. A former CFFC flyweight champ, all of his wins are finishes. He runs a blistering pace and pours on offense immediately after he sees he’s made a dent, and he’s poised to become a very welcome addition to the UFC’s flyweight division with a win (also assuming he gets signed as a result). Seriously, watch this. The way he integrates his wrestling and his striking is pretty smooth, and that’s a monster finale.

But first he’s got to deal with Kleydson Rodrigues (no relation, 6-1). Rodrigues is a former Jungle Fight champ with excellent guard passes and submission escapes that works short and snappy punches inside with variety in his strikes and conviction in his harder shots.

This should be fight of the night, for very good reason. Both would be a great pickups, but I’ll spare you the usual diatribe here for today.

Finally, we’ve got Jacob Rosales (13-6) against Victor Martinez (again, no relation - 12-4). Martinez has a scrambly ground game and lovely accuracy with his strikes when he gets going. Likewise, Rosales pumps his feints and jabs to put pressure and layer the damage patiently. They should matchup well against each other, and this is a great way to open up the card.

You can check out the weigh-ins right here:

Hashem Arkhagha (189) vs. AJ Dobson (184.5) - Middleweight

Michael Morales (170) vs. Nikolay Veretennikov (171) - Welterweight

Steven Nguyen (145.5) vs. Theo Rlayang (146) - Featherweight

Santo Curatolo (125.5) vs. Kleydson Rodrigues (126) - Flyweight

Victor Martinez (156) vs. Jacob Rosales (155) - Lightweight

Dana White’s Contender Series takes place this Tuesday at the usual 8:00pm EST start time, and streams exclusively on ESPN+.