To MMA fan’s delight, season five of Dana White’s Contender Series is set to return this week in the form of a four-fight card.
Light heavyweights Azamat Murzakanov and Matheus Scheffel headline the opening episode on Aug. 31 from the UFC APEX. Preceding them will be a pair of Brazilian-born featherweights on extended winning streaks in Diego Lopes and Joanderson Brito. LFA flyweight champ Victor Altamirano will attempt to hand Contender Series alum Carlos Candelario his first pro loss. The event’s opener showcases 24-year-old AJ Fletcher taking on Leonardo Damiani in a welterweight affair.
All eight competitors will of course be gunning for the coveted UFC contract. Notable DWCS prior contract winners include Sean O’Malley, Sodiq Yusuff, and Dan Ige just to name a few.
Azamat Murzakanov (9-0) vs Matheus Scheffel (14-6)
Russia’s Murzakanov enters with an unblemished record, highlighted by a first-round knockout over the No. 15 ranked UFC light heavyweight Andre Muniz. Most recently, Murzakanov secured the BRAVE CF heavyweight champion, but that was all the way back in Nov. of 2019. He’s one of the oldest fighters on this season’s roster as he moves down to LHW for the first time since 2017.
Brazil’s Scheffel, like his DWCS foe, has not fought since 2019. After a rough patch early in his pro career, Scheffel has won six of his last seven fights. “Buffa” stands at 6’2″ and he’s still just 28-years-old. He possesses a Muay Thai background that dates back to the mid-late 2000s.
Murzakanov stands southpaw and you guessed it, he’s a good wrestler. However, once in top position, he chooses ground and pound over submission attempts almost every time. Meanwhile, Scheffel is looking to keep the fight on the feet and seek out knockout opportunities. If he can prevent Murzakanov’s takedowns, he’ll likely have a slight advantage on the feet.
Diego Lopes (19-3) vs Joanderson Brito (11-2-1)
A pro for almost a decade, Lopes boasts an impressive record as he’s fresh off a victory over Masio Fullen last March. A native of Brazil and fighting out of Mexico, the 26-year-old owns a BJJ black belt. Lopes has spent time training at Brazilian Warriors, Lobo Gym, and recently at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas.
As for Brito, the featherweight hails from Brazil and is over two years removed from his last fight. He trains in his native country at the famed Chute Box Bauru. Moreover, “Tubarao” hasn’t lost a fight since 2015 and nine of his last 11 fights ended with him taking out his opponent before the final bell.
It’s notable that Lopes is stepping in on short notice to face Brito. The fighter out of Mexico is light on his feet and once he gets to the ground, no limb is safe from being attacked for submissions. Brito fights with reckless abandonment sometimes, and it often works in his favor thanks to his explosiveness. He’ll hold the power advantage over Lopes, but he’ll want to avoid grappling.
Victor Altamirano (9-1) vs Carlos Candelario (8-0)
Mexico’s Altamirano was crowned the LFA flyweight champion last February with his win over DWCS alum Nate Smith. In fact, all but one of his pro fights have been under the LFA promotion. “El Magnifico” fights out of Fort Worth, TX as he spends his time training at V-Fit Martial Arts, House of Champions.
Candelario fights out of Connecticut and his previous outing was just three weeks ago. The 30-year-old appeared on the Contender Series in 2017 and won via decision, but it wasn’t enough to earn him the contract. He’s a well-rounded fighter who bounces back and forth between flyweight and bantamweight.
Altamirano isn’t going to awe with his speed or power. Instead, he utilizes pressure and volume to overwhelm opponents. He also is a threat on both the feet and the ground, watch for him to jump guillotine from a standing position. Candelario likes to start fast, like a shot out of cannon if you will. This stylistic matchup might lead to the best fight on the card.
AJ Fletcher (8-0) vs Leonardo Damiani (10-2-1)
Fighting out of Lafayette, LA is the 24-year-old AJ Fletcher. Seven of his eight pro victories came via finish and he’s already competed twice this year. Recently, “The Ghost” has been training with none other than Dustin Poirier. Fletcher may have the highest ceiling of anyone on the first episode.
Italy’s Damiani is seven years the elder of his opponent. “Puppy” gets his training done at Underdog Combat Sports, East Side MMA, and Aurora MMA — all located in Italy. Both of his pro defeats have come via submission, but he has several submission wins to his name as well.
It’s hard not to be impressed with Fletcher’s kickboxing. He has really tight hands and his head kick is almost impossible to see coming with the way he sets it up. Despite being somewhat prone to submission, Damiani will initiate grappling in this fight. The clinch is where the Italian will have a distinct edge in this one.
Who’s ready for season five on Dana White’s Contender Series? Leave your predictions in the comment section!
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