A successful night under the lights saw Dana White award the first contract ever to a fighter who didn’t come away victorious in the fight. Carlos Candelario was on the losing end of a split decision. White felt Candelario was the winner of the first and second rounds. With the judges favoring LFA Flyweight Champion Victor Altamirano, White felt it was right to award both fighters a contract.
AJ Fletcher and Azamat Murzakanov earned their contracts in stunning fashion with knockouts of the highest quality. A flying knee saw Fletcher finish Leonardo Damiani inside the first round. A ruthless right hook and ground strikes were enough for Murzakanov to find the eighth first-round finish of his undefeated career over Matheus Scheffel.
Joanderson Brito earned his contract under unfortunate circumstances, with an eye-poke leaving Diego Lopes unable to continue. With the fight 12 seconds into the third round, Brito won via technical decision, even with the loss of a point. Except for the eye-pokes, it was a classy and professional performance from Brito, White seemed to be a big fan. Now, they have their UFC contracts, it’s time to see who’d be the best match-up for the newbies on the roster.
Matchmaking for the UFC Newboys
The Russian displayed his powerful striking on Tuesday night when he put in a fine display over Scheffel. Murzakanov is a fast-starter, who targets his opponent with his outstanding left hand. He showed off his attributes to find the finish inside the first three minutes, leaving White with an easy decision to award him a contract.
It could be a case of who wants to come up against the undefeated Murzakanov, after seeing the damage he does to his opponents. White explained he could possibly cut some weight and make the move to middleweight, but with all ten of his fights being at 205 pounds, it’s more than likely he’ll start there.
At 34-years-old, Murzakanov doesn’t have all the time in the world, so I’m sure he’ll be in the octagon as soon as possible. A veteran in MMA, who has made the walk 42 times in his career, Maxim Grishin could be a huge possibility for his first opponent. Grishin recently lost to Dustin Jacoby via unanimous decision In February. As he gets into the latter years of his career, he will want to be back fighting soon. The fellow Russian is a powerful knockout artist, with 16 TKO/KO’s in his 31 wins, and Grishin holds a significant height difference over Murzakanov.
Other possibilities could see Marcin Prachnio back in the octagon after his win over Ike Villaneuva in June, and there’s no reason why Villaneuva couldn’t be his first opponent, with the American desperate to find his second win in the promotion.
An eye-poke from Brito may have dampened his performance, but he’s still reached his goal of joining the UFC after his technical decision victory over Lopes. Brito was dominant in the mount position in the first two rounds, hammering him with elbows and punches. Lopes put up a heroic performance, twisting and turning to try to find the submission on occasions.
The featherweight division is stacked right now, and Brito could have a list of fighters running through his mind. “Tubarao” is on a 12-fight unbeaten streak, and he looks like he will be dangerous for anyone with his striking and wrestling.
Numerous names pop to the head, but after an impressive performance recently, Austin Lingo would be a real matchmaker. The American was inches away from his first finish in the promotion, after knocking down Luis Saldana with a minute left. Lingo has a strong takedown defense, fighting off many of Saldana’s attempts. Brito is only two years older than Lingo, who is only 24 years old.
“El Magnifico” indeed. Altamirano finally has a contract with the UFC due to years of impressive victories in LFA and a win over Candelario. The Mexican got his opportunity to fight on the Contender Series after becoming the LFA Flyweight Champion back in February.
As usual, it was a classy performance on the feet for Altamirano, but he struggled to handle the takedowns from Candelario. The fight was originally called out as a unanimous decision, but in fact, Altamirano was victorious via split decision, in an extremely close affair.
There’s one opponent, who would be brilliant to see in the octagon with Altamirano. If he stays at flyweight, after his huge drop from featherweight, Ode’ Osbourne. After being knocked out by Manel Kape in the first round, Osbourne will want to come back with a bang. His impressive striking and submission skills may potentially be a perfect matchup for Altamirano.
As stated before, Candelario becomes the first contender to be awarded a contract after losing the fight. White felt Canedlario won the first and second round, as did many others out there. With the American victorious in his first time on the Contender Series in 2017, White felt he deserved that place in the UFC.
Despite the result, Candelario should be pleased with his performance, with his takedown plan executed on several occasions. The 30-year-old has nine fights under his belt, a possible MMA veteran would match with him nicely for his UFC debut.
Tyson Nam, the Hawaiian powerhouse, would be an opportunity for Candelario to walk straight into the deep end. Nam fought back in January, losing via split decision in a close contest with Matt Schnell on his move back down from featherweight. A win for Candelario over one of the most experienced and in fact joint-oldest fighters in the division would be a fantastic start in his shot at the big time.
24 years old, the age of rising star AJ Fletcher, who grasped the opportunity of a UFC contract by producing the knockout of his career. A knee to the face of Damiani was enough to send the Italian to sleep. Fletcher has already fought three times this year, so there’s no doubt he’ll want to be in those venom shorts as soon as possible.
A good possibility could be either of the Cosce brothers, two prospects who fell to the worst possible starts in the UFC. Louis and Orion Cosce were both finished in their UFC debuts, after being signed from the Contender Series in 2020. The possibility of an all-out brawl on the feet with Fletcher and one of the Cosce brothers is something we wouldn’t want to miss.
Who were you most impressed with within week one of the Contender Series? Let us know in the comments below!
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