Week four of this year’s Dana White’s Contender Series comes in the form of a five-fight slate. Unbeaten middleweights Hashem Arkhagha and AJ Dobson are set to headline the card.
The first three weeks of this year’s Contender Series have been historic in regard to how many contracts have already been given out (15). The show’s current season is on pace to shatter the inaugural season’s record of 16 awarded contracts.
Let’s take a look at the 10 fighters who will be gunning for contracts on this week’s edition of DWCS. Below are previews and predictions of each bout:
Hashem Arkhagha (6-0) vs AJ Dobson (5-0, 1 NC)
Both of these middleweights are bona fie finish hunters. Jordan’s Arkhagha owns a 100 percent finish rate, while Dobson flaunts four finishes in under two minutes.
Arkhagha turned 32 just over a week ago and he’s been fighting professionally since 2010. He went over six years without competing from Dec. 2012 to April 2019, but since returning to action Arkhagha has scored two opening round stoppages. Recently, he’s gotten work in at Team Nogueira Dubai alongside UFC welterweight Mounir Lazzez.
Dobson hails from Ohio, training at Immortal MMA Center as well as Westside Barbell Speed & Strength Development. The 29-year-old most recently secured a TKO victory last November that took just over 30 seconds. He’s a very fast starter who seems to surprise opponents with his power.
This fight is slotted as the headliner because it has finish, and therefore contract, written all over it. These guys both have one-punch finishing ability and it’s likely they’ll duke it out almost entirely on the feet. Arkhagha has withstood more adversity inside the cage, notably early on against Ibrahim Sawi. Moreover, if it goes to the mat, I give him a slight advantage.
Prediction: Hashem Arkhagha by stoppage. Contract awarded.
Michael Morales (11-0) vs Nikolay Veretennikov (9-3)
It’s difficult to say which of these two welterweights is more on fire lately. On one hand, Morales has racked up 11 consecutive wins in just over four years. On the other hand, Veretennikov has recorded eight straight wins after losing three of his first four pro fights.
Ecuador’s Morales turned pro two months after his 17th birthday. Now 21, he’s spent the last few years training in Tijuana, Mexico at Entram Jiu-Jitsu MMA. What’s exceptionally impressive is the fact he’s finished all but one of his foes. Morales has a good frame for the weight class as well, standing a few inches over six feet.
Kazakhstan’s Veretennikov just about matches his opponent in height while also matching him in momentum. That’s because over the last five years the 31-year-old has dominated the competition at Fury FC and LFA. In his previous outing, he stopped former UFC competitor Anthony Ivy in the first round. Credit his improvement to the work being conducted at Kings MMA.
Of the two, Morales is far more content fighting at range, creating a kickboxing-type match. He’s very adept at utilizing his length. Meanwhile, Veretennikov enjoys pressuring forward, really getting in the face of opponents. The pedigree of competition faced by Veretennikov sets him apart here. I see him earning his third victory of 2021 on Tuesday.
Prediction: Nikolay Veretennikov by stoppage. Contract awarded.
Steven Nguyen (7-1) vs Theo Rlayang (5-0)
Featherweights clash for contracts in the third fight of the night. Nguyen makes his second appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series as he takes on Rlayang who tallied five victories from Feb. 2020 to Feb. 2021.
Kansas’s Nguyen suffered his first and only pro defeat on DWCS in 2019. After taking last year off, the Fortis MMA product returned earlier this year with a knockout in the opening seconds of his LFA 100 bout. The 28-year-old carries a well-rounded skill set with him into the cage.
North Carolina’s Rlayang hasn’t looked back or hit any speedbumps since turning pro in early 2020. The only aspect in question pertaining to his resume is that he’s only faced one opponent with a winning record. Still, he’s getting better with each outing, especially considering he’s spent time training at Sanford MMA, AKA, amongst other premier gyms.
Rlayang’s ability to switch stances while still feinting at a high level is quite impressive. Additionally, he throws sneaky head kicks out of both stances. Nguyen’s most lethal weapon is his straight right hand, which he can sleep people with. Experience is really going to come into play in this fight and that leans fairly heavily towards the fighter repping the Vietnamese flag.
Prediction: Steven Nguyen by stoppage. Contract awarded.
Kleydson Rodrigues (6-1) vs Santo Curatolo (6-1)
This fight contains a pair of flyweights with finishing power, who doesn’t love that? Rodrigues will be returning from a two-year layoff to face CFFC veteran Curatolo.
Brazil’s Rodrigues enters Dana White’s Contender Series having won his previous five fights. Yet, he hasn’t competed in some time. Although he was incredibly impressive in his last outing — as he dropped his opponent with a spinning elbow en route to choking him out.
New Jersey’s Curatolo has a 100 percent finish rate, accumulating highlight after highlight. All of his pro bouts have come under the CFFC banner, which includes a victory just over a month ago. The Nick Catone MMA & Fitness product stands just 5’3″, but he packs a punch.
Both young and both talented, this might be the toughest pick of all five contests. Rodrigues is taller, longer, and he probably has the edge on the ground. It should be a back and forth affair that makes Dana White question whether or not to award both fighters contracts.
Prediction: Kleydson Rodrigues by decision. Contracts awarded.
Jacob Rosales (13-6) vs Victor Martinez (12-4)
Rosales returns to Dana White’s Contender Series after falling short in his first attempt. He takes on Martinez, who’s currently riding a six-fight winning streak.
California’s Rosales has gone 2-1 since his DWCS defeat in 2019. The 26-year-old has a perfect 3-0 record for Bellator and the CSW Training Center affiliate has a handful of wins at LFA.
Texas’s Martinez shares similarities with a couple of the aforementioned fighters as he hasn’t competed since 2019. The 30-year-old was scheduled to face Tucker Lutz on the Contender Series last year, but he was forced to withdraw. Martinez owns a black belt in BJJ.
Rosales has incredibly fast hands and he’s precise with them as well. It’ll be in Martinez’s best interest to try and take this fight to the ground and enforce his BJJ. However, Rosales has solid wrestling defense so it won’t be an easy task. The better striker takes this one.
Prediction: Jacob Rosales by decision. No contract awarded.
Week four of Dana White’s Contender Series is live on Tuesday, Sept. 21 from the UFC APEX. Don’t miss it!
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