What better way to start our week off with another week of competitors challenging for that forever dreamed of UFC contract. Dana White’s Contender Series has been a proven ticket to the big leagues, and the boss himself has been generous so far. Let’s take a look at the scheduled bouts.
Tafon Nchukwi v Al Matavao
Headlining the card at the UFC Apex is 25-year old Cameroon born Tafon Nchukwi and Al Matavao.
Tafon Nchukwi (3-0) comes into the Contender Series HOT! The African turned professional in 2019 after a short three fights in the amateur circuit. Last year saw Nchukwi compete three times, successfully winning all three bouts via KO. Tuesday night will mark the first outing of Nchukwi after defeating William Knight in November of 2019. The heavy hitter will fancy his chances after seeing a man he beat in Knight being awarded a contract last week.
Al Matavao (8-2) slightly edges experience going into this one. Making his professional debut in 2015, he will now feel the times right for a crack on the biggest stage. The last three years have seen Matavao on an impressive run of form capturing four back-to-back wins. Offering a 63% KO ratio, Matavao is well capable of causing Nchukwi issues inside the octagon.
Cameron Church v Sherrard Blackledge
This next Lightweight matchup between Cameron Church and Sherrard Blackedge has the potential to be fireworks. Both competitors share the exact same undefeated record and stylistically match up perfectly.
Cameron Church (4-0) is a man to be feared when that cage shuts. Church is not an individual who likes to leave his fights in the hands of the judges. From the amateur circuit to the professional ranks the 29-year old has finished all 9 of his bouts. It’s easy to see why Dana is giving Church a chance. An accomplished finisher on the feet and his submission ability is a threat at all times.
Sherrard Blackledge (4-0) nicknamed ‘The Thriller‘ for a reason. Fighting out of Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas, Blackledge has demonstrated his potential in his last four contests. The American native has proved he has the punching power to end fights, more importantly, the gas tank to match. The Thriller has two unanimous decision wins on his record so, throwing down until the final bell is no issue.
Phil Hawes v Khadzhimurat Bestaev
This next matchup between Phil Hawes and Khadzhimurat Bestaev has all the potential to be fight of the night. Two experienced guys that are willing to trade and finish fights.
Phil Hawes (7-2) may be a name you’re already familiar with. The wrestler was first on the UFC’S radar on The Ultimate Fighter Season 23 when dropping a unanimous decision loss to Andrew Sanchez. A year later returned to compete on ‘Dana White’s Contender Series’ falling short to a head kick KO by Julian Marquez. Since then Hawes has won and finished three consecutive bouts on Bellator and Brave FC.
Khadzhimurat Bestaev (10-3) enters the matchup on a two-fight win streak. Bestaev brings a spectacular resume to the table. From the 10 professional wins, 8 of those have come in the first round. Bestaev has the ability to finish the fight wherever it goes. Crazy power in his hands, legs, and incredible submission skills. A 40% KO ratio, 60% submission rate. I can’t see this going the distance.
Leomana Martinez v Drako Rodriguez
Next, we turn our attention to the youth of our sport, the prospects, and the fast and fiery Bantamweights. These two match up so well, are so similar and always bring the heat.
Mana Martinez (6-1) has definitely earned his shot at a UFC contract. At 24-years of age, has shown he has the potential to be a star. He enters the bout presenting an unbelievable 100% finish rate to Dana White. All 6 professional wins have come by KO and in spectacular fashion. Martinez has shown his toughness and durability in previous bouts. The 1 loss on his record came via split decision so, I think we have a real prospect on our hands.
Drako Rodriguez (6-1) currently riding a two-fight win streak looks to impressive Dana White by adding to his list of R1 finishes. Like Martinez, Rodriguez can finish fights just as easy and has shown that in his first four pro bouts. Rodriguez also brings in a heavily experienced amateur career behind him with a catalogue full of finishes. If you ask me who wins this one, the fans do.
Aliaskhab Khizriev v Henrique Shiguemoto
The first fight of the night will most definitely set the tone of the night. Two men who enter the octagon on great win streaks.
Aliaskhab Khizriev (12-0) is yet to taste defeat in his professional career. Khizriev throughout his career has really shown that he can do it all. The Russian can knock opponents out, submit them, and goes the distance comfortably. All of his finishes have come in round 1. The 30-year old has been out of action since 2018, so it will be interesting to see if ring rust plays a factor.
Henrique Shiguemoto (13-3-1) has been on a spectacular run since 2014. The Japanese prospect is currently riding an 8-fight winning streak, the last 7 have been stoppages. His quickness, explosiveness, and knockout power makes this bout exciting. Shiguemeto is one year older than Khizriev and has recently been competing once every year.
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