Tuesday night is quickly becoming my favourite night of the week. Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series 4 was jam-packed full of back-and-forth combat. Dana White has hit the jackpot with the Contender Series. The ten fighters that make up the five fights are all desperately fighting for a spot in the world’s greatest mixed martial arts organisation. Just winning doesn’t cut it here. A fighter needs to impress Dana White, Mick Maynard and Sean Shelby – it’s almost a harder task than the fight itself. As a result, though, we are almost guaranteed very entertaining and intriguing matchups between up-and-coming mixed martial artists.
Dana White’s Contender Series 4 Results
Julian Marquez* def. Phil Hawes via KO (head kick) – Round 2, 2:20
Kyler Phillips def. James Gray via TKO (ground and pound) – Round 1, 0:46
Carlos Candelario def. Ronaldo Candido via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Brandon Davis* def. Austin Arnett via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 29-28)
John Castaneda def. Cheyden Leialoha via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
* fighters awarded a contract with the UFC
This fight was supposed to be Phil Hawes ticket to the UFC, but Julian Marquez had other ideas.
Julian Marquez entered this fight against the highly touted Jackson Wink MMA prospect Phil Hawes as a slight underdog. Hawes had previously featured on The Ultimate Fighter Season 23 but didn't even make it past the elimination round after he fell short to eventual winner Andrew Sanchez. Even back then, Hawes brought unparalleled levels of hype with him to the TUF gym that night.
Through the first minutes of Marquez vs Hawes, it looked as though the hype was warranted as Hawes' suffocating pressure helped to wrestle Marquez to the ground continually. Now, let's begin by saying that Marquez isn't technically sound in almost any way. On the ground, he seemingly had no idea how to escape the half guard position and looked to have never used an underhook in his life. It is Marquez's pure brute strength and athleticism that would help him back to his feet over and over. It was an impressive display of power, particularly against a physical specimen like Hawes.
Hawes was quickly running out of answers for his stronger opponent. Marquez inflicted massive damage at the round two, landing a series of vicious punches to the chin of Hawes. The Jackson Wink prospect was severely hurt and struggling to get back to his feet. Marquez gave him some room to stand and then mercilessly swung a kick into the face of Phil Hawes that left him unconscious as he crashed into the mat.
Marquez's athleticism, heart and power will be a problem for many of the UFC middleweight's out there, but until he develops some of the more technical aspects of his game, he may be left watching on the outside of the UFC's top 15.
Much like Julian Marquez, Brandon Davis entered this fight against Austin Arnett as a betting underdog. Once again, odds don't matter in Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series because these guys are fighting for their career. Emotions are high and anything can happen.
Davis vs Arnett was mostly back-and-forth for the entire fifteen minutes of fighting. In fact, it was so strangely competitive that, despite being a unanimous decision, all three judges had different scorecards (30-27, 30-26, 29-28). A 30-26 scorecard is somewhat disrespectful to Arnett because this wasn't an easy fight for Davis. Davis narrowly escaped an arm-in guillotine in round two and took four continuing massive right hands from Arnett in the first round. I had scored this one 29-28 in favour of Brandon Davis who came on to win the second and third round in a big way.
Brandon Davis fights with a blend of Muay Thai striking and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu which seems to be becoming the standard for entering mixed martial arts in the modern era. Davis' Muay Thai experience was the key to defeating Arnett in this contest. When Arnett attempted to kick Davis and use his karate style combat, Davis would catch his kicks and return with vicious kicks of his own to the leg or body of Arnett.
Davis looks UFC ready. He brings the heat and isn't afraid to stand in the pocket or stand at range and pepper his opponent with loaded strikes. On the mat, he's comfortable too. Davis enters the UFC with humungous 'Fight of the Night' potential after being involved in what is one of my favourite fights of 2017 with Austin Arnett.
Contender Series 4: Power Rankings
You've seen the verdict from the 'big men' of the UFC and now it's my turn. Every week, I'll rank my top five fighters from the Contender Series and detail who I would have signed to the promotion.
- Brandon Davis
The UFC got it right. Brandon Davis was the most deserving fighter of the bunch at Contender Series 4.
- Julian Marquez
Marquez isn't amazingly skilled, but he is amazing to watch. He's going to be in the running for 'Fight of the Night' awards whenever he enters the octagon.
- Carlos Candelario
It was always going to be hard for Carlos Candelario to stand out in a matchup with renowned grappler Ronaldo Candido. He was unlucky to miss out on a contract at Contender Series 4, though. Candelario took all the best that Ronaldo had to offer and ended up defeating him in what was mostly a grappling contest. He'll find his way into the UFC sooner or later. The UFC needs good flyweights and we just saw a Golden Gloves boxer not only stop a jiu-jitsu great, but beat him up on the mat at times, as well.
- Kyler Phillips
Oh, Kyler Phillips is unlucky. He scored the quickest finish of the night at Contender Series 4, but there's almost this weird outcome of finishing someone so early. If you finish your opponent fast, you don't get that chance to 'overcome the odds' in the fight like Brandon Davis and Julian Marquez did. Instead, like the case at Contender Series 4, we didn't get to see much of Phillips' capabilities. Add the fact that the stoppage was just plain weird, as well, and it looks like Phillips is going to need another chance to show his stuff for the UFC.
- Austin Arnett
Despite being on the losing end of the fight with Brandon Davis, Austin Arnett really stood out. He featured in what was easily the best fight of the night and will surely be on the radar for a future call-up to the UFC after his relentless attack on Brandon Davis. Keep an eye on the right hand of Arnett in the future, it reminded me of the precision and power of Conor McGregor's left hand - I'm serious.
You can watch Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series every Tuesday on UFC Fight Pass. If you’re up for something a little different make sure to try out the well-received ‘Snoopcast’ feature. ‘Snoopcast’ is an alternative audio and visual experience that allows you to watch the event with commentary provided by Snoop Dogg and recently admitted Hall-of-Famer Urijah Faber.
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