Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series was fantastic, yet again. It was a night filled with incredible highlights, engaging back-and-forth fights and hilarious commentary from Snoop Dogg and Urijah Faber. However, after it was all said and done at Contender Series 7, it’s hard not to feel as though that Dana White and the UFC awarded contracts to the wrong fighters this time around.
Dana White’s Contender Series 7 Results
- Kennedy Nzechukwu def. Anton Berzin via split decision
- Benito Lopez* def. Steven Peterson via split decision
- Joby Sanchez* def. JP Buys via KO/TKO (ground and pound) - Round 2, 2:28
- Mike Santiago def. Mark Cherico via KO/TKO (punches) - Round 1, 2:59
- Jordan Espinosa def. Nick Urso via submission (D'Arce choke) - Round 1, 1:23
* fighters awarded a contract with the UFC
After failing to earn a contract with the UFC despite an impressive performance at Contender Series 1, Joby Sanchez commented: "Winning isn't good enough, you need to go out there and be phenomenal".
Much like the first fight, Sanchez was backed up against a wall in the first round. 21-year-old JB Buys lifted Sanchez and crushed his head into the floor in a move that closely resembled a German suplex. Sanchez managed to stay composed but ended up being forced to fight off Buys for the remainder of the round after Buys had taken the 'backpack' position.
By the second round, inexperience kicked in and Buys shot for a single-leg takedown before ending up in butterfly guard. Sanchez sliced through Buys' guard before advancing into an arm-triangle attempt. Sanchez used the submission to move into full mount, leaving Buys with no other option but to give up his back. Sanchez flattened Buys out before a barrage of heavy shots forced referee Mark Smith to call an end to the contest.
While Joby Sanchez didn't look 'phenomenal', he is a highly-skilled fighter with incredible composure and heart and he has now overcome two challenging tests in the Contender Series. Once Sanchez gets going, he could be a difficult task for many of the UFC's flyweights. However, most of the UFC's current flyweight roster start the fight with a furious pace. Sanchez needs to improve his initial minutes in the cage if he wants to stand a chance at cracking the UFC's flyweight rankings.
We expected Benito Lopez to be the standout performer at Contender Series 7. While, on an individual scale, he might not have been the most impressive fighter of the night, he was an integral part of one of the best fights that Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series has seen in its short lifetime.
Peterson has been finished just once in his career, so it was always going to be a tough task for Lopez to finish the fight before the fifteen minutes were up, but he came very, very close to finishing the insanely durable Steven Peterson. Lopez pulled out all of his usual weapons, including his patented flying knee and counter right hand punches. He tagged Peterson with hard shots all through round one and busted his face up so badly that Snoop Dogg referred to Peterson as 'spaghetti mouth'.
Lopez's counter striking is definitely UFC ready, but what about the rest of his game? Lopez was trapped underneath the heavy top pressure of Steven Peterson for three minutes in round two and was unable to find a path back to his feet.
Now 8-0 after defeating Peterson, Lopez enters the UFC with plenty of upside, especially when considering he is training out of Team Alpha Male.
A matchup with UFC bantamweight Andre Soukhamthath makes plenty of sense. Soukhamthath has lost two consecutive split decisions since entering the UFC in March and would put it all on the line against Lopez.
Did the UFC make the right call?
Not this time.
Jordan Espinosa stunned everybody when he finished Nick Uro inside 90 seconds. Espinosa floated around the cage (and took one of Urso's best shots), before dropping Urso to the mat and putting him to sleep with a D'Arce choke. It marked Espinosa's seventh first round finish and moved him to 11-5. Espinosa is explosive, talented and very exciting; he should have been awarded a contract.
In what seemed like moments after Espinosa finished Urso, Mike Santiago finished Mark Cherico with punches in just under three minutes. Santiago nearly snapped Cherico's head off his shoulders with an incredible uppercut before the fight was called over.
Santiago exemplifies how a mixed martial artist can rejuvenate their career. After reaching a record of 10-9, many fighters would call an end to their career and focus on other areas of their life. Santiago, however, recognized his weaknesses and changed his approach to training in a move that has led to his now 11-fight win streak. Santiago is on the rise and should expect a call to the UFC very soon.
Who do you think should have been awarded UFC contracts after Contender Series 7? Leave a comment below.
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