It’s that time of year again.
Dana White’s “Contender Series” returns to the ESPN+ airwaves tonight (Tues., Aug. 31, 2021) for a fifth season, starting with a largely international cast of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hopefuls.
The Light Heavyweight main event pits undefeated Brave CF champion Azamat Murzakanov (9-0) against Brazil’s Matheus Scheffel (14-6), who claimed Future FC gold in his most recent effort. Down at Featherweight, Diego Lopes (19-3) steps up on short notice to put his seven-fight winning streak on the line against Joanderson Brito (11-2-1). LFA Flyweight champ Victor Altamirano (9-1) will be also in action against late replacement Carlos Candelario (8-0), while Mississippi’s A.J. Fletcher (8-0) faces Italy’s Leonardo Damiani (10-2-1)
The event previously saw Lukasz Brzeski meet Dylan Potter in the opener, but the bout got rescheduled over the weekend.
‘Contender Series’ Quick Results:
Azamat Murzakanov vs. Matheus Scheffel — Murzakanov def. Scheffel by TKO (punches) at 3:00 of Round One
Diego Lopes vs. Joanderson Brito — Brito def. Lopes by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
Victor Altamirano vs. Carlos Candelario — Altamirano def. Candelario by split decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
A.J. Fletcher vs. Leonardo Damiani — Fletcher def. Damiani by KO (flying knee) at 2:24 of Round One
‘Contender Series’ Play-By-Play Results:
205 lbs.: Azamat Murzakanov vs. Matheus Scheffel
Round one: Scheffel nearly catches Murzakanov leaning with a knee. Lead left from the Russian. One minute in. Scheffel tries a head kick. Murzakanov overhand left just misses. Counter body kick from Scheffel, eats one in return. Overhand left connects for Murzakanov. Scheffel low kick. Murzakanov explodes in with a two-piece, then just demolishes Scheffel with a brutal right hook. Scheffel wakes up just in time for Murzakanov to batter him back into semi-consciousness.
Final result: Murzakanov def. Scheffel by TKO (punches)
145 lbs.: Diego Lopes vs. Joanderson Brito
Round one: Brito scores a takedown on the fence within about 10 seconds. Lopez trying to get something going off of his back. One minute in. Now some hard punches from Brito. Two minutes in. Lopes turns for an armbar. Brito stacking him. Lopes trying to break the grip. Two minutes to go.
Lopes warned for putting his feet in the cage. He tries to extend, but Brito pulls his arm out and drops a hard right hand. Brito avoids an omoplata, lands another right, then lets him up. Lopes cracks him with a pair of right hands. Jabs from Brito, body shot. One minute to go. Hard low kicks from Brito as they trade jabs. Monster left hook as well. Continuing to trade heat. Clean left hook from Brito as he marches forward into the clinch. They trade on the break. 10-9 Brito.
Round two: Stiff jab from Brito to start. Warned for sticking his fingers out, immediately does it again and gets a hard warning. Both swing big when they resume. Hard 3-2 by Lopes, who wraps up a guillotine as Brito shoots in. Impressive defense by Brito to slip out. On top in guard. Huge elbow that Lopes somehow absorbs. Heavy postured punches by Brito. Lopes rolls for a leg, then transitions to the front headlock. He rolls on an anaconda choke, loses it, gets taken down again. Two minutes to go.
Another heavy ground shot by Brito. Lopes briefly considers a straight armbar. He’s active off of his back but Brito’s sneaking in some hard shots. One minute to go. Kneebar attempt from Lopes. Brito poses to show he’s not in danger. 10-9 Brito.
Round three: Lopes takes a finger in the eye right as the round starts and looks like he’s in real pain. He wants to continue, but he can’t see. The ref takes a point from Brito and we go to the scorecards; that’d be 10-9 Lopes, then. I don’t like 10-10s but there’s really no way around this one.
Final result: Brito def. Lopes by unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Victor Altamirano vs. Carlos Candelario
Round one: Altamirano tries an early wheel kick, trading inside at center cage. Candelario firing head kicks, then goes form a slick single-leg to a double-leg. On top in half guard against the fence. He postures up for some heavy punches a minute in. Altamirano threatens a leglock, then sweeps back to the feet. They separate. Low kick from Altamirano. Left hand upstairs. Candelario tries a 1-2, lands a knee to the body. Altamirano to the body. Two minutes in. 1-2s by Candelario fall just short. Leg kick exchange. Another single-leg by Candelario into half guard. Altamirano again threatens a leglock, then gets to his knees and stands after getting a bit of space. Body kick and 1-2 by Candelario. Good body kick and right hook. Candelario answers another kick with a counter left and takes him down into guard, avoiding a guillotine with two minutes to go.
Solid punches from Candelario. Good elbow with a minute to go. Altamirano throwing off of his back. Candelario continues to work until the bell. 10-9 Candelario.
Round two: Counter lefts landing for Candelario. Altamirano goes to the body. They trade body kicks. Candelario 1-2, Altamirano knees inside. Candelario tries a double-leg, stuffed a minute in. Long straight left connects. Another unsuccessful level change. Altamirano lands well on the break. Left to the body. Candelario cracks him with a straight left and shoots a double. It takes some effort, but he completes it into guard two minutes in. Trading strikes on the ground. Altamirano hunting for armbars, stymied by the fence. Two minutes to go.
Altamirano scrambles to his feet and they separate. Overhand left lands for him, low kick behind it. Candelario fires a knee downstairs. Counter left. One minute to go. Altamirano shoots behind a leg kick and puts him on the fence. He tries a head kick on the break. Candelario shoots, denied. He’s looking like he’s wearing down and Altamirano hits a throw before the bell 10-9 Candelario on the early efforts.
Round three: Altamirano stuffs an early shot. Landing well in the center. Candelario to the body, takes a combo in return. Swatting left a minute in. Good left hand from Altamirano. He hauls Candelario to the fence. Good left hands to the body when they resume. Sneaky uppercut, jab, low kick. Again Altamirano goes to the body. Two minutes in. Punching exchange, still favoring Altamirano. Hard teep, walks into a counter left. Front kick attempt, knee to the body. More good body work into the clinch. Two minutes to go.
Altamirano continuing to press forward, trips Candelario down and jumps on his back. The angle’s not good and Candelario escapes to the feet. He shoots, denied. Altamirano puts him on the fence, lands good elbows with a minute to go. They separate/ There’s a successful single-leg from Candelario, who jumps on a guillotine as Altamirano scrambles up. 10-9 Altamirano; think Candelario’s got this but the second was close.
Final result: Altamirano def. Candelario by split decision
170 lbs.: A.J. Fletcher vs. Leonardo Damiani
Round one: Early counter hook from Damiani, who eats a low kick in return. Counter right this time, again a low kick in return. Fletcher sneaks in a right cross. Damiani’s really not liking the low kicks. He marches in with haymakers and gets taken down near the fence a minute in. Fletcher lands a knee on the way up. They separate. Damiani low kick, stuffs a takedown two minutes in. He tries a head kick, eats a leg kick. Fletcher tries a spinning back kick, then annihilates the Italian with a flying knee against the fence.
Final result: Fletcher def. Damiani by KO (flying knee)
For more “Contender Series” news and notes, be sure to hit up our comprehensive archive right here.