Season 5 of Dana White’s “Contender Series” has already sent more than one-dozen hopefuls to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and shows no signs of slowing down as it heads into its fourth episode tonight (Tues., Sept. 21, 2021) on ESPN+ (watch it here).
An extra-sized event produced another five contracts last week. Jailton Almeida, Albert Duraev and Lukasz Brzeski all ended things inside the distance, and though Jack Della Maddalena and Jasmine Jasudavicius needed the judges, they impressed enough to step into the Octagon.
Undefeated Middleweights take center stage this week when Jordan’s Hashem Arkhagha (6-0) squares off with A.J. Dobson, while Welterweight Michael Morales (11-0) looks to follow in the footsteps of Venezuelan countryman Omar Morales in his co-feature against Fury FC champ Nikolay Veretennikov (9-3). Earlier in the evening, series veteran Steven Nguyen (7-1) returns against Theo Rlayang (5-0), Jungle Fight Flyweight champion Kleydson Rodrigues (6-1) meets former Cage Fury titlist Santos Curatolo (6-1), and Jacob Rosales (13-6) makes his second appearance on the program opposite Victor Martinez (12-4).
‘Contender Series’ Quick Results:
Hashem Arkhagha vs. AJ Dobson — Dobson def. Arkhagha by submission (rear naked choke) at 4:21 of Round One
Michael Morales vs. Nikolay Veretennikov — Morales def. Veretennikov by unanimous decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Steven Nguyen vs. Theo Rlayang — Nguyen def. Rlayang by unanimous decision (29-27 x2, 30-26)
Kleydson Rodrigues vs. Santo Curatolo — Rodrigues def. Curatolo by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Jacob Rosales vs. Victor Martinez — Martinez def. Rosales by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
‘Contender Series’ Play-By-Play Results:
185 lbs.: Hashem Arkhagha vs. AJ Dobson
Round one: They open the round slugging. Brief clinch, then back to the huge exchanges. A flurry from Dobson sends Arkhagha to the mat and he follows him down. Arkhagha briefly considers an armbar a minute in. Dobson passes to side control off a whiffed punch. Two minutes in. Back to full guard with some big punches. Arkhagha manages to get to his feet but Dobson swarms with some more heavy punches. Two minutes to go.
Brutal overhand right from Dobson. Arkhagha tries to swing back and gets dragged to his knees. More punches from Dobson. One minute to go. Looking for the no-hooks RNC and there’s the tap.
Final result: Dobson def. Arkhagha by submission (rear naked choke)
170 lbs.: Michael Morales vs. Nikolay Veretennikov
Round one: Left hook from Veretennikov. Morales comes back with a combination. Veretennikov pushing forward, eats a body kick. One minute in. They trade low kicks. Morales falling short with right hands. Morales grabs a body lock and takes him to the fence. Two minutes in. Veretennikov spins free and separates. Right cross lands for him, avoids a right hand in return. Morales lands a low kick with two minutes to go.
Right cross from Morales, eats a leg kick and body kick before taking a finger in the eye. Good 1-2 from Veretennikov prompts a takedown attempt. Left hook lands on the exit. Morales tries a Superman punch with a minute to go. Veretennikov looks for a head kick. Counter 2-3. Morales loading up on right hands but not connecting. Veretennikov body kick. 10-9 Veretennikov.
Round two: Morales kicks off the cage for a Superman punch. Low kicks landing. Clean jab from Veretennikov, who’s marching forward. Morales shoots and spins him down into guard. Staying heavy, not landing much. Two minutes in. Veretennikov holding off of his back. Now Morales postures up for some hard right hands. Looking for the back, gets the body lock. Nice trip into side control. Two minutes to go.
Veretennikov works his way up and separates. Hard combination from Morales, who denies a level change. Stalking forward and throwing with a minute to go. Veretennikov goes for a tired-looking double-leg that gets sprawled on. Morales punching from the rear waist lock. Veretennikov manages to survive. 10-9 Morales.
Round three: Morales landing jabs, eats a 1-2. Heavy blitz. They trade left hooks. Morales goes for a counter Superman punch. Veretennikov to the body. One minute in. Hard right hook lands for Morales. Veretennikov definitely looks like he’s fading, though he does land a hook. Morales digs a body shot and shoots two minutes in. Veretennikov counters into top position and avoids an armbar before settling in guard. Side control, landing knees to the body. Morales turns to his knees with two minutes to go.
Morales tries to land ground-and-pound against the fence, only for Veretennikov to shoot in. Morales sprawling hard. One minute to go. They pause to put Morales’ mouthpiece back in. Good scramble. Morales sits through for a nice takedown into full guard. Elbow up top. High-amplitude suplex at the bell. 10-9 Morales.
Final result: Morales def. Veretennikov by unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Steven Nguyen vs. Theo Rlayang
Round one: Nguyen takes the center. Low kick from Rlayang, who eats a right cross. Nguyen body kick. Both land low kicks. One minute in. Nguyen continuing to stalk forward, lands a sharp counter right and a body kick. Rlayang digs a right downstairs. Left hook from Nguyen in return, eats a hard leg kick. Two minutes in. Rlayang unsuccessful with the single leg but lands a body kick. Low kick from Nguyen answered in kind. They trade body kicks. Two minutes to go.
Rlayang abandons a level change. Counter right by Nguyen. Counter hook soon after to answer a leg kick. Rlayang shoots, denied. Low kick exchange. One minute to go. Nguyen with a slapping left and a 1-2. Hard leg kick from Rlayang. Long right cross lands for Nguyen, who blocks a switch kick. 10-9 Nguyen.
Round two: Trading low kicks to start. Rlayang hits a single-leg but can’t establish. Nguyen continuing to pursue, lands a left hook. He’s pressuring but not throwing a ton. There’s a right cross a minute in that stings Rlayang. Hard combination behind it but Nguyen backs off. Left hook lands. Rlayang tries a head kick. 3-2 from Nguyen. Hard right cross two minutes in. Low kick from Rlayang met by a 2-3. 1-1-2 from Nguyen. Rlayang with a nice reactive shot into half guard. Nguyen immediately sweeps into top position. Two minutes to go.
Nguyen lets him up against the fence. Low kicks from Rlayang. One minute to go. Body kick connects. Nguyen just doesn’t seem in a hurry to try and finish. 1-2 and low kick land for him. Rlayang with some more low kicks of his own. 1-2-1-1 from Nguyen as Rlayang sends out kicks. Body kick lands for Rlayang. 10-9 Nguyen.
Round three: Nguyen still patiently advancing and landing combinations. Low kicks from Rlayang, eats counters. One minute in. Good shot from Rlayang and he jumps to the back. Too high and Nguyen separates. Still very little urgency from Nguyen, who’s content to land periodic potshots. Clean jab. Rlayang lands a kick to the groin. Back to trading when they resume two minutes in. Rlayang to the body. They trade right hands. Nguyen tries that same slapping hook and digs his finger right into Rlayang’s eye. Rlayang with an overhand right when they resume. Two minutes to go.
Hard uppercut and body kick from Rlayang who’s really going for it. Nguyen comes back with a right hand. Rlayang kicking at his legs, eats a left hook. Now he pokes Nguyen in the eye, earning himself a point deduction. One minute to go. Exchanging, hard punches from Nguyen. Rlayang swinging for the fences. 1-2 from Nguyen after a lull. 10-8 Nguyen with the point deduction.
Final result: Nguyen def. Rlayang by unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Kleydson Rodrigues vs. Santo Curatolo
Round one: Rodrigues looks for a spinning back kick against the fence. Curatolo continuing to circle, blocks a wheel kick, eats a 1-2. One minute in. Curatolo staying mobile. Snap kick from Rodrigues, tries to follow up with a head kick. Two minutes in. Rodrigues bursts in with a flying knee and head kick, prompting Curatolo to tie up on the fence. They trade knees downstairs. Curatolo tries to punch on the exit, eats a pair of jabs. Two minutes to go.
Curatolo lands a left downstairs. Rodrigues comes back with a glancing wheel kick. To the other side this time. One minute to go. Curatolo fires a counter flurry. Rodrigues rips a right hand to the body on the fence. 10-9 Rodrigues.
Round two: Rodrigues continuing to send out kicks. Cartwheel kick attempt. He catches a leg, doesn’t use it. One minute in. Hard 2-3 from Curatolo on the counter. Rodrigues goes low-high with his kicks. Two minutes in. Body kick. Rodrigues tries a flying knee and Curatolo wraps up a body lock to drag him to the mat. Rodrigues immediately scrambles to his feet and tries to spin. Flurry from Curatolo. Two minutes to go.
Rodrigues tries a body kick and lands to the groin. Curatolo takes some time to recover. He fires a two-piece. Rodrigues cracks him with a wheel kick and tries to follow with a second one. Curatolo ties up with a minute to go. Knees from Rodrigues. He blasts Curatolo with a knee to the head and follows up with punches on the break. Heavy punches by Rodrigues. Curatolo ties up after avoiding a flying knee. 10-9 Rodrigues.
Round three: Rodrigues lands a jab, eats a 1-2-3, lands a knee to the body and hard two-piece. Body shot met by a counter. Low kicks landing. One minute in. More spinning attacks. Curatolo tries to spin in response. More Rodrigues low kicks tow minutes in. Hard low kicks. Hard knees by Rodrigues with tow minutes to go.
Elbow lands as well. Thai knee, uppercut, tries a whizzer throw and jumps guard on a guillotine. Curatolo gets his head out and sets up on top. Rodrigues agani gets to his feet and cracks him with a knee with a minute to go. Clean right cross, snap kick. Rodriguez tries some more spins and a flying knee at the bell. 10-9 Rodrigues.
Final result: Rodrigues def. Curatolo by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Jacob Rosales vs. Victor Martinez
Round one: Martinez pushing forward early. Quick punching exchanges. Rosales shoots, denied. Rosales tries a head kick. Both looking for combinations in center cage. Low kick from Rosales a minute in. Oblique kick comes back at him. Rosales tries a spinning back fist. Single-leg to a successful double, now hunting the back against the fence. Knee from Rosales on the way up two minutes in. They separate. Low kick connects, then a pair of heavy right crosses. Swatting left hook, body shot. Martinez pops him with jabs. Two minutes to go.
Counter right connects for Rosales. 2-1 by Martinez. Rosales looks for a flying knee, lands a pair of left hooks. One minute to go. Heavy 2-3 lands for Martinez. Clean left hook. Rosales with his own hook on the lead, then a cross that drops Martinez hard. Rosales tries to pound him out but runs out of time. 10-9 Rosales.
Round two: Rosales follows a body jab with a head kick. Big exchange and he cuffs Martinez with a left hook. Heavy shots as they trade. Martinez still trying to work behind his jab. Good right cross a minute in. Stiff jab comes back at him, then a left hook. Rosales chains a single-leg into a double-leg once again, but can’t keep him down. Martinez with a nice little combination capped by a teep. Rosales lands a left hook two minutes in. Low kick exchange. Martinez has been doing well with the oblique kicks so far. Rosales digs a body shot. Two minutes to go.
Martinez goes low-high with a 1-3. Uppercut-left hook. Another hook. He’s outworking Rosales this round. More oblique kicks, 3-2. Rosales just misses with an elbow. One minute to go. Rosales shoots, denied, eats a knee. Trading jabs. Martinez with a lengthy combo. 10-9 Martinez.
Round three: Both firing kicks early in the round. Rosales with a glancing head kick. Martinez to the body. Rosales barely using his right hand; he told his corner he’d injured it. One minute in. Martinez stuffs another shot and lands punches. Clean uppercut. Rosales tries a wheel kick. Martinez continuing to outwork him with jabs and hooks. Two minutes in. Rosales is putting on an admirable effort with only jabs, hooks, and kicks, but Martinez is landing the better shots. Rosales tries a jumping knee. Two minutes to go.
Clean 1-2 from Martinez. More jabs landing. Rosales continuing to push forward with only his left. One minute to go. Martinez to the body. Jabs landing for Rosales. Heavy 2-3 from Martinez. Rosales shoots, denied. Martinez shoots in responds and lands it. 10-9 Martinez.
Final result: Martinez def. Rosales by unanimous decision
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