It’s that time of year again, as Dana White’s Contender Series is back with 10 straight weeks of mixed martial arts (MMA) action. This week’s show (and next week) start at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+, then things switch back to the usual 8 p.m. ET time afterward.
Former kickboxer Cesar Almeida (3-0) — who went 1-2 against Alex Pereira in the ring — battles Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) Middleweight champion, Lucas Fernando (9-1), in the main event. Before that, experienced Aussie Lightweight, Tom Nolan (5-0), fights Austrian standout, Bogdan Grad (11-1), BFL Heavyweight champion, Caio Machado (7-1-1), takes on Kevin Szaflarski (11-1), Reyes Cortez (7-2) returns to the program against Payton Talbott (5-0), and Peru’s Kevin Borjas (8-1) faces late replacement, Victor Dias (11-2), in the Flyweight opener.
‘Contender Series’ Quick Results:
Cesar Almeida vs. Lucas Fernando — Almeida def. Fernando by unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-27)
Tom Nolan vs. Bogdan Grad — Nolan def. Grad by KO (punches) at 1:23 of Round One
Caio Machado vs. Kevin Szaflarski — Machado def. Szaflarski by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Payton Talbott vs. Reyes Cortez — Talbott def. Cortez by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
Kevin Borjas vs. Victor Dias — Borjas def. Dias by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
‘Contender Series’ Play-By-Play Results:
185 lbs.: Cesar Almeida vs. Lucas Fernando
Round one: Fernando shoots inside of five seconds and trips Almeida into side control. Almeida works back to his feet and denies the next attempt to bring him down. Knee on the break a minute in. Almeida sending out punches, falling short. Body jab, low kick. 1-2 from Fernando in return. Low kick trips an off-balance Fernando and they trade right hands. Almeida grabs a body lock against the fence. Two minutes in. They separate shortly. Almeida low kick and body kick. Fernando ducks a loaded-up overhand to take Almeida down into half guard. Fernando quickly moves to the back and starts hunting the RNC. Two minutes to go.
Almeida spins into guard 40 seconds later and looks for elbows. Solid lefts with a minute to go. He stands over Fernando for a bit, then comes back down into half guard. Decent elbows. 10-9 Almeida.
Round two: Early combinations from Fernando before putting him on the fence. Solid defense from Almeida, who sprawls and looks to punch the body. One minute in. Some genuinely hard shots from Almeida as he defends. They separate and start throwing heat. Fernando shoots into an apparent clash of heads, then pulls guard. Almeida answers with heavy shots from the top. Almeida postures up, then comes down with huge shots, taking mount two minutes in. Almeida wants the RNC, doesn’t have the angle, goes back to beating him up from the top. He stands over Fernando, back down with punches and elbows. Two minutes to go.
Almeida piling up the damage. Big shots from standing with a minute to go. He steps into a reverse triangle, using it to control and punish the body. 10-8 Almeida.
Round three: 1-2 from Fernando to start. Almeida body shot. He slips throwing a front kick and takes his time to try and stand, allowing Fernando to jump on him and take top position. One minute in. Almeida uses the fence to work back to his feet. Ref wants more from Fernando. They separate. Decent series of punches from Fernando. Two minutes in. Slick straight right. They trade inside, neither lands clean. Fernando ducks another right hand to shoot and puts him on the fence again. Two minutes to go.
Almeida reverses position. Fernando trips him into guard with a minute to go. Almeida works to his feet, eating a knee as he does. Nasty counter elbow from Fernando after some combos and it appears to piss Almeida off, prompting him to stalk Fernando and open up until the bell. 10-9 Fernando.
Final result: Almeida def. Fernando by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Tom Nolan vs. Bogdan Grad
Round one: Nolan landing body kicks to start, then floors Grad with a straight left and follows him down into guard. Grad spins for an armbar, eats some punches and elbwos for his trouble before Nolan waves him up a minute in. Body kick from Nolan, then a wheel kick falls short. Grad tries to meet him head-on and Nolan crumples him with an overhand left, then puts him to sleep with two more nasty shots on the ground.
Final result: Nolan def. Grad by KO (punches)
265 lbs.: Caio Machado vs. Kevin Szaflarski
Round one: Early body kick from Machado. Szaflarski shoots, denied. Machado winging a lot of ugly punches, stops another takedown. Overhand left. One minute in. Szaflarksi shoots again and puts him on the fence. Trading knees inside. Two minutes in. Szaflarski not making much progress but keeping control. Two minutes to go.
Ref splits them up 30 seconds later. Machado winging looping punches, puts Szaflarski on the fence. One minute to go. They separate 30 seconds later. Machado continues to throw ugly shots before tying up. 10-9 Machado.
Round two: Machado pressuring and throwing volume. He stops a takedown and lands a knee. Szaflarski seems like he’s frozen in the headlights; he’s not throwing anything at all. One minute in. Overhand left by Machado. Flurry into the clinch. Szaflarski separates but again just stands there staring. He changes levels and puts Machado on the fence two minutes in. Szaflarski gets him to his knees, can’t keep him there. He’s just leaning on Machado against the fence. They separate with two minutes to go.
Left hand by Machado. Two-piece into the clinch. They separate with a minute to go. Circling each other in slow motion. Body shot from Machado. Szaflarski lands a jab, which might be his only strike of the last few minutes. Machado body shot, Szaflarski jab. 10-9 Machado.
Round three: Staring contest to start the round. One minute in. Szaflarsky tries a left hook. Machado overhand left. Jab, whiff, body kick. Szaflarski straight right. Machado body kick. Two minutes in. 3-2-2 by Machado into the clinch. They separate. Machado combo. Body shot. Szaflarski’s frozen up again and Machado’s too tired to throw more than a couple strikes every 10 seconds. Two minutes to go.
Machado body kick. Superman punch falls short. Low kick. Szaflarski goes a mile wide with a left hook. Machado wakes up a bit and starts throwing flurries against the fence. Warned for using his head. One minute to go. Solid punches from Machado. Machado flurry, Szaflarski tries a counter. Szaflarski might have the worst performance in DWCS history. 10-9 Machado.
Final result: Machado def. Szaflarski by unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Payton Talbott vs. Reyes Cortez
Round one: Talbott on the front foot to start. Nice exchange. 1-2 from Talbott, then a body kick to answer a leg kick. Body shot, right cross. One minute in. Combo to low kicks from Cortez. Talbott continuing to pressure, eats a combo. Talbott’s doing well from the outside, but Cortez is putting together combos whenever he strays inside. Straights from Talbott on the fence, left hook and low kick from Cortez. Two minutes in. Cortez catches a kick, then shoots. Keeping Talbott against the fence, stings him with an elbow on the break. Cortez puts him on the fence again. Two minutes to go.
They separate. Nice counter right from Cortez. Both land low kicks. Talbott walking him down, landing right hands. Cortez absorbs a body shot and ties up. One minute to go. Talbott works his way out and again walks him down with right hands. Cortez again ties up and lands knees. Talbott breaks out and continues to pressure. 10-9 Cortez?
Round two: Counter right and low kick from Cortez. Talbott scrambles back up and continues to pressure. Body kick and 1-2 from Talbott.Good low kick, but Cortez takes him to the fence again. Talbott escapes, lands a body shot a minute in. More combinations upstairs. Corkscrew uppercut. Jab exchange. 2-3, body shot. Talbott starting to snowball a bit. Cortez catches a body kick and takes him down, can’t keep him there. Talbott separates two minutes in. Talbott continuing to pepper with punches. Good left hook stings Cortez and Talbott follows with body shots. Nice body kick and uppercut with two minutes to go.
Talbott teeing off. Uppercut-cross-body kick. Cortez catches a body kick and Talbott flips to escape. Just walking Cortez down and piling up volume. One minute to go. Cortez ties up, can’t get much done. Talbott body kick. Talbott denies a single-leg. 1-2-uppercut. 1-2. Jump knee, more punches before the bell. 10-9 Talbott.
Round three: 1-2 from Cortez. Talbott eats it and resumes the pressure. Slip to body shot. He steps in with a knee and Cortez slams him down, but can’t keep him there. Talbott gets an underhook and separates. One minute in. Wheel kick just misses, elbow connects. Lead right. Cortez shoots, lands an elbow, eats a huge 1-2-3. Cortez giving ground as Talbott stalks him, landing another heavy right. They pause two minutes in to look at a cut on Cortez. Talbott goes back to pressuring when they resume, but then kicks Cortez in the cup. Cortez takes a couple minutes to recover, then shoots on the restart. Talbott denies it and continues to pepper him. Good sprawl, hard knee. Jump knee catches Cortez changing levels. Two minutes to go.
Cortez drags him down against the fence, can’t keep him there. More straight punches from Talbott as he pressures. Body shots. Left hook inside. One minute to go. Cortez ties up and puts him on the fence, can’t keep him there long. Cortez shoots under a right hand, still can’t get him down. Talbott tries a flying switch kick, then stuffs another takedown. Spinning elbow. Cortez comes back with a right at the bell. 10-9 Talbott.
Final result: Talbott def. Cortez by unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Kevin Borjas vs. Victor Dias
Round one: Low kicks from Dias to start. Nice 1-2 from Borjas, then a left hook to answer a calf kick. Borjas leans in for a hard body shot and eats a counter hook. 1-1-2 a minute in. Dias pressuring, just avoids an uppercut as he completes a double-leg against the fence. Short left hands from Dias. Two minutes in. Dias holding the body lock, keeping Borjas from standing. Good whizzer by Borjas, still stuck on a knee. He gets on top, can’t break Dias’ grip and gets pushed against the fence with two minutes to go.
Dias finally completes the trip and lands on top in half guard with a minute to go. Diaz gets to his back and opens up with heavy punches until the bell. 10-9 Dias.
Round two: Borjas peppering with the jab to start. Nice left hook after eating a leg kick. 1-2, check hook. Big right cross. One minute in. Dias ducks a 1-2 and puts him on teh fence again. Dias tries a sacrifice throw and Borjas fights it off with the whizzer, trying to land on top. Two minutes in. Grueling scramble. Diaz drives through to put Borjas on his rear against the fence. Two minutes to go.
Ref wants more action from Dias. Borjas looking to the ref. Dias throws a few arm punches to the body and Borjas gets the underhook, sweeps, and stands. Nasty combinations from Borjas, then a pause to give him his mouthpiece back. One minute to go. Left hook exchange. Dias sporting a huge mouse, eating some big punches. Borjas hammering him with right hands. Dias changes levels, denied. eats a knee. Borjas tries a rolling thunder at the bell. 10-9 Borjas.
Round three: Borjas goes right back to sniping Dias with straight rights. Dias absorbing a lot of heavy blows, ties up, gets shoved away. Dias trying to pressure but Borjas’ lateral movement is on point. Heavy body shot from Borjas, then a near-miss on a knee a minute in. Critical double-leg from Dias to land on top at the base of the fence again. Borjas works his way up two minutes in. Dias drags him back down. Two minutes to go.
The ref stands them up, much to the anger of Dias’s corner. Borjas immediately rips more combinations, landing heavy body shots. Dias takes him to the fence again. Borjas quickly works his way to his feet, denies a shot, and goes back to punishing the body. Borjas unloading on Dias in the final minute. Insane durability from Dias but Borjas is beating the brakes off of him. 10-9 Borjas.
Final result: Borjas def. Dias by unanimous decision
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