2023’s incarnation of Dana White’s Contender Series hits its halfway point tonight (Tues., Sept. 5, 2023) with 10 fresh faces eager to make an impression.
The action begins, as it will for the rest of the season, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN+,
White was at his most frugal last week, signing a mere three of the five victors. Carlos Prates’ flawless beatdown of Mitch Ramirez, Thomas Petersen’s smothering of Chandler Cole, and Bolaji Oki’s surprise striking stoppage of kickboxing vet Dylan Salvador all punched their respective authors’ tickets to the big show.
It’s champion vs. champion in tonight’s Light Heavyweight main event, which pits LFA titlist Bruno Lopes (11-0) against Shooto Brasil beltholder Brendson Ribeiro (14-5). 70 pounds south, longtime BFL Bantamweight king Serhiy Sidey (9-1) meets Combat Night Pro’s Ramon Tavares (9-1). Earlier in the evening, Dylan Budka (6-2) steps up on short notice to meet Brave CF vet Chad Hanekom (9-2), undefeated Kevin Vallejos (11-0) battles Jean Silva (10-2) after conquering the Argentine scene, and Rainn Guerrero (5-1) fights Dione Barbosa (5-2) in the opener.
‘Contender Series’ Quick Results:
Bruno Lopes vs. Brendson Ribeiro — Ribeiro def. Lopes by KO (punches) at 3:47 of Round One
Ramon Taveras vs. Serhiy Sidey — Sidey def. Taveras by TKO (punches) at 2:26 of Round One
Chad Hanekom vs. Dylan Budka — Budka def. Hanekom by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
Jean Silva vs. Kevin Vallejos — Silva def. Vallejos by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
Rainn Guerrero vs. Dione Barbosa — Barbosa def. Guerrero by submission (armbar) at 4:35 of Round One
‘Contender Series’ Play-By-Play Results:
205 lbs.: Bruno Lopes vs. Brendson Ribeiro
Round one: Trading low kicks to start. Ribeiro 1-2 falls short. Lopes wades in looping hooks. Jab lands for Ribeiro. One minute in. More jabs. He fires a front kick that’s caught and they trade power shots. Lopes body kick, hurling looping shots. Ribeiro knocks him back with a stiff jab. Heavy exchange in center cage. Another heavy jab by Ribeiro, then a counter right two minutes in. Lopes with another blitz. Both land hard against the fence until Lopes ties up. They separate soon after. Lopes blitzes again with two minutes to go.
Long 1-2 lands for Ribeiro and they knuckle down for another winging exchange. Huge 1-2 from Ribeiro, Lopes comes back with hooks. Lopes overextends with a left hand and gets rattled by a counter left. He tries to stand his ground, but Lopes follows with a murderous combo and a straight right crumples him. Ribeiro follows with gnarly hammerfists that turn Lopes’ lights out, capping off a massive upset.
Final result: Ribeiro def. Lopes by KO (punches)
135 lbs.: Ramon Taveras vs. Serhiy Sidey
Round one: Left hand from Taveras. Sidey firing kicks from a distance. Taveras closes the distance with another straight left. 1-2. Sidey fakes a shot a minute in. Solid body kick lands for him. Jab exchange, Sidey body kick. Taveras 1-2, Sidey lands a left hook in combination. Elbow whiffs for Sidey two minutes in. Another 1-2 from Taveras. Sidey comes back with a straight right that drops Taveras. It doesn’t look like a heavy knockdown and Taveras is seemingly actively defending himself from the follow-up shots, but the ref steps in regarless, much to Taveras’ displeasure.
Final result: Sidey def. Taveras by TKO (punches)
185 lbs.: Chad Hanekom vs. Dylan Budka
Round one: Low kick from Hanekom after a slow start. 1-2 falls short, low kick connects. One minute in. More low kicks by Hanekom. Chopping right lands for Budka. Hanekom shoots, denied. Overhand right by Hanekom two minutes in, back to the low kick. Budka punches his way into the clinch, gets reversed. Solid knees from Hanekom prompt Budka to commit to a level change with two minutes to go.
Hanekom clamps onto a guillotine, can’t get it, looks for takedowns of his own. Continuing to grind against the fence. Budka forces him down with his own guillotine attempt with a minute to go, settling in side control. Hanekom works his way up, then looks for a guillotine as Budka slams him into side control. 10-9 Budka.
Round two: Hard 1-2 from Budka into a level change. 30 seconds later, he takes Hanekom down into side control. Hanekom trying to use an underhook to stand a minute in. He makes it up and looks for a single-leg. Continuing to grind against the fence. Two minutes in. Budka landing elbows as he defends. Two minutes to go.
Hanekom’s passivity bites him as Budka forces him to his seat with a guillotine. Budka switches to an arm triangle, but doesn’t switch sides before letting it go. One minute to go. Budka landing shots as Hanekom works his way to all fours. Solid body knees. One strays low in the final seconds and Hanekom takes several minutes to recover. 10-9 Budka.
Round three: Budka shoots in the opening seconds. Hanekom defends with a whizzer, gets hauled to the fence again. Budka locks his hands on a double-leg, can’t finish. One minute in. Ref finally demands more action as Budka continues to grind. Two minutes in. He lifts, denied. Hanekom reverses and looks for a single-leg. Two minutes to go.
Now the ref separates them. Budka tries a leaping left hook and Hanekom changes levels for a takedown attempt. One minute to go. Budka tries to drop elbows. 10-9 Budka? What a damp fart of a fight.
Final result: Budka def. Hanekom by unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Jean Silva vs. Kevin Vallejos
Round one: Quick head kick from Silva, who’s staying at range and switching stance. Body kick. One minute in. They stare at each other for a bit until Silva splits his guard with a straight right. 1-2 after eating a body shot. Vallejos still stalking, tries a 1-2 that lands to the chest. Good body shot from Silva, who blocks a 1-2 two minutes in. Vallejos struggling with the range so far. Silva tries a flying knee, eats a body shot. Body kick from Silva, who tries a 3-2 behind it. Two minutes to go.
Low kick from Vallejos. Silva straight right. Vallejos tries a combo against the guard. Silva out of range with a spin. Vallejos attacks the body in combination. One minute to go. Silva looks for a jumping front kick and 1-2. Vallejos low kick, Silva body shot. He shoots, denied. 10-9 Silva.
Round two: Vallejos falling short with power shots. Nice counter body shot. Silva answers with a low-high 3-2, then a lead elbow. More elbow attempts, jumping front kick. He tries the front kick again and gets knocked over by a jab, which Vallejos tries to follow with a combo. Silva elbow a minute in. Vallejos targets the body again, then just misses with a counter right. Silva 1-2. They trade in the center. Two minutes to go. Silva tries a 1-2, runs into a stiff jab. Nice body shots. Both miss at close range, jabs from Silva. Two minutes to go.
Silva continuing to pump the jab. Counter hook by Vallejos catches him leaning. Silva backs him to the fence and puts together some heavy combos. Silva pouring it on, hurts him with a knee and follow-up elbow. Vallejos weathering it with a minute to go. Silva to the body. Elbow whiffs, left hook does not. Head kick lands through the guard and he tees off from southpaw. Sneaky elbow and Vallejos is bloodied. Silva slams home a couple more kicks and eats a two-piece before the bell. 10-9 Silva.
Round three: Lots of feints from Silva as he slowly advances. Head kick blocked. Vallejos comes back with a body kick. 1-2 from Silva a minute in. They trade in the center. Body jab by Vallejos. Short combos, body jab. He ties up when Silva jumps in and takes him to the fence. Level elbow on the break. Two minutes in. Silva keeping his foot off the gas as Vallejos looks to put together combos. As Vallejos seems to be cruising, Silva knocks him back with a heavy straight right. Combinations starting to land for him. Two minutes to go.
Uppercut-cross by Silva. Trying to bully Vallejos to the fence. Vallejos answering with hooks, tries to change levels, lands a knee. Low-high from Silva, then another overhand behind it. He shoots, denied with a minute to go. Good trade, then a slick high crotch takedown by Silva. Vallejos scrambles up. Silva pushing forward with flurries, catches Vallejos with a flying knee. Silva landing to the body and head and they slug until the bell. 10-9 Silva.
Final result: Silva def. Vallejos by unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Rainn Guerrero vs. Dione Barbosa
Round one: 1-2 lands for Guerrero after a brief feeling-out process. Solid body kick from Barbosa, but she slips, allowing Guerrero to chase her down and take top position. Barbosa regains guard. When Guerrero tries to open up with strikes a minute in, Barbosa sweeps her, then takes her back. Barbosa looking for an armbar transition but the fence is in her way. She switches to a leglock, then awkwardly latches on when Guerrero wriggles free and stands two minutes in. Head-and-arm throw puts Barbosa back on top. Looking for a scarf hold armlock. Two minutes to go.
Barbosa trying to crank on Guerrero’s arm, but Guerrero slips out and lands on top in guard. One minute to go. Guerrero tries to swat with hammerfists and Barbosa immediately turns for an armbar, drawing a yelp and sending the ref into action
Final result: Barbosa def. Guerrero by submission (armbar)