The UFC has really outdone themselves this time. The UFC brass have found a way to deliver top notch, mid-week violence for us MMA fans with their new weekly show, Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. If you haven’t seen it, you should stop what you are doing and check it out. Every week this summer, the show airs five live fights on UFC Fight Pass in a weekly competition for a UFC contract. Four weeks in, who’s the best prospect we have seen so far?
Kurt Holobaugh got his second chance to prove his worthiness to the UFC and Dana White on the first episode of DWTNCS. He fought a very game Matt Bessete in what was a one round slugfest, with both fighters landing big shots. Holobaugh absorbed everything Bessete had for him with ease and maintained constant pressure. Holobaugh caught Bessete with a big shot and pressed forward with a flurry of body punches to bring Bessete’s guard down and deliver a brutal right hand to the chin. Walk off KO win, right in front of the UFC boss. Holobaugh got a shot in the UFC back at UFC 159, but dropped a unanimous decision to Steven Siler. Since then he has gone 9-2, battling it out in other organizations such as Titan FC. The UFC featherweight division is super talent rich and has seen some shake ups in the ranks recently. With his heavy hands and fan friendly fight style, Kurt Holobaugh is an excellent addition to the UFC’s 145 division.
Thanh Le looked fantastic in the second week of DWTNCS. Le looked comfortable and loose in front of the UFC boss and methodically picked apart his opponent Lazar Stojadinovic on the feet. Le won the fight by head kick KO and subsequent ground and pound. Le got his first chance in front of the UFC on The Ultimate Fighter: Faber vs McGregor. Le won his preliminary bout with style points by knocking out Andreas Quintana with a devastating right hand after rocking him several times with a violent variety of flashy kicks. Le’s next fight was against Martin Svensson, in which he lost via rear naked choke in the second round. After his run on TUF, Thanh has done nothing but impress outside the octagon while he has been sharpening his skills. Le’s overall record is a near perfect 7-1 with six knockouts and one submission. Thanh Le’s only professional loss was his very first fight in 2013. Although Le wasn’t offered a contract by Dana White the night of his DWTNCS appearance, I’m sure we will soon see this dangerous striker in the UFC.
Kyler Phillips fought James Gray in the fourth week of DWTNCS in the co- eatured bout. 15 seconds into the fight, Gray got clipped with a nasty shot while attempting a takedown. Gray maintained his takedown attempt against the cage and Phillips obliterated him with some Travis Browne style elbows. Gray fell to the canvas and covered up while Phillips made it rain with punches. Phillips wins by knockout via ground and pound. Perhaps even more impressive than his performance, is Phillips’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu background. Phillips is a brown belt, seven-time BJJ World Champion and is only 22. Although he wasn’t picked by Dana White to receive a contract that night, his current professional record is 4-0 and his dangerous limbs and world class ground game would be an exciting addition to the bantamweight division. I’m sure we will see him get his chance under the UFC lights soon.
Sean O’Malley absolutely stole the show in the second week of DWTNCS. At age 22, and 8-0 in professional MMA competition, it’s hard to imagine how high the ceiling is for this kid. O’Malley took on Alfred Khashakyan in what was, hands down, the most exciting and wild fight we have seen so far on DWTNCS. O’Malley, with his tall build and long range, was blasting Khashakyan from just outside Khashakyan’s range. Khashakyan bit down on his mouthpiece, closed the gap and let go some serious power shots at the youngster, but O’Malley took them in stride. The fight seemed to be fairly even with both fighters landing solid shots until O’Malley unleashed an insane three piece combo on Khashakyan, wobbling and rendering Khashakyan’s legs nearly useless as he “Bambi-legged” around the octagon trying to keep his senses. O’Malley pressed the action and delivered an instant classic and violent walk off, one punch knockout. Although O’Malley’s ground game seems to need some work, O’Malley is my favorite addition to the UFC from DWNTCS so far. The 135 lb division could use some new faces and I think Dana White found an absolute gem.
Who is your favorite fighter to come out of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series?