Dana White’s Contender Series returned on Tuesday, kicking off its fifth season with a four-pack of fights featuring an undefeated light heavyweight, and a fighter who at one time was one of the hottest flyweight prospects out there.
Let’s get to the meat of it: just four fights made DWCS Season 5 Week 1 a rather compact affair. Future instalments would feature the usual five fights; just how the shortened card impacted the contract situation was the question ahead of Tuesday. Would only one or two UFC deals be dished out? Was there a chance all four fighters wound up signed with big showings?
Among the standouts on Tuesday’s card was Azamat Murzakanov, a.k.a. “The Professional.” Undefeated in nine pro fights, the Russian had wins over UFC alums Andre Muniz and Guto Inocente. Murzakanov was paired up with Matheus Scheffel, the current Future FC light heavyweight champ out of Brazil. Scheffel entered the night on a two-fight win streak.
Also on Tuesday’s DWCS Season 5 Week 1 card was Carlos Candelario. If the name seems vaguely familiar, well, Candelario had appeared on Dana White’s Contender Series once before, in the inaugural season back in 2017. The flyweight, at the time one of the top 125lb prospects in the world, had won his bout — but was denied a contract. Worse, he tore his ACL in the fight, and subsequently retired from competition.
Four years later, almost to the day, Candelario returned, fighting at CES 63 earlier this month and picking up a unanimous decision win. Now, with just four weeks having passed, Candelario took on Mexico’s “El Magnifico” Victor Altamirano.
Dana White’s Contender Series 2021 kicks off at 8PM ET on ESPN+ in the U.S., and UFC Fight Pass internationally. Full results from DWCS Season 5 Week 1 can be found below.
Welterweight AJ Fletcher kicked off Tuesday’s card in style. After showing some slick leg kicks and spinning attacks early against Italian Leonardo Damiani, he launched a flying knee that absolutely smoked his opponent. With Damiani’s back against the fence, he had no avenue of escape. A flying knee KO in the first fight of the season? Wild.
The second fight, a flyweight contest between Victor Altamirano and Carlos Candelario, had a lot to live up to. Too much, as it turned out. Candelario had a dominant opening round, but the second two were much closer. The result was initially announced as a unanimous decision for Victor Altamirano, but that was later corrected to a split decision.
Things started off promising in the third fight of the evening, before becoming unfortunate and downright weird. Joanderson Brito looked fantastic on the feet. Diego Lopes had his moments off the back, coming close with an arm-bar. It seemed like Brito was up on the scorecards heading into the third. Then, early in round three, an eye poke left Lopes unable to continue. The ref deducted a point, but Lopes could not continue. They went to the scorecards, with little in the way of a third round to score. The end result, Joanderson Brito won a technical unanimous decision, 29-28 on all three scorecards.
Just as things had started to drag, Azamat Murzakanov came out and ended the show in a big way. The Russian landed clean on the jaw of Matheus Scheffel, dropping him. A few more strikes ended any hope of Scheffel getting back up. Almost certainly a contract with that finish.
The contracts handed out Tuesday brought about a surprise: for the first time in DWCS history, a losing fighter was awarded a deal. That came as Carlos Candelario was granted a contract, as well as Victor Altamirano. AJ Fletcher, Joanderson Brito, and Azamat Murzakanov were all awarded UFC contracts as well.
Dana White’s Contender Series Season 5, Week 1 Results
Light Heavyweight: Azamat Murzakanov def. Matheus Scheffel by TKO, Round 1, 3:00
Featherweight: Joanderson Brito def. Diego Lopes by technical unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Flyweight: Victor Altamirano def. Carlos Candelario by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Welterweight: AJ Fletcher def. Leonardo Damiani by knockout (flying knee), Round 1, 2:24
Contract winners: AJ Fletcher, Victor Altamirano, Carlos Candelario, Joanderson Brito, Azamat Murzakanov