Dana White’s Contender Series began back in 2017. Since then, the Contender Series has produced some big-name upcoming stars like Dan Ige, Sean O’Malley, Geoff Neal, Maycee Barber, and Edmen Shahbazyan. In short, it has been a huge success.
A Contender Series fight has stakes like none other, where fighters must showcase their skills to impress the UFC president enough for a contract with the promotional giant. Holding the Contender Series with a smaller cage inside the UFC Apex venue makes for a tense atmosphere, and with only close friends and family of the competing fighters in attendance as spectators. Emotions always run high, as a limited amount of contracts can be given out on any given night, and many fighters can potentially have their dreams snubbed out solely because of bad luck.
In rare cases, however, a fighter gets a second look. This series will examine those.
Joseph “Bodybagz” Pyfer (6-1, 1 NC MMA)
Age: 25 years old
Height: 6’1″ / Reach: 75″
Weight Class: Middleweight (185lbs.)
First DW’s Contender Series Fight: 2020, Week 2
Old DW’s Contender Series Opponent: Dustin Stoltzfus (14-4 MMA)
Second DW’s Contender Series Fight: 2022, Week 1
New Opponent: Ozzy Diaz (7-1 MMA)
First DWCS Fight
Joseph Pyfer made his first appearance on the Contender Series back in 2020, in what would prove a very memorable bout, all be it for all the wrong reasons.
Pyfer would take on Dustin Stolzfus who is very well known for his nice ground game with a variety of submission finishes to his record.
Joseph definitely looked like the aggressor for the majority of the fight, looked big and powerful in the cage, and was way bigger than his opponent.
The two fighters exchanged heavy leg kicks before Joseph got a successful single leg takedown midway thru the first round off of a caught leg kick.
While working in the top position, Pyfer was threatened by submissions multiple times from his opponent off of his back.
After Pyfer escaped a heel hook submission attempt he briefly returned to his feet before Stolzfus elevated and slammed him in a mat return that would ultimately end the fight.
As Pyfeer went airborne, he outstretched his arm to post and make the first point of contact (with the canvas), but instead, dislocated his elbow which ended the fight.
First Contender Series Opponent
As previously mentioned, Pyfer’s opponent in his first Contender Series fight, was Dustin Stolzfus. Dustin was 12-1 at the time that he faced Pyfer, and was not only more experienced in pro MMA, but had faced better competition as well.
Stolzfus received a UFC contract after his impressive slam victory and competed in the UFC before the end of 2020.
Kyle Daukaus, who was 9-1 at the time, defeated Dustin via unanimous decision on the undercard of UFC 255.
In July of 2021 Stolzfus took on a 7-1, Rodolfo Vieira, who finished him via rear naked choke in the third round of a hard fought bout.
At the end of 2021, Dustin took on Gerald Meerschaert after his 2 previous opponents (Anthony Hernandez and Caio Borralho) withdrew before the fight. Dustin was again submitted in the third round via rear naked choke.
Dustin’s most recent bout was a 3 round hard-fought, dominant, unanimous decision, wrestling victory over Dwight Grant at UFC on ABC 3 earlier this month.
Stolzfus undoubtedly saved his UFC career with the win, as Grant, who was also on a losing streak, was released from the promotional giant shortly after losing the fight.
Stolzfus has had hard competition and is already slated for another bout against 24-4-1, Abusupiyan Magomedov, so Pyfer’s loss has definitely aged well.
The Road Back
Since Pyfer’s unsuccessful Contender Seires appearance in 2020, he has had two bouts scheduled but has only competed one time.
Pyfer was briefly slated to fight UFC veteran, Caio Magalhaes, who trains with the likes of former UFC champion Glover Teixeira. But that bout was cancelled.
This makes Joseph’s fight against Austin Trotman in December of 2021 his lone outing since his first Contender Series fight. Trotman entered the bout with a record of 3-0 with 1 NC, though it is worth noting that he fought the same two people twice in those four bouts. With one of those competitors being the notorious journeyman Jay Ellis.
Trotman had faced relatively easy competition in his first few fights and was relatively inexperienced in pro MMA, but boasted training alongside UFC middleweight staple Derek Brunson.
Pyfer connected with a lot of hard shots throughout the fight, hurting his foe many times before ultimately dropping him in second round with a right hook, to get the stoppage victory.
Gameplan/ New Opponent
For Pyfer’s return to the Contender Series he will be facing Ozzy Diaz. Ozzy is the current LFA Middleweight champion, which he won back in March. (And was immediately called up by the UFC)
Diaz has finished all 7 of his pro MMA wins, with 5 out of 7 of them being in the first round and 5 out of 7 being finished via KO or TKO.
Needless to say, the 6’4″ Diaz is a rangy striker that is very dangerous especially early on in the fight (as is evident with his resume).
It will be imperative for Pyfer to take the fight to Diaz and utilize his physical strength in positions like the clinch, against the cage, and on the canvas.
With Pyfer’s size and muscular build, it will also be very important that he manage his energy efficiently so that he doesn’t get out of position and get caught by the dangerous Diaz.
Pyfer has big power in his hands, so expect a stand up and bang fight. But a potential crafty game plan is Pyfer could look for a takedown attempt to get his opponent at least thinking about something other than striking and open up some opportunities for him.