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.
Austen Lane (11-3 MMA)
Age: 34 years old
Height: 6’6″ / Reach: 80″
Weight Class: Heavyweight (265lbs.)
First DW’s Contender Series Fight: 2018, Week 1
Old DW’s Contender Series Opponent: Greg Hardy (7-5 MMA)
Second DW’s Contender Series Fight: 2022, Week 9
New Opponent: Richard Jacobi (6-0-1 MMA)
First DWCS Fight
Austen Lane’s first Contender Series fight was both brief and violent. Save for an eye poke from Lane’s opponent 30 seconds past the opening bell, the fight was non-stop action for as long as it lasted.
Lane was able to connect on some good boxing combinations and hard leg kicks.
Lane showed explosiveness, good movement and was picking his shots well. That is, until his opponent slipped out of the way of a reaching body shot and countered perfectly with a right hook and a swift left hook to put Lane away.
Lane’s first Contender Series fight was over in less than 60 seconds, but it would not be the last opportunity on the show for the former NFL defensive lineman.
First Contender Series Opponent
In Austen Lane’s first Contender Series fight, he took on a man that also played defensive line in the NFL, Greg Hardy.
Greg Hardy was making his professional MMA debut, while Austen had entered the fight with a 4-0 pro MMA record. Lane also had a 5-0 amateur MMA record dating back to the end of his playing days.
Due to his inexperience, Hardy was awarded a developmental contract for his quick KO of Lane, and was invited back to the Contender Series a couple months later for more experience.
However, UFC President Dana White was very impressed by Hardy and after winning his second Contender Series fight and another quick finish outside of the UFC, Hardy was given a shot by the promotional giant at just 3-0.
Hardy came with some controversies in the beginning part of his UFC stint, being DQ’d for an illegal knee in his promotional debut and having a win overturned to a no contest for using his inhaler in between rounds.
Greg definitely showed flashes, like when he dropped Tai Tuivasa in their mid-2021 fight, but ultimately couldn’t get a win against the top 10-15 ranked UFC talent at heavyweight.
Hardy ultimately amassed a record of 4-5 with another win being overturned to a no contest in his time in the UFC.
Hardy fought out his contract earlier this year and wasn’t resigned by the UFC. With all that being said, Lane’s loss to Hardy has aged alright and because it was almost five years ago now, it is close to no longer even being too relevant.
The Road Back
It has been a very long road back for Austen Lane. Austen’s first Contender Series fight was nearly five years ago and since then he has amassed a 7-2 professional record.
Every single one of Lane’s fights during that time period, win or lose, has ended with a finish.
Following his loss to Hardy, Lane would go 2-2 in his next four fights, and was finished twice in the first round.
Austen then rattled off the five-fight winning streak that got him his second chance at the UFC.
During this current five-fight winning streak that Lane is on he has won heavyweight belts in regional promotions like Warfare FC, Combat Night and Fury FC.
To date, one of Lane’s best wins came in November of last year when he finished UFC veteran Juan Adams in the fourth round of their bout for the Fury FC Heavyweight Championship. Although Lane was taken down at will and lost the opening three rounds, he was able to rally and get Adams out of there with a hard combination of punches to open the fourth round.
For his chance at redemption Austen Lane will be taking on 6-0-1 fighter, Richard Jacobi.
Jacobi has no amateur experience and has only seen the final bell in two of his fights.
Jacobi has finished four out of his five wins via KO/TKO and all of them in the first round.
However in his most recent fight, and his first in the LFA against arguably his best opponent to date, things ended in a majority draw.
The combined record of the opponents that Jacobi has faced is 25-24 but it is worth noting that one of those fighters was then 22-22, Jose Rodrigo Guelke. Obviously most of Jacobi’s opponents were pretty inexperienced and not quite on the level of Lane’s opponents (especially Lane’s five most recent fights)
Lane is looking to become the 5th redemption fighter of the 2022 season to end up with a contract. It will be important for Lane to use his athleticism and cardio as well as his overall better fight experience, to outwork Jacobi and look for the finish. Lane can look for the finish and really look to put a stamp on his redemption but it is absolutely imperative that Lane avoids an all out brawl with Jacobi, and utilizes his length, as not only is the Brazilian the bigger man, but Lane has been stopped multiple times before.