It’s finally back. The return of Dana White’s Contender Series took place Tuesday, with season seven once against affording top MMA prospects the opportunity to fight their way into the UFC.
Over the years, DWCS has usurped The Ultimate Fighter (currently running its rather inglorious 31st season with coaches Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler) as the number one way for fighters to make it to the big show. Last season, 43 UFC contracts were handed out on the show. Though as fight fans likely recall, things go off to a rocky start, with only Joe Pyfer awarded a contract in the first week.
Would things play out differently as the Contender Series returned for 2023? Hopefully so. Among those in action, returning fighter Junior Cortez, brother of UFC women’s flyweight Tracy Cortez (who also won her way into the promotion on the show), heavyweight Caio Machado, and a number of other promising hopefuls.
Full results from Dana White’s Contender Series Season 7 Week 1 can be found below. The episode gets underway at 7PM ET, and will be followed by the latest instalment of The Ultimate Fighter.
The opening fight of the evening saw flyweights Kevin Borjas and Victor Dias go the distance. While Borjas was the underdog coming in, he out-struck his opponent and repeatedly ripped the body en route to a unanimous decision win. Dias had some success early in the fight with takedowns, but by the end, absorbing liver shot after liver shot, he was exhausted, while Borjas still looked ready to go.
The second fight of the night saw Payton Talbott impress with some crisp and at times unorthodox striking (spinning back elbows, and a flip mid-fight?!?). While Reyes Cortez had his moments in the bout, by the third he was cut open and trailing. A low blow gave Cortez ample recovery time, but he couldn’t turn things around. Talbott also stuffed a solid dozen takedowns, showing his TDD was up to snuff.
Heavyweight Caio Machado continued the decision streak, winning all three rounds on all three scorecards against Kevin Szaflarski. Machado, a Brazilian who has settled in Canada, took some big swings throughout the fight, while Szaflarski was low-offense especially in the early going. The final tally, per the broadcast? 130 strikes to 22 in favor of Machado.
In the opening round between lightweights Tom Nolan and Bogdan Grad, an exchange of fire on the feet led to a left hand landing for Nolan. That put Grad down in an instant, and a single follow-up ground strike eliminated any slim hope of the fallen fighter recovering. After three decisions, the first stoppage of the night!
It was back to the scorecards for the final fight of the evening, and it wasn’t close. In the cage, or with the judges. All three judges scored the fight for 35-year old middleweight Cesar Almeida, with wildly different scores from 30-26 to 29-27. Regardless, an dominant showing with plenty of ground control plus some sharp leg kicks from Almeida.
Dana White’s Contender Series Season 7, Week 1 Results
Middleweight: Cesar Almeida def. Lucas Fernando by unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-27)
Lightweight: Tom Nolan def. Bogdan Grad by KO (left hook), Round 1, 1:23
Heavyweight: Caio Machado def. Kevin Szaflarski by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Bantamweight: Payton Talbott def. Reyes Cortez Jr. by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Flyweight: Kevin Borjas def. Victor Dias by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Contract winners: Kevin Borjas, Payton Talbott, Caio Machado, Tom Nolan, Cesar Almeida