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 is one that 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 number 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.
For this week, the 6th week of the Contender Series for 2023, the Redemption Series will be taking a look at multiple fighters including, Eduardo Neves.
Eduardo “Bbzao” Neves (17-1 MMA)
Age: 23 years old
Height: 6’2″ / Reach: 78″
Weight Class: Heavyweight (265lbs.)
First DW’s Contender Series Fight: 2022 (Week 5)
Old DW’s Contender Series Opponent: Mick Parkin (7-0 MMA)
Second DW’s Contender Series Fight: 2023 (Week 6)
New Opponent: Jhonata Diniz (5-0)
First Contender Series Fight
Eduardo Neves competed on the Contender Series for the first time a little over a year ago. Heading into the fight, Neves had violently stopped every opponent he had faced with punches expect for in his pro debut (a doctor’s stoppage due to a cut).
Heading into his Contender Series fight Neves had stopped three men in under a total of three minutes of in cage time.
For as long as it lasted, Eduardo Neves’ first fight on the Contender Series was exciting with the two heavyweights coming out and throwing leather. Neves showed off some speed in the pocket, fast hooks and although a bit wild, was able to crack his opponent a couple of times before ultimately making the fatal mistake of taking the fight to the ground. There not only did Eduardo look a bit green but he was unable to defend to return to his feet and had to tap to a rear-naked choke on the fence.
First Contender Series Opponent
Eduardo’s opponent for his appearance on the Contender Series was the undefeated Mick Parkin. Mick had also had all stoppages on his record albeit against slightly inferior competition to Eduardo’s.
The combined record of opponents that Mick had faced at the time he faced them was: 18-46. Compared to Eduardo’s opponents who were much less experienced at: 12-5
Parkin also boasted an eight-fight amateur career spanning about three years where he amassed an impressive 7-0-1 record.
Since facing Eduardo Neves on the Contender Series last year and earning a contract, Mick has only competed one time in the UFC.
Mick’s UFC debut came just a few weeks ago when he took on a Redemption Series alumnus in then 10-3 Jamal Pougues. Parkin was able to cruise to a unanimous decision victory improving his record to 7-0.
With the wealth of experience that Mick has in combat sports including a pro kickboxing bout and with the trajectory of his career, it’s safe to say that it’s a loss that has aged well for Neves.
The Road Back
Since losing to Mick Parkin last year the 23-year-old Eduardo has competed twice.
The first fight came a couple months after his Contender Series fight when he took on then 10-4 fighter Jackson Goncalves. Jackson, though 40 years old, is a physically imposing specimen and has competed against some stout guys on the Brazilian regional scene. Neves scored a second-round finish.
Eduardo competed at LFA 154 in March where he took on then 6-0-1, Hyago Silva. Eduardo stopped his opponent just before the end of the first round via ground n’ pound.
Gameplan/ New Opponent
For his opponent this time on the Contender Series, Eduardo will be taking on another undefeated fighter in Jhonata Diniz. Diniz is a 6’4″ kickboxer that is a veteran of the famed Glory kickboxing promotion and has competed against Daniel Ghita and the current, 10x, Glory heavyweight kickboxing champion, Rico Verhoeven.
Jhonata has a pro kickboxing record of 22-7.
Diniz made his pro MMA debut in May of last year and has competed five times finishing all five of his opponents in the first round on the Brazilian Regional circuit. Jhonata faced three men that had one fight or less in pro combat sports at the time of the fight. But inexperience aside, make no mistake, this is one of the most skilled heavyweight strikers in the sport of MMA today.
The easiest path to victory for this fight for Eduardo would be to wrestle as Diniz is still incredibly green and just only a year into his MMA career. But Eduardo’s biggest strength (or weakness) is definitely his striking and his willingness to throw caution to the breeze and get into a slugfest.