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 10th and final week of the Contender Series for 2023, the Redemption Series will be taking a look at Connor Matthews.
Connor “The Controller” Matthews (6-1 MMA)
Age: 31 years old
Height: 5’8″ / Reach: 71″
Weight Class: Featherweight (145lbs.)
First DW’s Contender Series Fight: 2022 (Week 2)
Old DW’s Contender Series Opponent: Francis Marshall (7-2 MMA)
Second DW’s Contender Series Fight: 2023 (Week 10)
New Opponent: Jair Farias (10-0 MMA)
First Contender Series Fight
Connor Matthews entered his first Contender Series fight in 2022 with a perfect professional record of 5-0. Matthews had finished all five of his opponents in the first round and only had a total fight time of 2 minutes and 49 seconds. All of his wins except his first (a 7 second KO) were via submission.
Matthews trains out of the New England Cartel, home to talented UFC strikers like Calivn Kattar and Rob Font.
Matthews lost a unanimous decision in what was completely uncharted territory as he had never made it past the first round in a pro MMA fight.
Connor displayed solid offensive boxing as you would expect, training with the caliber of guys that he does. Matthews also showed a great ability to keep his opponent on the end of his straight punches, maximizing his reach.
Matthews struggled with defending the takedown against his opponent and was momentarily stunned a few times throughout the fight. While on the ground Connor was able to show that he does have very competent defensive grappling. And even though the fight didn’t come out in Connor’s favor he raised his stock by continually moving forward and throwing strikes despite slowing down a bit throughout the fight.
First Contender Series Opponent
For Connor’s first fight on the Contender Series, he took on a fellow undefeated fighter at 5-0, in Francis Marshall. Of Marshall’s five MMA bouts heading into the Contender Series, he finished four of them via rear naked choke. Marshall obviously has some pretty good offensive wrestling.
Marshall received a UFC contract as a result of his performance against Matthews. Francis has fought three times in the UFC thus far.
Francis took on then, 16-8 fighter, Marcelo Rojo in December of 2022. Francis was able to finish his opponent in the second round via punches.
Earlier this year in April, Francis took on then 11-2 fighter, William Gomis for his second outing. Unfortunately, Marshall would find himself on the wrong side of split decision.
And in Marshall’s most recent fight he took on 5-0 fighter, Isaac Dulgarian back in August. Marshall would be finished with just 12 seconds to go in the first round via ground and pound.
This loss didn’t age badly for Matthews as it’s important to keep in mind that Francis Marshall isn’t even ten fights into his professional career yet, is 24 years old and showed good things in all his fights thus far.
The Road Back
Since losing on the Contender Series a year and about two months ago, Matthews has fought just one time.
Connor’s bout was earlier this year, in March, when he took on then 8-4, Andrew Cruz, in the main event of Combat Zone 79. Connor finished his opponent in just under four minutes of the first round.
Gameplan/ New Opponent
For Connor’s shot at redemption, this time, he will be taking on 10-0 undefeated fighter, Jair Farias. Jair is very dangerous as he has finished nine of the ten fighters that he has faced in pro competition.
Farias has been cutting his teeth on the regional Brazilian circuit and the combined record of his opponents at the time of fighting them was: 40-22
Farias is largely untested and has solid leg kicks and a big right hand. Connor will look to capture a contract this time around in the last edition of the 2023 season of the Contender Series.