Tonight is the debut of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series on Fight Pass, a weekly series which will feature several bouts between prospects and veterans looking to showcase their talents and earn a shot (or another shot) in the UFC. UFC President Dana White, along with matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard, will be in attendance to scope out prospective talent and though not every winner is guaranteed a roster spot with the UFC, a good performance figures to open doors and the UFC’s pocketbook.
With that in mind, let’s look into the inaugural DWTNCS fight card and showcase a couple of the key things to know ahead of each fight.
Kurt Holobaugh vs. Matt Bessette
If this is the type of fight we can expect on these cards, the Tuesday Night Contender Series will be worth the monthly Fight Pass fee on its own. This is a fight that could easily take place on any UFC Fight Night card as both men are already deserving of a call up to the UFC.
Holobaugh competed once before in the UFC, losing a unanimous decision to Steven Siler in 2013. After the loss, Holobaugh went on capture the Titan FC featherweight title from current UFC competitor Des Green before losing the belt to current WSOF champion Andre Harrison. After losing his next fight against Bellator Season 8 featherweight tournament winner Frodo Khasbulaev, Holobaugh rattled off three stoppages in a row, including wins over UFC veteran Yosdenis Cedeno and former two-time K-1 HERO’s middleweight Grand Prix champion Gesias Cavalcante, the latter being a Titan FC interim lightweight title bout.
Bessette’s MMA career has been no less impressive. After overcoming a childhood diagnosis of leukemia, Bessette began his MMA career by capturing the Reality Fighting and Global Fight League lightweight titles. He lost the former to current UFC welterweight Joe Proctor and went on to have mixed success in Bellator, beating former UFC competitor Diego Nunes before losing to eventual title challenger Daniel Weichel. Bessette went on to win the CES featherweight title, and is currently on a seven-fight winning streak, all of them by stoppage.
Holobaugh is primarily a striker with crisp technique and tremendous hand speed. Bessette can do a bit of everything but his best asset is his dangerous submission game. Both men have high-pace, action styles that figure to make this a very fun fight but Holobaugh has been having success against a higher level of competition than Bessette and is much cleaner on the feet. The pick is Holobaugh by KO in the third round.
Greg Rebello vs. Azunna Anyanwu
Rebello was previously selected to compete on The Ultimate Fighter Season 11 as a middleweight but was eliminated in his fight to get into the house. After moving up in weight, Rebello has had great success in the CES organization going 6-2 as a heavyweight with one of those losses being for the CES heavyweight title.
Anyanwu is the current CFFC heavyweight champion (his third time with the title) and riding a four-fight winning streak. Before starting MMA, Anyanwu was an accomplished grappler even defeating a young Gunnar Nelson in an absolute match at a Grappler’s Quest event.
This could be a good, old-fashioned heavyweight slugfest but Anyanwu packs more power on the feet and the wrestling and grappling game to take advantage of the smaller Rebello. The pick is Anyanwu by stoppage in the second round.
Boston Salmon vs. Ricky Turcios
Salmon fights out of Xtreme Couture, amassing a 5-1 record in his short professional career. Of his five wins, four are stoppages and his lone loss came by way of controversial split decision which commentator Michael Schiavello called “one of the largest robberies I’ve ever seen in mixed martial arts.”
Turcios is the latest talent out of Team Alpha Male, compiling a perfect 7-0 record competing mostly for Fury FC, though he did have one successful outing in the Bellator cage. In his last fight, he won the Fury FC bantamweight title with a third-round KO.
Salmon is a tall, rangy striker with serious power in his strikes. Turcios has a kick heavy striking game with solid wrestling. Both are young, talented fighters who should make their ways to the UFC eventually but Salmon is more polished and has the more potent offense. He wins a fun decision.
Charles Byrd vs. Jamie Pickett
Byrd compiled a 7-4 record while competing as both a middleweight and a welterweight under the Legacy FC banner. Byrd’s most recent loss was an extremely competitive unanimous decision to UFC welterweight Bojan Velickovic.
Pickett is a short notice replacement for Justin Jones, coming in on just six days’ notice. He lost two of his first three fights but has since put together a six-fight winning streak with five stoppages.
Byrd is athletic and powerful with a solid grappling game and pop in his hands. Pickett is long and athletic with a huge reach but who prefers to employ his solid wrestling game. Velockovic’s wrestling proved too much for Byrd and Pickett’s should do the same. There’s definitely concern over the short notice for Pickett, but as Pickett was training for another fight already, the choice is Pickett by decision.
Joby Sanchez vs. Manny Vasquez
Sanchez is a Jackson-Wink fighter who previously competed for the UFC on three occasions, going 1-2 with one of the losses being to future title challenger Wilson Reis. Since leaving the UFC, he’s put together back-to-back wins over middling competition.
Vasquez has amassed an 11-2 record and will be making his flyweight debut. He’s a former Legacy FC bantamweight champion, winning the title from current UFC bantamweight Ricardo Ramos. After losing the title in his next bout, Vazquez rebounded with two wins over middling competition, the most recent of which was in the Bellator cage.
Sanchez is a good athlete with a well-rounded game working with a great camp. Vazquez is a good wrestler and submission grappler with a talent for getting to the back. This should be Sanchez’s fight to win based off his movement, striking, and athleticism but Vazquez has the type of potent offense that can nullify athletic advantages in a hurry. Still, the more likely outcome is Sanchez keeps the fight on the feet and out points Vazquez over 15 minutes.
Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series airs tonight at 8PM ET on Fight Pass.