On a night full of exciting finishes, UFC president Dana White had no choice but to show almost all of the competitors the money.
For the first time ever, four fighters received contracts for their performances on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Ryan Spann, Matt Sayles, Anthony Hernandez, and Dwight Grant are the newest editions to the UFC roster.
Spann (14-5) made the most of a second Contender Series opportunity, needing just 26 seconds to submit Argentina’s Emiliano Sordi (16-7). A straight right from Spann clipped Sordi and left him down on the canvas. As he scrambled to recover, Spann took his neck in a guillotine choke and secured the fast tap out.
Last July, Spann suffered a 15-second knockout to Karl Roberson on week three of the Contender Series, but the 26-year-old light heavyweight rebounded with three consecutive first-round finishes in the Legacy Fighting Alliance promotion. During his post-fight interview, he credited his children with giving him the motivation to keep pursuing his UFC dream.
“They’re who I do this for,” Spann said. “Everything I do is for them. I love my son. He’s the one that got me to go back in after that fight, so we’re here. He wanted me to do better and here I am.”
In the main event, Matt Sayles (7-1) made short work of previously undefeated featherweight Yazan Hajeh (6-1).
Sayles found a home for his right hand early, rattling Hajeh with a straight punch. That seemed to put Hajeh off balance for the remainder of the fight and Sayles was able to stay on top of him and score another knockdown. He rained down punches on Hajeh from top position and while Hajeh was given every opportunity to recover, the bout was eventually waved off 1:57 into round one.
Top middleweight prospect Anthony Hernandez (7-0) made a huge impression on Dana White and the UFC matchmakers with a 40-second knockout win of Jordan Wright.
“Fluffy” walked Wright down from the opening bell and overwhelmed him with power shots. The right hand landed repeatedly, but it was a short left that had Wright stumbling against the cage. Hernandez followed up with more heavy right hands that left Wright completely unconscious.
Afterwards, an emotional Hernandez spoke about the impact that his recently deceased father Hugo had on his career.
“I worked my ass off for this, I think my dad would be very happy with me right now,” Hernandez said. “It’s still hard to talk about. But if you’re hiring Dana, I’m f**king ready for the job.”
“My dad’s like the only reason I continued fighting. Without him, I don’t know what I would be doing. He was literally my best friend,” Hernandez continued.
In the opening fight of the night, Dwight Grant (8-1) shook off a slow start to score an emphatic victory over the rangy Tyler Hill (6-2). The 33-year-old welterweight struggled to land a power shot as Hill walked him down and his corner implored him to be more aggressive after likely losing the first round.
Grant went headhunting in round two and he tagged Hill with a hard right, which Hill was able to withstand. He would not be so fortunate when Grant later landed an overhand right, then a left uppercut, a combination that put him down for the count at the 2:08 mark of the second period.
A student of Rafael Cordeiro, Chikadze showed plenty of promise, pulverizing Springer’s mid-section with snapping kicks. Springer fought through the punishing strikes to secure takedowns in all three rounds, gradually chipping away at Chikadze’s resolve.
It was in the final frame that Springer was able to advance to mount and hammer Chikadze with ground-and-pound. When Chikadze gave up his back to turn away from the punches, Springer sunk in a rear-naked choke to finish the fight via submission at the 4:10 mark of round three.