An action-packed night led to a generous Dana White on the latest edition of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.
Once the dust settled, the UFC president handed out contracts to four of the night’s five victors: Juan Adams, Ian Heinisch, Jordan Griffin, and main event fighter Roosevelt Roberts.
An undefeated lightweight with a lanky 6-foot-2 frame, Roberts (6-0) earned an emotional victory over tough veteran Garrett Gross (11-8) in the night’s headlining bout. Fighting after the recent death of two of his cousins, Roberts took down Gross at will throughout the contest and poured on heavy ground-and-pound from top position. The 24-year-old busted up Gross with elbows and punches in the first round and even nearly secured a standing guillotine finish in the opening seconds of the contest. He then repeated the favor in the second frame, taking Gross down with a slick knee tap then rotating between half guard and mount while throwing huge flurries of strikes.
Gross ultimately gave up his back and allowed Roberts to sink in a rear-naked choke at 2:13 of the second round. Afterward, Roberts called out TUF 27 winner Mike Trizano for his Octagon debut and dedicated the win to his fallen loved ones.
“Man, it’s just like a dream come true,” Roberts said. “I just wish my cousins were here to see it, because they would’ve been in the stands with me, but I know they see me and it feels good.”
In the night’s co-main event, after losing his Contender Series debut, heavyweight prospect Dontale Mayes (5-2) made good on his second opportunity. However, his second-round TKO win over Mitchell Sipe (4-1) didn’t end up being enough to earn a UFC contract.
Mayes, a training partner of UFC heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes, dropped Sipe from the ranks of the unbeaten in a bloody, back-and-forth affair that left the Contender Series canvas drenched in crimson. After an exhausting opening round marred by two accidental head butts, Mayes seized control in the second frame by slicing Sipe’s forehead open with a razor-sharp step-in elbow that forced cageside officials to halt the match and clean up Sipe. Once the action restarted, Sipe immediately dropped for a single leg takedown, however Mayes defended successfully and unloaded a relentless series of punches and elbows from top position to earn the stoppage at 4:49 of the second round.
In one of the most impressive performances of the night, middleweight up-and-comer Heinisch (11-1) overcame early adversity to score a highlight-reel, first-round knockout of Justin Sumter (6-2) and earn a UFC contract.
Sumter landed a quick takedown to start the contest, then took Heinisch’s back in a scramble. “The Hurricane” powered through though, then reversed the position and starting going to work from the top, opening a wide cut on Sumter’s brow with a variety of strikes before finishing the fight by knocking Sumter out cold with a trio of devastating ground-and-pound elbows. The official time of the stoppage was 3:37 of round one.
Afterward, Heinisch had a message for White.
“I told him that it’s ‘Hurricane’ season,” Heinisch said. “I took the long road here. I’ve been through so much adversity and I’m the LFA champ. I’m knocking people out. Wherever the fight goes, I’m finishing fights, I’m an exciting fighter. I feel like it’s time.”
Fellow contract winner Griffin (17-5) submitted Maurice Mitchell (11-2) with a nasty first-round rear-naked choke to emerge victorious in an frenetic, back-and-forth fight.
The Roufusport featherweight took control of the striking early, even catching his foe with a blistering left straight that sent Mitchell’s mouthpiece flying across the canvas, however Mitchell stayed game and soon caught Griffin in a deep arm-triangle choke along the fence. In a remarkable sequence, Griffin first used the fence to explode out of the choke, then landed a monster left hook to the jaw that dropped his featherweight opponent.
Sensing the end, Griffin jumped on the fight-ending choke and coaxed a quick tapout at 3:57 of the opening round.
“When he hit me, I saw two of him,” Griffin said, laughing. “So I was still seeing two, like, ‘Holy shit,’ so I was like, ‘I’m just going to swing for one of them!’ And I hit the right one.”
Heavyweight prospect Adams (4-0) opened the night by roaring past Shawn Teed (5-2), a training partner of UFC light heavyweight contender Corey Anderson. His performance also earned him a UFC contract.
Despite only being a professional for 13 months, the 26-year-old Adams dominated Teed from pillar to post, rocking Teed with a early volley of punches along the fence then smashing Teed on the ground after effortlessly defending a heel hook attempt. Adams eventually worked his way into mount and forced a stoppage with a barrage of strikes at 4:17 of the opening round.
“I told him, ‘You begged for this, so call me Daddy while I choke you out,’” Adams said jovially. “And then I let go and knocked him out.”