Yorgan De Castro and Punahele Soriano’s performances on the season premiere of Dana White’s Contender Series couldn’t have been more different, but in the end they both felt the thrill of having earned a UFC contract.
De Castro (5-0) got the show off on the right foot (no pun intended) in the opening heavyweight bout, winning a striker vs. grappler battle as he stifled the wrestling of Alton Meeks (3-1) en route to picking up a first-round finish.
As expected, Meeks came out looking to tie De Castro up early, pushing him against the fence and taking him down to the mat. De Castro’s defense held up, which allowed him to get the fight back onto the feet where it was clear that his low kicks and high knees were Meeks problems.
A hard kick to Meeks’s left leg dropped him to the canvas and a few follow-up punches were all that were needed to seal the deal with just 15 seconds remaining in round one.
As for Soriano (6-0), he didn’t put on the most exciting performance, but did enough to remain undefeated against Jamie Pickett (9-4) in the evening’s headlining middleweight bout. Using high volume and a few well-timed takedowns, Soriano took a clear-cut unanimous decision with scores of 30-27, 30-27, and 30-26.
The longer Pickett did his best to score from range with straight punches and kicks, but Soriano kept up the pressure and swarmed with punches of his own to keep Pickett on the back foot. Soriano, who would later admit post-fight that he felt fatigue setting in, went to his wrestling base to slam Pickett in round two and finish with another takedown. He took Pickett down again early in round three and would hold him there for the remainder of the fight as Pickett was unable to escape bottom position.
In the end, UFC president Dana White decided to reward De Castro and Soriano with UFC contracts.
Also on the card, Hannah Goldy (5-0) got the better of her strawweight matchup with Invicta FC vet Kali Robbins (6-2), winning a unanimous decision with a pair of 30-27 scores and a 30-26. The impressively muscled Goldy took the lead early, circling back and allowing Robbins to wade into her striking range. In both rounds one and two, Robbins was eventually able to cut off the cage, but it appeared to be a case of too little too late as Goldy denied Robbins opportunities to score on the ground or go for any substantial submission attempts.
The final round had Goldy finishing strong as she landed knees in the clinch and punches on the ground after Robbins scrambled for a failed takedown.
An entertaining featherweight battle between the two most experienced fighters on Tuesday’s card saw Brendan Loughnane (17-3) pick up a trio of 30-27 scores to defeat Bill Algeo (12-4) by unanimous decision.
Loughnane was a cast member on The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes and he has a UFC fight under his belt as well as experience with the BAMMA and ACB; Algeo has competed for the World Series of Fighting and Ring of Combat. The two went back-and-forth for three rounds in an exciting contest, with Loughnane proving to be the more consistently accurate striker and effective grappler. Leg kicks paid dividends for Loughnane early, but Algeo amped up the aggression in the second, absorbing damage to land a few good shots of his own including a straight shot that appeared to damage Loughnane’s nose.
However, it was Loughnane who landed more frequently with low kicks and punching combinations, and he also ended rounds two and three in top position on the mat.
A welterweight bout between Brok Weaver and Leon Shahbazyan was canceled earlier in the day when Shahbazyan was forced to withdraw due to an illness. It was announced on the broadcast that Weaver will now fight Devin Smyth on the Aug. 13 episode of the Contender Series.
See the full results below:
Punahele Soriano def. Jamie Pickett via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Hannah Goldy def. Kali Robbins via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Brendan Loughnane def. Bill Algeo via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Yorgan De Castro def. Alton Meeks via first-round TKO (4:45)