For the first time in the history of the Dana White Contender Series, all five winning athletes earned UFC contracts.
It would have been an impossibly tough choice otherwise considering the kinds of performances on display on Tuesday night from inside the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. From the first fight of the night until the featured bout to close the show, the athletes competing this week all showed urgency to finish with four of the five fights ending by knockout or submission.
Joe Solecki, Antonio Trocoli, Hunter Azure, Maki Pitolo and Jonathan Pearce will now all join the UFC roster following the latest edition of the Contender Series.
“Tonight is what this show is all about,” White said while announcing all five fighters earned UFC contracts. “Tonight is what this show is designed for and the reason I created this show.”
Solecki closed out the night by putting his opponent to sleep with a first round guillotine choke submission to cap off an action packed night of fights. Light heavyweight prospect Antonio Trocoli earned a submission in his fight as well, which came after he suffered a badly broken foot early in the opening round.
Hunter Azure was the only fighter who didn’t earn a finish but he may have showcased the most lopsided performance on the entire card after he dominated Chris Ocon for three consecutive rounds.
Maki Pitolo, who was a welterweight masquerading as a middleweight on Tuesday night, unleashed a vicious barrage to the body to earn a TKO in his fight while Jonathan Pearce engaged in a slugfest with Jacob Rosales before finally getting the finish late in the third round.
Here are the full results from Dana White’s Contender Series Season 3, Week 3
Joe Solecki def. Jesse James Wallace by submission (guillotine choke) at 3:49, R1
Joe Solecki (8-2) knew he needed an impressive outing following a night filled by exciting finishes and that is exactly what he delivered.
The 25-year old lightweight was flawless from start to finish after planting Jesse James Wallace (9-3) on the ground and then methodically breaking down his defense to set up his submission finish.
Solecki was strong on top before eventually taking Wallace’s back as he began searching for the rear naked choke as he stayed in control on the ground. Wallace defended well but in his attempt to scramble free he left his neck open and Solecki seized the opportunity to latch onto a guillotine choke submission.
Solecki cranked on the choke with Wallace eventually rolling to his back, which only upped the pressure on his neck. Wallace refused to tap but the submission was wrapped up tight, which eventually put him to sleep as referee Herb Dean rushed into stop the fight.
It was a very strong performance that had Dana White on his feet to applaud the victory from Solecki.
Antonio Trocoli def. Kenneth Bergh by submission (neck crank) at 3:57, R1
Antonio Trocoli (12-3) made quick work of Kenneth Bergh (6-1) in his Contender Series debut as the Brazilian wrapped up a first round submission to ensure he got Dana White’s attention.
Trocoli got the win after suffering a badly broken foot throwing a body kick that clipped Bergh’s elbow during the initial exchange. He never showed any signs of weakness after suffering the broken foot, however, as he ended up taking Bergh down with a nice throw following a clinch against the cage.
From there it was all Trocoli as he advanced his position, took the back and then began fishing for the rear naked choke. Bergh didn’t give up the choke so Trocoli adjusted and ended up with a devastating neck crank that had his opponent’s head twisted in a very uncomfortable position.
Trocoli continued to torque the neck until Bergh was forced to tap out with the end coming at 3:57 into the opening round. It was a very strong showing, especially considering Trocoli had to know he was in a do or die situation after breaking his foot in that early exchange.
Hunter Azure def. Chris Ocon by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Hunter Azure (7-0) didn’t get the finish but he put on arguably the most complete performance on Tuesday night with a lopsided victory to remain undefeated in his bantamweight showdown against Chris Ocon (4-1).
Coming from a wrestling background, Azure was a monster with his takedowns but he didn’t shy away from throwing some heavy bombs on the feet as well when exchanging strikes with Ocon throughout the fight.
Azure was swinging with bad intentions with every punch while chipping away at Ocon’s foundation by battering his legs with a series of powerful kicks as well. Ocon was forced to play defense during almost every second of the fight, fending off takedowns and trying to survive any time the fight hit the floor.
The former Montana state wrestling champion nearly got a finish in the second round after taking Ocon to the mat, passing his guard and then attempting to lock up a rear naked choke. It was the same method of attack during the final round as well with Azure doing everything possible to put Ocon away.
To Ocon’s credit, he was able to survive to the final horn but ultimately it was Azure who put on a completely dominant performance over all 15 minutes.
Maki Pitolo def. Justin Sumter by TKO (strikes) at 1:37, R1
Maki Pitolo (12-4) made up for lost time after being forced out of his Contender Series bout last year to return with a stunning first round TKO on Tuesday night.
The Hawaiian took on a massive middleweight in Justin Sumter (7-3), who previously competed in the Contender Series against future top 15 fighter Ian Heinisch. Sumter started strong with a big punch that connected flush but Pitolo ate the shot and it was almost like it woke him up from a slumber.
Pitolo immediately began pushing forward with a flurry of punches, digging to the body with several combinations that started to pay dividends. Pitolo finally forced Sumter back against he cage where he began hammering away at Sumter’s midsection with a series of damaging left hands.
Sumter eventually crumbled to the canvas forcing the referee to rush into stop the contest with Pitolo celebrating a TKO win less than two minutes into the opening round.
Jonathan Pearce def. Jacob Rosales by TKO (strikes) at 1:50, R3
Jonathan Pearce (9-3) made his case for a UFC contract with a relentless offensive attack that eventually led to a third round TKO against Jacob Rosales (11-5) to kick off the latest installment of the Contender Series.
Both fighters were extremely offensive minded with Pearce constantly stalking forward with combinations and using his superior reach but Rosales put together strong counter striking attack.
The constant attacks from Pearce finally cracked Rosales’ chin in the second round when his flurry of punches started to really pour on the punishment. Pearce wobbled Rosales with several shots but he just couldn’t quite put him away. Rosales appeared to be running out of gas as the second round came to an end but he still found a way to survive Pearce’s barrage.
An exhausted Rosales still came out swinging in round 3 but Pearce was going for the kill by taking the fight to the ground where he began unleashing even more heavy-handed offense. The end finally came when Pearce shredded his opponent’s defense and then unloaded a missile like right hand that blasted Rosales in the jaw.
The punch led to a flash knockout, which forced referee Herb Dean to rush into stop the fight with Pearce earning the third round finish.