Dana White Announces UFC Contract Winners | Week 4 – Contender Series Season 5
Hashem Arkhagha vs AJ Dobson
Official Result: AJ Dobson def. Hashem Arkhagha by submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:21 of Round 1
The headliners came out swinging hammers, and it didn’t take long for Dobson to put Arkhagha on the deck, catching him with a wild right hand that knocked him off balance. Dobson settled into top position, working from side control, Arkhagha tying him up, providing few opportunities for the Ohio native to attack before recovering guard.
But Dobson actually had more success from being in Arkhagha’s guard, landing several heavy shots before he kicked free and got back to his feet. Arkhagha sprinted away from Dobson, who gave chase, landing heavy blows, leaving Arkhagha dazed and firing wild, winging punches in return. Stationed in front of his corner, Dobson unloaded with short punches, looking to secure the finish, shifting his game plan and sinking in a no-hooks rear-naked choke to secure the finish.
Just a blistering effort from the unbeaten American middleweight.
Michael Morales vs Nikolay Veretennikov
Official Result: Michael Morales def. Nikolay Veretennikov by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Veretennikov took the center to start and after Morales backed him up with long, wide punches, the Kings MMA product started pressing forward with a little greater sharpness, only for Morales to change levels and secure a body lock, spinning Veretennikov to the fence. The fighter from Kazakhstan defended well, forcing Morales to look to change his approach, resulting in the two separating and moving back into the center of the cage.
Morales continued to be the more aggressive striker of the two, keeping this fight at distance with long attacks before an inadvertent eye poke pressed pause on the action.
Resuming with a little over 90 seconds to go in the round, Veretennikov came forward and found a home for a pair of clean punches, prompting Morales to look to wrestle, only to have Veretennikov quickly and easily spin him back into the center of the Octagon. Down the stretch, Veretennikov was the more active of the two, but Morales remained game, continuing to land from range and seemingly frustrate his opponent at times.
Veretennikov came forward again to start the second, but once again, it was Morales who landed the best shots early, connecting with a Superman punch and long-range attacks before changing levels and driving Veretennikov to the canvas. Morales settled into top position inside Veretennikov’s guard, trying to chip away with the Kings MMA fighter looking to tie him up and get a standup from the referee.
After getting told to work, Morales listened, attacking with a series of strikes before dragging Veretennikov back to the mat after he scrambled up to his feet. When Morales got a little loose from top position, Veretennikov scrambled back to his feet, but Morales continued to dominate the action, opening up more with his hands and putting it on his tiring opponent, forcing him to reach for a desperation takedown to avoid the punishing blows coming his way. Morales stuffed the takedown and battered Veretennikov with short shots to either side of his head, drawing a closer look from referee Mark Smith and sending himself into the third in total control.
Morales got right back after it to start the third, landing punches to the head and body as Veretennikov lumbered forward, clearly exhibiting superior freshness and confidence, beginning to showboat and add a little flair to his attack. Two minutes in, Morales pressed forward for a takedown and looked for a throw when he was stuffed, giving Veretennikov an opportunity to work from top position after hitting Morales with a hard knee to the body.
After fending off an armbar attempt, Veretennikov made a mistake and allowed Morales to climb off his back and return to being the aggressor, the two getting into a stalemate while Veretennikov hunted for a takedown against the lengthy fighter from Ecuador. When they got back to a standing position, Morales hit a slick sit-out, depositing Veretennikov on the canvas, hitting a statement throw right before the horn to seal up the victory.
Very impressive effort from the undefeated 21-year-old Morales, who moved to 12-0 with the victory, while bringing Veretennikov’s eight-fight winning streak to an end in the process.
Steven Nguyen vs Theo Rlayang
Official Result: Steven Nguyen def. Theo Rlayang by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 30-26)
Fighting on the Contender Series for the second time, Nguyen came forward confidently to begin his return to the UFC APEX, closing the distance on Rlayang, pushing forward with punches and kicks, parrying and blocking much of what came back his way. While Rlayang was a little more active, Nguyen continued landing the more impactful blows, picking his spots and making them count throughout the opening round.
Nguyen looked to reclaim the position he held for the entirety of the first five minutes, but Rlayang grabbed a single leg and dumped the Fortis MMA product to the canvas, only for Nguyen to quickly work back to his feet. Once he did, “The Ninja” got back to advancing, closing the distance and stinging Rlayang with a combination along the fence, but failing to build on it.
Rlayang timed a beautiful takedown and put Nguyen on the deck, but once again, the more experienced fighter quickly reversed the position, standing up and backing out, allowing Rlayang to get back up and the fight to retake it’s familiar distance and pace. Each time Nguyen looked to press forward behind strikes, he found success, but there was a little lack of urgency there, which allowed Rlayang to continue hanging around and chopping at his lead leg and Michael Bisping to question his approach from the booth.
Nguyen came out a little more aggressive to begin the third, heeding the advice of his coach, Sayif Saud, looking to land with a little more pop and trying to get Rlayang out of there. A low blow paused the action momentarily with just over three minutes remaining in the contest, and when they restarted, it was more of the same, with Nguyen fighting a clean, technical fight, landing the odd sharp blow, but failing to follow up on those punches.
An eye poke paused things again and Nguyen got a stern warning from referee Mike Beltran about his fingers, and when the action resumed, Rlayang cranked up the volume, trying to find a home for something sharp to change the direction of the fight. The action was halted for a third time in the round for a second eye poke, this time Rlayang catching Nguyen, with Beltran deducting a point from Rlayang.
With a minute remaining, Nguyen started opening up a little more, having success with his hands, but as he’d done throughout the fight, he stayed technical and safe, securing the victory without ever really being in any trouble.
It’s a nice rebound effort from Nguyen after his knockout loss in his first Contender Series appearance, but it remains to be seen if it was enough to secure a UFC contract at the end of the night.
Kleydson Rodrigues vs Santo Curatolo
Official Result: Kleydson Rodrigues def. Santo Curatolo by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Rodrigues took the center of the Octagon to start this one, stalking forward while looking significantly bigger than Curatolo, who was content to circle on the outside, bouncing on his feet and moving in a manner reminiscent of his training partner, UFC standout Frankie Edgar. The Brazilian used his height advantage to keep Curatolo on the periphery, attacking with kicks and long punches before springing into a flying knee and crashing forward to close the distance.
Curatolo dealt with the knee without issue and controlled the brief clinch, reversing position along the fence and separating with ease, the duo getting back to their cat-and-mouse striking engagement, with Rodrigues continuing to chip away with kicks and keeping the CFFC standout guessing and largely inactive through the opening five minutes.
It was more of the same out of the gate to start the second, with Rodrigues attacking with kicks to different levels, keeping Curatolo off balance and causing him to switch stances due to the accumulated damage of the inside low kicks to the lead leg. While the Staten Island-based flyweight tried to press forward a couple times, he was just too passive on the outside, and even after finally dragging Rodrigues to the canvas for the first time, the Brazilian was able to quickly get back to the feet and resume his forward attack.
An errant low kick momentarily brought the action to a pause, but it was more of the same when the action resumed, with Rodrigues confidently coming forward, clipping Curatolo with a spinning heel kick and blasting him with a knee up high as the two exited a clinch in the center of the Octagon, sending him into the final round in complete control.
Curatolo got a stern lecture from Sean Santella in his corner between rounds, with “Shorty Rock” imploring his charge to come forward and leave it all in the Octagon, and Curatolo responded initially, hitting Rodrigues with the best shot of the fight early in the round. But Rodrigues resumed dictating the terms of engagement soon after, the variety of kicks and range on his strikes causing Curatolo to hesitate and eat heavy kicks.
Even in the positions where Curatolo would seem to be favored, Rodrigues dominated, attacking well in the clinch with knees and short strikes, before clamping onto a guillotine choke with just over a minute left in the round. Curatolo took it to the ground and popped his head free, but once again, he was unable to control the Brazilian on the canvas, with Rodrigues working back to his feet and cracking the Nick Catone MMA representative with another hard shot on the exit.
This was a complete and impressive effort from the 25-year-old, who pushed his record too 7-1 overall and extended his winning streak to six with a one-sided decision win.
Jacob Rosales vs Victor Martinez
Official Result: Victor Martinez def. Jacob Rosales by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
The lightweights came out of the gate firing, with Martinez catching Rosales almost immediately, prompting the CSW representative to reach for a takedown that wasn’t there. Through the first half of the round, Martinez got the better of the striking exchanges, landing the more telling punches and moving well, while Rosales countered with a steady diet of leg kicks, just missing the mark with his hands.
But things shifted a little in the second half of the opening round, with Rosales initiating a grappling exchange behind a clean right hand, momentarily taking Martinez’ back and looking for a submission opportunity, but coming up empty. Late in the frame, Rosales crashed home a clean one-two that put Martinez on the deck, giving the returning Contender Series competitor a chance to press for a finish before the round ended.
The one-minute break between the first and second rounds didn’t lessen Rosales’ momentum, as he instantly closed the distance and opened up with his hands, stinging Martinez with combinations and getting the better of the exchanges in space before dragging his foe to the ground with another takedown. Martinez popped back to his feet and circled into space quickly, settling in a little more and starting to steal back the advantage, putting his shots together in combination more and varying his levels as Rosales’ pace slowed and his offerings became more labored.
Late in the frame, Martinez deftly stuffed a takedown attempt along the fence, digging an underhook and working off the fence, moving into space smacking Rosales with a combination to grab the momentum heading into the final round.
In the corner between rounds, Rosales spoke to to his coach Ben Jones about his right hand, while Martinez was urged forward by “The General,” Sayif Saud, with both coming out looking to throw to begin the final five minutes. Rosales clearly wasn’t throwing his right hand and struggled to get in on a takedown attempt, with Martinez slipping out easily and popping home shots throughout the round as the two remained in range of one another, slinging punches.
To his credit, Rosales continued coming forward, offering everything he could with his left hand and mixing in plenty of kicks, while Martinez sniped home individual counters while moving backwards into the final minute. Late in the round, Martinez bashed Rosales with a two-piece that connected flush, closing out the fight with a takedown, the duo drawing a standing ovation from UFC President Dana White once the final horn sounded.
The judges were called upon to render a verdict and when their scores were tallied, it was Martinez who came away with the victory with scores of 29-28 across the board.