Alonzo Menifield, who made an appearance during the first season of the Contender Series, returned in the featured bout after UFC President Dana White suggested he get a little more experience before joining the ranks among the best of the best inside the Octagon.
Menifield was definitely listening, because he came out with a blistering eight-second TKO victory to earn a contract in the UFC.
Meanwhile, former NFL standout Greg Hardy not only made his professional debut as part of the Contender Series, but he did so with a jaw-dropping result as he made short work of fellow football veteran Austen Lane via first-round knockout.
Following the win, Hardy was offered a developmental contract with the UFC that will allow him to gain a little more experience before working his way into the heavyweight division.
This week, 10 more fighters will attempt to impress White and the UFC matchmakers with bouts ranging from featherweight up to light heavyweight in the latest search for new talent to join the roster from the Tuesday Night Contender Series.
MATT SAYLES (6-1) VS. YAZAN HAJEH (6-0)
The featured bout on the card will be a featherweight showdown between two fast rising stars both looking to get the attention of the UFC President on Tuesday night.
For Sayles, this will actually be his second time fighting in front of Dana White after he originally competed on an episode of “Lookin’ for a Fight” last year but ultimately wasn’t chosen to earn a UFC contract.
Now the San Diego-based fighter will get a second chance to impress as he looks to build on six career wins, five of which came by knockout. Sayles comes from a Muay Thai background, so don’t expect anything less than a striking display in this matchup.
Meanwhile, Hajeh has a solid foundation on the ground but he’s also more than happy to stand and strike with an opponent after getting his start under UFC lightweight James Krause.
Judging by the performances these two have put on in the past, this should be a crowd pleaser in the featured bout of the night.
ANTHONY HERNANDEZ (6-0) VS. JORDAN WRIGHT (9-0)
Somebody’s “0” has got to go in this middleweight matchup between two undefeated prospects.
Anthony Hernandez has long been considered one of the best up and coming fighters in the middleweight division, coming out of the MMA Gold Fight Team in California. There he trains with fighters like UFC welterweight Max Griffin, as well as women’s bantamweight fighter Aspen Ladd. Hernandez has been a dominant finisher for most of his career, with a nasty guillotine choke that earned him four wins in a row before becoming LFA champion in his last fight.
The next superstars? @ILoveBamf & @NinJordoMMA look to prove they have what it takes.
Stream LIVE on @UFCFightPass https://t.co/e1N8DUpLRr pic.twitter.com/m9knxE8pXp
— UFC (@ufc) June 16, 2018
As for Jordan Wright, he’s coming to the Contender Series with a blistering resume, including nine wins — all by first round finish — while training out of the famed Jackson-Wink academy in New Mexico. Wright is extremely well-rounded, with a mix of knockouts and submissions on his record. Given his lightning fast starts and devastating finishes, it’s tough to imagine Wright will even attempt winning this matchup by judges’ decision.
RELATED: Menifield, Hardy earn contracts on the first week of DWTNCS
GIGA CHIKADZE (5-1) VS. AUSTIN SPRINGER (10-3)
In another featherweight matchup on the card, kickboxer and MMA prospect Giga Chikadze will look to add another knockout to his resume when he meets former Ultimate Fighter hopeful Austin Springer
Chikadze comes to the Contender Series off five straight wins all by knockout while training out of Kings MMA in California, where he works with legendary head coach Rafael Cordeiro. In addition to his MMA record, Chikadze has also amassed more than 40 professional kickboxing bouts, so don’t blink when this lights out striker starts throwing his punches and kicks.
Standing across from Chikadze this week will be Austin Springer, who looks to redeem himself after failing to make it into the house on The Ultimate Fighter season 22 when he fell to current UFC lightweight contender Chris Gruetzemacher in the elimination round. Since that time, Springer has continued to face top competition, including a pair of bouts against two more Ultimate Fighter veterans in Julian Erosa and Steven Siler. Coming off a knockout in his last fight, Springer will look to put on a show in front of the UFC boss this week as he returns to The Ultimate Fighter gym for the first time in nearly three years.
RYAN SPANN (13-5) VS. EMILIANO SORDI (16-6)
Following a disappointing outing on the Contender Series last year, Ryan Spann will look to redeem himself when he faces off with Argentina’s Emiliano Sordi this week.
Spann made a very brief appearance in the first season of the Contender Series when he was blitzed with strikes in the opening round and suffered a knockout loss to Karl Roberson, who is now a middleweight on the UFC roster. Following that loss, Spann had something to prove as he earned three straight wins — all by knockout or submission — including a victory over UFC veteran Alex Nicholson in his last fight.
As for Sordi, he trains out of Alliance MMA in San Diego these days, and he has a wealth of experience under his belt while never going to decision in any of his 16 wins. While Sordi seems to prefer the knockout, he also has five submission victories on his resume as well, so he’s definitely not afraid to go to the ground.
DWIGHT GRANT (7-1) VS. TYLER HILL (8-1)
Two guys you clear a calendar for. @DwightGrant and @TylerZombieHill look to earn their way into the UFC on Tuesday.
Stream LIVE on @UFCFightPass https://t.co/e1N8DUpLRr pic.twitter.com/ZtxcSjqDhB
— UFC (@ufc) June 17, 2018
A welterweight matchup between Dwight Grant and Tyler Hill will kick off the Contender Series this week as both look to build on recent wins.
If the name Dwight Grant sounds somewhat familiar, the American Kickboxing Academy standout was mentioned by his teammate Justin Willis during one of his wins in the UFC just recently. Grant has won his past six fights in a row, with four of those coming by way of knockout. Grant is best known for his eye-popping knockouts, but don’t doubt his ground game, considering he’s working with light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez on a daily basis.
As for Hill, he comes to the fight out of Mississippi, where he trains alongside the likes of featherweight submission specialist Jason Knight as well as heavyweight slugger Chase Sherman. Hill is a massive welterweight standing 6-foot-3-inches tall and he’s only managed to go to decision once out of his eight professional wins. In other words, expect fireworks when these two welterweights clash on Tuesday night.
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