The fourth edition of Dana White’s 2021 Contender Series goes down on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, starting at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN+. Last week five more contracts were handed out, totaling 15 on the season. Week 4 will feature ten more fighters looking to earn their UFC contract. From undefeated fighters to DWCS returnees, week 4 has the potential to be the most entertaining week of the season. Let’s take a look at all five matchups and see what the fighters bring to the table.
Jacob Rosales (13-6) vs. Victor Martinez (12-4)
Contender Series week 4 starts with Jacob Rosales vs. Victor Martinez. Both fighters prefer to strike but maintain different styles to find success. At 26 years old, Rosales is an exciting prospect with natural power that flows with his crisp striking. After losing on the Contender Series in 2019, Rosales went 2-1 in LFA to earn another shot. The experience, skills, and heart are there. All Rosales needs is an impressive performance to find himself in the UFC.
On the contrary, Martinez looks to extend his six-win streak. After starting his pro career 0-2, Martinez began to improve tremendously. Martinez found himself with a 6-4 record before winning his last six fights. Martinez has 8 KO/TKOs due to his aggressive pressure and heavy hands. Although most opponents try not to strike with Rosales, Martinez has the tools to find success. Regardless of who wins, Rosales vs. Martinez should be entertaining due to their equal willingness to stay on the feet and exchange combos.
Kleydson Rodrigues (6-1) vs. Santo Curatolo (6-1)
Secondly, Kleydson Rodrigues and Santo Curatolo go toe-to-toe at flyweight. Rodrigues is on a five-win streak dating back to September 2016. He is well-rounded and has a lot of strength compared to most flyweights. Rodrigues main issue is that he has not stayed active enough. After fighting six times in four years, Rodrigues has not fought in two years. Anyhow, he is 25 years old and could do damage in the UFC flyweight division.
Curatolo is a dangerous fighter that always looks for the finish. He has ended all six of his wins with a finish. Curatolo has fought exclusively with CFFC and fought some tough competition along the way. Although his fight style is well-rounded, Curatolo’s aggression has been his key to success. It will be interesting to see how his aggression matches up with Rodrigues’s strength.
Steven Nguyen (7-1) vs. Theo Rlayang (5-0) could be fight of the night at Contender Series week 4
Thirdly, Steven Nguyen appears on DWCS for a second time against Theo Rlayang. Training out of Fortis MMA, Nguyen is one of the most intriguing featherweight prospects around. After compiling a record of 6-0, Nguyen lost on the Contender Series by flying knee. He returned one and a half years later to get one of the best regional knockouts of the year at LFA 101. With five first-round finishes, Nguyen fights explosively with a high fight IQ. Safe to say, he will do whatever it takes to make the best of his second opportunity.
Conversely, Theo Rlayang continues to finish fights and improve. At 27 years old, Rlayang made his pro debut in February 2020. Since then, he has built a 5-0 record with four finishes. The concern for Rlayang is that his opponent’s combined record at the time was 14-25-1. He throws a lot of feints and switches stances a lot to confuse his opponent. Nguyen has been surprised before, and Rlayang has the tools to get the job done. It is hard to see this fight going the distance.
Michael Morales (11-0) vs. Nikolay Veretennikov (9-3)
Fourthly, Michael Morales vs. Nikolay Veretennikov features opponents with a 13 year age difference. Morales comes in as one of the youngest fighters to compete on DWCS. At 21 years old, Morales is 11-0 with 9 KOs/TKOs. His ability to stay patient and use his quick striking has worked wonders for him. Unfortunately, Morales has only been past the second round twice and could have his cardio tested. The key to success will be to control the pace and keep Veretennikov away. Win or lose, Morales has a bright future in the sport of MMA.
Veretennikov has only one more fight but comes in at 34 years old. After starting his pro career 1-3, Veretennikov managed to win eight straight, six by KO/TKO. Veretennikov thrives in close range and manages to create a lot of damage wherever the fight goes. He needs to apply pressure this fight because Morales has struggled on his back foot. His durability should be the biggest concern for Morales.
Hashem Arkhagha (6-0) vs. AJ Dobson (5-0) set to headline Contender Series Week 4
Lastly, Hashem Arkhagha vs. AJ Dobson will end the night with a hard-hitting matchup. Arkhagha comes into this fight 6-0 with six finishes. After starting his pro career 4-0, Arkhagha took off seven years from competition before returning in 2019. Unfortunately, Arkhagaha missed weight by three pounds at the weigh-ins today. Consequently, concerns have arisen over how he will be able to perform. Although he missed weight, Arkhagha still possesses the power to end any fight. In addition, the missed weight may force him to go all-out for an early finish.
Alternatively, Dobson may be the most dangerous fighter on this fight card. Holding a record of 5-0, Dobson has finished three fights by KO/TKO. His powerful striking can KO his opponent in only one punch. At 29 years old, Dobson’s only flaws have been staying consistently active and fighting more experienced opponents. None of that will matter if he can secure his fourth KO/TKO in the main event against Arkhagha.
UFC London | 5 Fighters Who Have To Be On The Card
Immediately after UFC London earlier in the year, the ball started rolling towards a second UK event in 2022 after Dana White made it clear he wanted to come back soon. Whilst the year’s first event at the O2 Arena delivered one of the best non-PPV events in recent history, there’s still more ground to cover. Aspinall vs Volkov was stacked with home fighters but there are still a handful that missed out on fighting in front of the UK.
Here are five UK fighters that deserve a chance to fight at the O2 Arena after missing out the first time. Not that we’re complaining if the likes of Paddy Pimblett and Jai Herbert show up on this card also.
5. Dom Wooding
Yes it is true, we will never stop banging this drum. After defending his Cage Warriors bantamweight title in December of last year, we had our fingers crossed that London would come around in time for Dom Wooding. The ‘Black Panther’ didn’t get the call up on that occasion but absence has only made the heart grow fonder. This is the time for Dom Wooding to fight in the UFC and if you don’t believe us, maybe ‘The Last Stylebender’ can change your mind.
4. Mason Jones
Mason ‘The Dragon’ Jones has had quite a stop and start UFC career since joining the promotion as a double champion in Cage Warriors. The Welshman is 1-1-1 in the UFC so far and would have picked up some decent momentum if his fight with Alan Patrick hadn’t been stopped due to an accidental eye poke in a fight he was winning comfortably. A win over late notice replacement David Onama, who recently picked up a first UFC win of his own, has got Jones back on the right path after a tough introduction to the UFC against Mike Davis. Jones always delivers great fights due to his high pressure and output style and a win in London could be exactly the kind of moment he needs to really put the past behind him and push on in the UFC.
3. Lerone Murphy
For the vast majority of UK fight fans, Lerone Murphy came out of nowhere when he debuted in the UFC. Now on a 3-fight win streak after his debut resulted in a draw at UFC 242, Murphy has been putting on increasingly impressive performances every time he has stepped foot in the Octagon. Still yet to fight in front of UK fans, ‘The Miracle’ will have a huge fight on his hands in his next outing as he looks to step foot in the rankings of the stacked featherweight division.
2. Davey Grant
Davey Grant has really made a name for himself in recent times as a must watch fighter who will steal a main card. After chaining back-to-back finishes, Grant may have lost two of his last three fights but his stock in the UFC has risen massively. His fights with Marlon Vera and Adrian Yanez put Grant on the map when it comes to value for money fighters. Now back in the win column after his 3rd round finish over Louis Smolka at the weekend, Grant said in his post fight interview about making a quick turn around and potentially fighting in London. We know we are asking for a lot with the card already being incredibly busy but Davey Grant opening the main card with a barnburner is sure to blow the roof off of the O2 just like the last time the UFC came calling.
1. Nathaniel Wood
Luck has not been on Nathaniel Wood’s side as of late. Three cancelled fights in a row meant he missed out on the first London card even after he was found a replacement opponent. An illness forced Vince Morales out of their bout which seemed to be opening the event and setting the tone for the evening with the return of ‘The Prospect’ in front of his people. After going 4-2 as a bantamweight in the UFC but losing to two top fighters in John Dodson and Casey Kenney, Wood has announced he is moving up a weight class since his fight in London fell off. Nathaniel Wood deserves this chance to fight in London after losing out at such short notice last time around and we can’t wait to see how he stacks up amongst the rest of the 145 pound division.
Fight To Watch | Muhammad Mokaev vs Charles Johnson
Fights are being booked fast and furiously for July 23rd as the UFC’s anticipated return to London approaches. With fireworks expected throughout the whole event, MMAPlay365 and VMTV have scoured through the card and selected Muhammad Mokaev vs Charles Johnson as our ‘Fight To Watch’ on the night.
Muhammad Mokaev returns to the octagon following a successful debut back at UFC London in March against Cody Durden. ‘The Punisher’ made light work of his American counter-part, submitting him in the first round via guillotine choke with very little problems. His upcoming opponent, Charles Johnson, signs with the UFC after an impressive four-fight winning streak on LFA, which saw him capture and defend flyweight gold.
His ability to mix it up on the feet and in grappling scenarios make this a much more dangerous bout for Mokaev stylistically, but it’s still nothing the 21 year old won’t be able to handle in the eyes of MMAPlay365 CEO, Adam Newsome:
“At this stage of Muhammad Mokaev’s UFC career every fight is going to be a test. And just because you haven’t heard of Charles Johnson doesn’t mean he isn’t a good fighter. Johnson was the Flyweight Champion in LFA. If you aren’t familiar with LFA it’s basically the American equivalent of Cage Warriors. You are battle tested in LFA and if you become a Champion the chances are the UFC are going to sign you.
So this is a very interesting match-up but still right now I don’t think that Mokaev gets tested enough to the point he loses. This is going to be another fight I see him doing extremely well in and I don’t see Mokaev losing a fight until he hits the top 20 of the division. But even when that time comes, he is going to have improved and developed so much that he could run through that pool of fighters at that time. If a fighter is going to beat Mokaev outside the best fighters in the division then now is the time to do it whilst he’s still developing. But even though he’s still developing he’s still a problem. I’m not sure Mokaev finds another finish here so I am predicting a dominant three round decision victory for Muhammad Mokaev.”
Cauley Quilty, Editor for VMTV, had this to say on the fight: “Muhammad Mokaev is always a treat to watch in action and his UFC debut back in March was nothing short of spectacular! He came to make a statement and did exactly that getting the first round finish and I see him doing the same thing when he steps back out there against Charles Johnson. His extensive amateur career and impressive run of professional performances make it almost impossible to not side with Mokaev in this bout, especially with the way he defeated Durden on his debut.
However, Charles Johnson isn’t an opponent anyone should underestimate as his resume and recent performances speak for themselves! His fight vs Carlos ‘Mota’ Tizil was a barnburner and with 8 of his 11 wins coming by way of finish you know he can get the job done when needed. Both fighters are highly touted and respected so expect the winner of this to receive a bump up in competition on their next outing.”
Who do you think leaves the ‘Fight To Watch’ with their hand raised? Be sure to let us know your predictions below!
Sumo | Summer Tournament wide open after 10 days
The Sumo Summer Tournament has a surprise joint-leader after 10 days, but many Rikishi are in with a shout of glory with only 5 days to go.
So far, only two have managed to achieve a guaranteed winning record, with M15 ranked Ichiyamamoto and M4 Takanosho posting 8-2 records 10 days in to the basho. It remains to be seen if he can keep up his championship challenge, but Ichiyamamoto is bringing back memories of the January 2020 basho when the M17 ranked Tokushoryu took home the title in a huge surprise. Whatever happens, Ichiyamamoto should see himself catapulted up the rankings for the next tournament if he can keep up this form. It is a welcome return to form for Takanosho who has previously been a Sekiwake.
Despite his patchy form, Terunofuji has scrapped himself to a 7-3 record, which puts him 1 behind the leaders in a large chasing pack. On day 10 he managed to get by a spirited Hoshoryu who is improving all the time. The Mongolian giant will be hopeful of taking home his first championship of the year. Others in the pack on 7-3 are Kiribayama, Ura, Sadanoumi and Aoiyama. With NINE more wrestlers on 6-4, only two behind the leaders and with an outside shot, there will be an amazing 16 Rikishi who may be dreaming of lifting the Emperor’s Cup come Sunday 22nd May. The chances of there being a playoff for the win for the second tournament running are looking pretty high.
Down at the other end of the table, it has been another tournament to forget for March’s playoff runner-up, Takayasu, who has posted a losing record of 2-8 so far. After doing so well to get himself back to M1 rank, he will find himself going down the rankings ahead of the July tournament. Ozeki Shodai has continued his poor form and one more defeat will once again see him staring down the possibility of losing his rank come July. March winner Wakatakakage, alongside fellow Sanyaku ranked competitors Abi, Takakeisho and Mitakeumi, are all fighting for winning records having gone 5-5 so far.
Keep an eye out for the next update after Saturday’s day 14 when I will be recapping the standings and looking ahead to what promises to be a very exciting final-day’s action.
Remember to check out the VMTV Sumo introduction and guide here if you need a refresher of the rules and some of the words used in these articles.
You can find the full rankings and results of the tournament so far at the Japan Sumo Association’s page here.
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