Dana White’s Contender Series got off to a great start on Tuesday night. Rodrigo Nascimento, an undefeated Brazilian Heavyweight improved to 7-0 after defeating former hockey player Michael Martinek. Martinek entered as the favorite but Nascimento made it easy work. The fight didn’t last long at all. He landed a nice knee, got Martinek to the ground, bullied him, and then applied a great head and arm choke to get the tap. Dana seemed impressed.
Daniel Rodriguez holds a special place in my heart. He used to fight for the company I used to work for, Combate Americas. I watched him fight in person, on two or three different occasions. He ran into what seemed like a buzzsaw in Rico Farrington. But D-Rod pushed the pace, punished Farrington with leg kicks, scored a few takedowns, and ended the fight in full mount, raining down punches on Farrington and nearly missing a stoppage. No finish in this one, but D-Rod showed he belongs with the best.
Tracy Cortez fought next and she should definitely call me sometime. Coached by one of my favorite coaches, Santino de Franco, who’s also one of Henry Cejudo’s coaches, Cortez came hungry and prepared. Horrible backstory for Cortez. He brother died at 25, her Mom died 5 months later. It’s so easy to see she’s fighting for much more than just herself. Cortez came out and took some hard shots early but she had a clear grappling advantage and finished the first round bullying Maria Agapova. Right back to work in the second round, Cortez took Agapova to the ground, took her back, and searched for a choke. She settled for a body lock, which Agapova didn’t know how to get out of, and stayed in a dominant position for the remainder of the round. The third round was much of the same. Cortez gunning for the takedown, and for a second it looked like Agapova could’ve had Cortez in a very bad position but Cortez showed a lot of intelligence on the ground, reversed position, took Agapova’s back again, another body lock, searching for a choke, and stayed in a great position until the end of the round and ended up on the feet throwing everything she had. Dana loved it. Breaking down in tears during her post-fight interview. Clearly a super emotional fight for Cortez.
Next up was my favorite fight on the card; you’ve got undefeated Steven Nguyen fighting Aalon Cruz. Cruz is a Publix grocery bagger and stocker. A UFC contract for him would be huge. Great first round by both guys. Some awesome kicks from Cruz. Nguyen returning fire. Both guys were extremely active. In the second round, Cruz landed a nasty knee. But Nguyen showed a chin of steel and took it really well. Nguyen landed the big power shots. Both of these guys should honestly be in the UFC. Such an exciting fight to watch. Third round, Aalon Cruz, amazing cardio. Nguyen too. Both of them have amazing Cardio. Kicks flying from Cruz, it’s crazy how good this guys cardio is. Jumping knee from Cruz connects on Nguyen, devastating KO. Dana basically signed the contract as soon as it landed. What a fight. Unbelievable. No more Publix bagging.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) July 31, 2019
Finally the main event, light heavyweights Aleksa Camur and Fabio Cherant. Before the fight starts I’m thinking wow, this man is jacked, I just don’t see him losing. Not just because he’s jacked but because I’m getting the right kind of vibe. The one thing I noticed about Cherant is how calm he looked in there. Extremely relaxed. Both of these guys just taking the first round to feel each other out; nobody really doing too much damage in the first. Second round, Cherant landed a big shot, but Camur, flying knee, goodnight. Bang. That’s all she wrote. Camur with the KO. He’ll get a contract. Wow. An amazing night of fights.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) July 31, 2019
UFC contracts awarded: 4 (Nascimento, Cortez, Cruz, and Camur)