Contender Series has been delivering hard this year, but this may be the most middle-of-the-road edition so far.
Not that the fights themselves are bad (although there is some… odd stuff here), but they’re perhaps not quite as intriguing or have as many talents with a higher level of notoriety outside of the UFC ecosystem.
Plus, the main event is a heavyweight bout. Unfortunately, heavyweight is very, very random and also very inconsistent as a division. At least there’s some potential for fun between two hard-hitting heavyweights with identical records. At least for now.
Eduardo Neves vs Mick Parkin
Eduardo Neves and Mick Parkin are both 5-0 as professionals and have had very odd paths to get here. Neves swings leather and loves working opponents over while they’re pressed against the cage with hooks until he empties the clip. He’s a bit footslow and can be caught with hard shots, but his chin has held up remarkably well until now. His recovery is good, but he certainly doesn’t want to make a habit of living by it.
Parkin is also a striker that mostly boxes and also unfortunately tries to muscle his way to some takedowns. Neither fighter’s wrestling is where it needs to be. Neither is particularly gifted athletically nor someone that can make an immediate impact with a win and subsequent callup to the UFC. But it’s a fun fight between two chonky boys that hit hard and are hungry to get the next step up.
Darrius Flowers vs Amiran Gogoladze
Next up is a fine welterweight fight between Darrius Flowers (11-5, draw) and Amiran Gogoladze (14-2). Flowers is an interesting prospect who started his amateur run in 2014, and fought to a draw against Collin Huckbody. There isn’t much on his pro record that stands out dramatically save for one thing, a win over 9-29 Jon Kennedy. This was in 2019 while Flowers was 7-4(1). In this case, it’s not terribly egregious. The rest of his opposition has been decent (such as Joe Vedepo and Bobby Voelker), and his recent run in LFA has led to three straight victories. He’s got a good sprawl, he hits hard, and looks like he’s hit a good and proper stride in his career.
His opponent is Georgia’s Gogoladze, a promising prospect that started off in his native Georgia but quickly made the leap to the waters of M-1 where he earned some true quality wins against good opponents. He then left to fight for EMC, UAE Warriors and GFC. His only loss during that run after joining M-1 was against former PFL talent Handesson Ferreira, which isn’t a bad look. The guy can do it all. Takedowns, submissions, and accurate strikes from range that earned him the nickname of “The Sniper“. He’s not just good, he’s probably the one fighter to be most excited about here. He’ll have to contend with the pace and ability to close the distance that Flowers possesses. This should be good.
Erisson Ferreira vs Jesus Santos Aguilar
Brazilian Erisson Ferreira (11-1) struggled a bit to make weight but made it in his second attempt on the scale. And his recovery better be good, because he’s got to face Mexico’s Jesus Santos Aguilar (7-1). Ferreira has been here before, having fought on Contender Series last year in the final event of the year. He’s got talent, but his body of work wasn’t great.
From last year’s piece:
This next one is a doozy. Erisson Ferreira (10-1) blazed his way through the Brazilian flyweight scene to win his first six fights before facing his first pro loss. He hasn’t dropped a bout since, and his last win was against a pretty good fighter. The problem? That win was a doctor’s stoppage between rounds and all of his other opponents have been… not good. You can’t be too hard on a fighter with a certain amount of fights (see Estremadura above) facing guys with records at around or under .500 when you consider the environment and region they’re in and where they’re at in their development. But when a guy is just feasting on 0-1, 1-4, 0-2 and 2-3 opponents in Brazil, where competition isn’t that scarce?
Can he fight? Sure. He hung tough with an experienced opponent, gave him some fits and nailed some good shots. But, even with a win here, would anyone be able to look at his recardand say he’s capable of holding his own in what is perhaps the most competitive division in the UFC with the highest skill baseline?
He won that fight, but only by virtue of the guy he fought being worse. Again: he’s good. Is he good enough to hang in the UFC? Because that’s the main question if he wins and it doesn’t seem like the answer is particularly a positive one.
Especially against Aguilar, a submission specialist that lost his pro debut and hasn’t lost since. Two of his wins were by decision, the rest were all subs. Ring rust may be a factor considering his last fight was in Combate Global back in July of 2021, but he’s a sharp and spry athlete that doesn’t give up an inch once he establishes ground control. As expected, his sub game is aggressive.
Cameron Saaiman vs Josh Wang-Kim
South Africa’s Cameron Saaiman (5-0) is the latest fighter out of EFC to roll the dice on himself by fighting on Contender Series. While his record doesn’t have any major standouts and has mostly been very limited opposition, he’s a talented young prospect that does a lot of things well and is only 21 years old. While it’s more than valid to question whether or not more seasoning would be better prior to taking this step (especially in a division as deep and as treacherous as bantamweight), he’s a fine inclusion and can put on some exciting performances.
He’s facing Josh Wang-Kim (5-1), whose lone loss was due to a disqualification when the threw illegal elbows to the back of the head. Other than that? He’s looked pretty good. Snappy leg kicks, busy with submission attempts off his back, and he also has had very little that stands out in terms of his opponents. It is what it is. This should be a fun bout as long as Kim stays active from the beginning, because Saaiman is not a slow starter.
Denise Gomes vs Rayanne Amanda
This one is a concern.
First, Denise Gomes (5-1) is a firecracker. There’s no denying it, she’s tough. She did some damage on the Brazilian circuit and then stepped up and had a really rough scrap against Milana Dudieva in Invicta. She loves throwing hands and teeps down the middle, and isn’t fazed by any offense that comes her way. She should clearly run away with a win here, especially against Rayanne Amanda.
Why the confident declaration? Well, while I make efforts to not disrespect fighters and their craft, she simply should not be here. Rayanne (11-5) only has wins against two opponents with records over .500.
I’m going to guess a lot of hay will be made of her recent four-fight win streak, and guess what? One was 0-1, another was 0-5, and the others were making their pro debuts. Being 9-5 or 10-5 and facing debuting talents isn’t just a red flag. It’s a clear ploy to get her into a bigger organization with a padded record. Not even a particularly well-padded one, either. In fact, she’s faced four opponents making their debut going back to when she was 2-2.
Every fight against a fighter over .500 has led to her losing. Oh, one of the two fighters with winning records she actually won against is now 8-9 with two draws. But at least that fighter also lost to Loopy Godinez and Cheyanne Vlismas. I guess there’s that
While we try to take an educated guess as to how close to their ceiling a fighter is, it’s tough to determine what that limit may be and how fast they’ll get there. Rayanne seems to have hit hers in 2018.
This isn’t even a mistake or a bad gamble, this is downright malpractice and it’s disgusting matchmaking. On top of that, it’s just bad scouting and flat-out irresponsible. Anyone putting money on Rayanne needs the most serious intervention that can be arranged. the best you can hope for is an entertaining bout that’s sort of competitive for a spell or a highlight reel performance for Denise. That’s it. Good luck on anything else.
Full card is as follows:
Mick Parkin (259) vs. Eduardo Neves (265)
Darrius Flowers (171) vs. Amiran Gogoladze (170.5)
Jesus Santos Aguilar (125.5) vs. Erisson Ferreira da Silva (125.5)*
Cameron Saaiman (136) vs. Josh Wang-Kim (135)
Rayanne Amanda (115.5) vs. Denise Gomes (115.5)
Dana White’s Contender Series takes place this Tuesday night starting at 8:00pm EST. As usual, it will stream live and exclusively on ESPN+.