We’ve finally made it to the end of the line with another year in the books for the UFC and Contender Series. We’ve seen a great crop of talent, with some already having some impressive performances in the Octagon.
So we end on a bit of an odd note, with some steady talents worthy of the opportunity. But that also means some questionable matchups, which this time around aren’t as egregious as other installments.
Nick Maximov vs Oscar Ivan Cota
Cota (11-2) has been doing work both stateside as well as in his native Mexico, with some heavy hands and outmuscling those that try to grapple with him. This has led to a record that looks fine on paper, but he’s got wins over some very middling-to-not-very-good opposition. Following a submission loss to perennial iron man Jay Silva, he was slated to fight former CES fighter Greg Rebello in 2018’s Contender Series. Cota then withdrew again earlier this year when he was scheduled to fight Jared Vanderaa, who eventually won his bout. Now he brings a strength and size advantage to this bout (due to an 50+ pound difference), and aims to be another rough slugger in the UFC’s heavyweight division.
But he’s got an interesting challenge ahead with Nick Maximov (5-0). 6-0 as an amateur (with three triangle choke wins), the Nick Diaz Academy standout has some great grappling chops, decent boxing, and plenty of smarts to minimize damage. Where he may be most challenged here is dealing with the size and tenacity of Cota, but Maximov can and will slap a submission on from anywhere. The thing that makes it stand out most is the massive size differential and the fact that Maximov looks like he could have made 205 pretty easily. That and the fact that Cota isn’t very athletic overall, which raises questions regarding what they really want in new signees. The man can hit, but he’s very limited. It just is what it is.
JP Buys vs Jacob Silva
Buys (8-2) was a terror in South Africa’s EFC. Both a knockout and a submission threat, he pushes a steady pace and is a stud athlete in a division full of very talented fighters. His wrestling has improved steadily, and he’s got a great support system with the crew out of Texas’ Fortis MMA. He participated in the 2017 edition of the show, losing to a then-resurgent Joby Sanchez. Since then, he’s dusted himself off and committed to improving. He’s yet another talent that could have been signed straight from the regionals, but maybe this show needed more slots to fill with reliable talent to underpay later.
Jacob Silva (6-3) is a talented Texan that has got his pro career to a rough start at 0-2 but outworked the field to get to where he’s at. A heartbreaker of a loss earlier this year in August against Jeff Molina. He acquitted himself well in that match being a feisty striker that loves dogfights and works quickly with handspeed, pressure and footwork. His wrestling defense works well and he can respond when being pressured to move back. His output is also good, but he does have a habit of taking more damage than necessary, leaving him behind on the scorecards.
Nonetheless, this should be a very, very good fight.
Pauline Macias vs Gloria de Paula
Macias (4-0) pumps her jab frequently, can outwork opponents in the clinch, and employs a lot of movement. She’s very content to rely on her hands above all else, and has had a lot of cage time due to her decision wins both as a pro and an amateur.
de Paula (4-2) is a different story. She can crack, and loves to sling leather any chance she gets. There’s a bit of a concern as her more worthwhile opponents, current UFC fighter Ariane Carnelossi and former UFC fighter Isabel de Padua. Can she do damage and get past Macias? Sure! Will she, though? It depends on how her accuracy and output are put to use.
Sherrard Blackledge vs Tucker Lutz
This is a fun story, since both already fought on Contender Series earlier this year. But it’s cool, because they’re both pretty talented. Blackledge improved to 5-0 with his win over Cameron Church in September, while Lutz edged out Chase Gibson in September as well.
Lutz smashes guys after wearing them down bit by bit, often outpacing them with volume strikes and clinches. But Blackledge is also evolving, improving his wrestling and defense over at Syndicate MMA. Blackledge should make the most of his reach advantage, while Lutz should try to use his movement to fluster him and throw as much as he can at him.
Chelsea Hackett vs Victoria Leonardo
Leonardo (7-2) has had some pretty impressive wins so far, such as her lone Bellator bout against Malin Hermansson, or her lovely submission win over Jamie Milanowski in Invicta. Despite some setbacks against Miranda Maverick and Erin Blanchfield, she’s done well enough and earned a hard-fought win against Liz Tracy this past September. A strong ground game coupled with some pretty hard hits and a decent ground game have earned her a good deal of respect, and a win here could get her into the big leagues.
On the other side of the cage is Chelsea Hackett (3-0, 1 draw), most famous for this little number she pulled off last year. Hackett’s got some good combinations, can mix up her strikes effectively and maximize the use of her physicality on the ground to apply a lot of pressure and do more damage. This should be another interesting bout in which the winner and the loser could easily end up with development deals.
Weigh-in results are as follows:
Oscar Cota (263.5) vs. Nick Maximov (209.0) – Heavyweight
JP Buys (125.5) vs. Jacob Silva (125.0) – Flyweight
Gloria de Paula (115.5) vs. Pauline Macias (115.0) – Strawweight
Sherrard Blackledge (155.0) vs. Tucker Lutz (155.5) – Lightweight
Chelsea Hackett (126.0) vs. Victoria Leonardo (125.0) – Flyweight
Dana White’s Contender Series closes out its year this Tuesday night at the usual time, 8:00pm EST. The event streams on ESPN+.
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