More contestants this week will battle it out in what could be a life-altering fight for their futures, and it’s another great set of fights.
First up, Brazil’s Jailton Almeida (13-2). Primarily a submission specialist, he’s shown a lot of promise with thudding leg kicks and a hulking frame. A certified finisher, he’s seen the judges’ decision very few times in his career and packs some serious power in his strikes. That has led to wins over Brazilian regional vet Edvaldo de Oliveira and former UFC fighter Ildemar Alcantara.
That leads us to his opponent. Nasrudin Nasrudinov is sitting pretty at a perfect 9-0 as a professional, and has all the tools to succeed and shine. He’s got a textbook double leg, beats the legs to get to side control and has excellent ground control. His striking isn’t just crisp and technical, he punctuates his combinations to nail the legs with kicks and rips hooks to the body effortlessly. He relies a bit much on his overhand right, but angles out of all striking exchanges beautifully.
This is a total package. How does Nasrudinov deal with the size and power that Jailton brings? We’ll have to see. But this also has the potential of Almeida ending up on his back and getting more time on the clock soaked up. If this stays standing, it becomes a test of Almeida’s cardio, and Nasrudinov has a decent chin that rarely gets touched. This is a pair of fighters the UFC could and should have signed immediately. Sadly, there’s little possibility they’ll both get the call-up.
The next bout should be a blazing exchange between two LFA vets, as Mo Miller (5-0) faces Brandon Lewis (5-0). Miller came up in the Ohio regionals, has a fantastic sprawl and great reactions for striking defense. He also had one of the most vicious ragdolling performances in LFA. A cautious striker, he really does his best work on the ground while keeping his wits about him standing.
But Lewis is a problem. Starting his MMA training at just 15 years of age, he went 7-1 as an amateur with all wins being finishes. Having gone pro in 2016, he’s had a perfect record since. Mixing up his kicks high and low, surprisingly agile and pouring on a lot of pressure, he’s hard to get off of you once he picks up the pace to his comfort level. Another pair that could have either fighter be an excellent addition to the roster.
Albert Duraev (13-3) is a Russian middleweight with a lot of upside. With wins over Clifford Starks, Piotr Strus, Vyacheslave Vasilev, Mikhail Tsarev and Patrik Kincl, he’s racked up eight in a row. Quality middleweights with an ability to stand out have been a bit easier to find in recent years, and this is an excellent pickup for the UFC if he wins and is chosen for a contract. His highlight reel pretty much shows what he’s about. Not much flash, but a truckload of substance and grit.
Yet here’s the concern. His opponent is Caio Bittencourt (14-6), who started his career at 1-4, then dug himself out of the hole to even out his record. He’s got a ton of finishes on his record, but it’s also a very spotty record, to say the least. Bittencourt is currently on an 8-fight win streak, and that includes fighting an 0-1 opponent when he was 12-6, as well as a fight prior to that where he was 10-6 facing an opponent making his pro debut. His only notable opponent was former UFC fighter Tiago Trator, whom he lost to twice very, very early in his career. Those are understandable losses, and early in his career. It’s the wins that give me pause. He’s not doing anything spectacular that stands out in his game, and is yet another part of the problem that plagues the Contender Series format.
They’re gonna make a lot of hay about his win streak, but keep this last part in mind.
Łukasz Brzeski (8-1, 1 draw) is a Polish heavyweight with a penchant for high kicks and scrambly submissions. A bit weird for a heavyweight, but he’s got a somewhat lanky frame and moves real heavy. After wearing opponents down, he tries to work a finish and it doesn’t always look pretty, but it works. His cardio is hit or miss, and mostly on the not-great side. His wrestling is rather basic, keeping things simple and making the most of the situations he’s in. His sprawls are pretty good, though. Once he takes control on the ground, there’s a massive deficit for his opponents to overcome.
He’ll be up against Dylan Potter (10-5), who isn’t quite as athletic. He’s got a crafty submission game, can also get heavy on opponents, but doesn’t run the same pace or keep the same volume. He can still pressure opponents and keep them on their back foot if he can bully them, but that may not be the case here. His only losses are to his only notable opposition against Ronny Markes and Anthony Hamilton, both UFC vets.
Jack Della Maddalena (9-2) is one of the hottest Australian prospects out there, and he’s making his way to Contender Series. After dropping his first two pro bouts, he’s been undefeated since and all of his wins are finishes. His work at Eternal MMA was good, taking on other promising up and comers, and he even appeared in Cage Warriors for a very wild performance.
His opponent is Switzerland’s Ange Loosa (7-1), a very dynamic striker that’s trained out of Sanford MMA under Henri Hooft. He’s got a lot of power in his shots, especially off the break. He’s got powerful knees in the clinch, and doesn’t take his foot off the gas when he’s going for the finish. His patience will certainly be tested here, as well as his cardio and the overall depth of his striking game.
Finally, Julia Polastri (8-2) is another Brazilian prospect on a hot winning streak, racking up six in a row including a win over Invicta standout Jessica Delboni. There isn’t much waste in what she does, working the clinch, pressing forward and punishing the body with knees, the controlling on the ground until the opportunity for a finish presents itself.
Across from her will be one of the best female prospects to grace the series to date. Jasmine Jasudavicius (5-1) got into MMA after meeting Jason Saggo, then ended up training with the Brock University wrestling team, travelling to Cuba for a wrestling retreat. After some impressive outings in her amateur run that saw her go 4-0 in just 13 months, she went pro and ended up in Cage Fury, where she went 2-1. Using her counterstriking and wrestling effectively, she really loves clinch knees. She’ll take two punches to give one back, but she pays back with interest. Polastri might not be able to outmuscle her here, and it’ll be a very tense affair standing.
You can check out the weigh-ins here:
Jailton Almeida (203) vs. Nasrudin Nasrudinov (206)
Brandon Lewis (135.5) vs. Mo Miller (135.5)
Caio Bittencourt (186) vs. Albert Duraev (184.5)
Lukasz Brzeski (234.5) vs. Dylan Potter (232.5)
Ange Loosa (170) vs. Jack Della Maddalena (170.5)
Jasmine Jasudavicius (125) vs. Julia Polastri (125)
Dana White’s Contender Series takes place this Tuesday and streams exclusively on ESPN+, starting at 8:00pm EST.
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