A lovely time of the year is upon us yet again, as Dana White’s Contender Series returns to your airwaves (shut up, we’re old) and blesses us with some fine prospect action.
This year starts off great, with a pair of excellent middleweights in the main fight, and some excellent prospects rounding out the card. The search for more quality light heavyweights has been quite fruitful for the series, as various prospects have had a chance to make waves on the show. Flyweight and featherweight could see some new additions this week as well.
In a bit of unfortunate news, a bout between William Souza and Farid Basharat was cancelled after Souza came in a whopping ten pounds overweight. So with that one scratched, we’re down to four fights.
That shouldn’t sour the festivities by too much, though. The remaining fights are quality bouts with some high action potential. But that main event is excellent and a perfect way to end a debut card for the year.
Ozzy Diaz (7-1) earned a handful of finishes in his amateur days, but turned pro and really got to work. Capturing the Lights Out XF and LFA middleweight championships in consecutive fights, he’s primed to take the next step up in competition. After finding his rhythm, he’s great at finding openings and working opponents on the inside. He runs a solid pace that’s hard to keep up with once that happens.
His opponent is none other that Joseph “Bodybagz“ Pyfer (8-2), whom we’ve written about before. He fought Dustin Stoltzfus on Contender Series in 2020, suffering an arm injury after being slammed. Now he gets another opportunity against another very tough prospect, and it’s a curious matchup. Both can be made to fight off their back foot from time to time, but both pack power and have excellent finishing instincts with a great submission game. I say it too often, but this is a match between two fighters that could have just been signed outright. I stand by it again here.
Anton Turkkalj (7-0) is known to some as “The Pleasure Man“, and for the first time in my adult life, I am jealous of another man’s nickname. The Swedish upstart has been on a tear and has never had a fight to to a decision as a pro. Aside from a nifty highlight reel, he’s got a lot of athleticism and wily offense. With a varied kicking game to keep opponents guessing, he loads up heavy on that right hand and despite being on the slender side, doesn’t get bullied around with his 6’4 frame.
He meets Brazil’s Acacio dos Santos (14-4). His most notable opponent was Matheus Scheffel, who recently defeated former PFL champ Bruno Cappelozza. Aside from that, it’s not much to write home about in terms of wins and losses. But his work in the cage is very good, implementing counter hooks, thudding body kicks and front teeps to the leg. His cardio looks pretty good, but he may find some struggles if he’s pitted against a more wrestling-oriented opponent. That’s not the case here, but it should be a very fun scrap.
Dennis Buzukja (7-2) is under the tutelage of Ray Longo, and has had some success in the meat grinder that is Ring of Combat. With some finishes on his amateur record and more decision wins on his pro record, he’s racked up a fair amount of experience so far. His boxing is on point, but he can be bullied by strong wrestlers, especially against the cage.
And that’s a big problem against Kaleio Romero (6-1), who has a wrestling background. He’s also got some hard leg kicks and a bit too much reliance on his overhand right. It cracks when it connects, though. So it’s a bit of a gamble. Romero’s got a very dynamic and athletic style using explosive movement and doesn’t stray too far out of his comfort zone with his offense. It’s a tough test for both competitors.
Finally, another bright light for flyweight makes an appearance here to strike it big. Alessandro Costa (10-2) is a Brazilian fighter lighting up the Mexican circuit. He’s got great hands and a very aggressive submission game. He appears to be UFC-ready as is. His opponent will be Andres Luna Martinetti (12-0), who has some serious flypaper grappling as the backbone of his submission arsenal. He’s made his bones on the South American circuit, so his opposition has been a very mixed bag. His talent is very much there, but it’s a major sticking point when you’re a fighter coming up and facing an opponent like Costa.
You can check out the faceoffs here, courtesy of the crew at MMA Junkie:
Ozzy Diaz (186) vs. Joe Pyfer (185) – Middleweight
Anton Turkalj (205) vs. Acacio dos Santos (201) – Light heavyweight
Dennis Buzukja (146) vs. Kaleio Romero (146) – Featherweight
Alessandro Costa (126) vs. Andres Luna Martinetti (126) – Flyweight
Dana White’s Contender Series begins its new season this Tuesday night, starting at 8:00pm EST. This series will be streaming exclusively on ESPN+.
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