If there’s a running theme with this year’s (DWCS) Contender Series, it’s that the further along the season goes, the more compelling the matchmaking gets. It seems as though there are a lot fewer mismatches going around as we enter the back third of the season.
So let’s dive in to this latest night of fights, where there’s some genuinely fun talent pitted against some strong opposition. The difficulty, of course, is gauging the upside. While a lot of talents can look Hollywood when they’re fighting on smaller shows, it much tougher to perform the same way on a bigger stage.
Now, on to the fights.
Vitor Petrino vs Rodolfo Bellato
Light heavyweight continues to get more help in the form of new prospects, and this bout could easily usher in either man to work their way up the ranks. The fight’s even bringing some levels of drama to boot. Petrino (6-0) made his professional debut in 2019, in a fight that he won with a sensational knockout.
That win? It was against Rodolfo Bellato.
His left hand is money, his handspeed is great
As for Bellato (8-1), he’s got some growth to work on. His takedowns are fine, his pressure from top position is consistent. He has a tendency to throw wide and looping punches while overextended, and that’s not good. But he can hit hard and has some kickboxing experience to draw from. He can also be something of a slow starter, but using kicks early could be to his advantage here.
There’s no doubt Bellato wants to avoid a repeat of their first encounter. And he needs to be cautious when it comes to Petrino. Petrino’s got some boxing experience, but his takedown game is very much not great. His clinch gets messy and he relies on his strength and athleticism a lot. So this might have an electrifying finish or just turn into an ugly slog. Just be ready for that.
Gabriel Bonfim vs Trey Waters
Bonfim (12-0) has a boxing background, with an educated jab and a penchant for flurries that may just get extended a little too far for safety’s sake. His cardio seems pretty good and he’s a very opportunistic grappler that latches on to quick submissions. In fact six of his twelve wins are submissions and four of those are rear naked chokes.
Waters is a bit more complicated. While currently 6-0, he does have a 7-2 amateur record with one no-contest. His first four opponents were 1-2, 0-0, 1-5, 7-6 (with one draw). Yes, that’s his first four pro opponents. I’d wag my finger at this if he were doing this ten fights in, but it’s not the worst thing for a guy basically starting out as a pro. His last two opponents were 1-0 and 3-0. A lanky striker, he’s cool and comfortable with using his distance and whittling down his opponent’s defense.
Look, the guy had a bit of an odd record starting out, but let’s not get it twisted. The guy can fight.
His front teeps are alright, but it’s the work behind the jab and the way he builds combinations that makes him a problem. He’s susceptible to takedowns, but he’s really good at working his way back up and not wasting time. How his submission defense will hold up is a good question, but this should largely be contested on the feet.
Karl Williams vs Jimmy Lawson
Williams (6-1) is strong. His power double is pretty nice, but mostly he’s all about hitting hard as hell. Take a look at what I mean here. Maybe his opponents just aren’t that good with wrestling or his physicality makes him that much more difficult to deal with. He’s a nightmare to have on top when on the ground; once he has someone turtled up it’s practically over.
Fortunately Jimmy Lawson (4-1) looks every bit the part of a threat. Thunderous punches, an NCAA background and an ability to quickly close the distance—he’s going to pose a major challenge. Lawson wrestled at Penn State for three seasons and has been doing damage in MMA after losing his pro debut. That loss was a decision against Bellator’s Said Sowma, who’s doing really, really well for himself. It’s not the worst ding to have on his record, and he almost fought on Contender Series in 2019 against Yorgan de Castro. He had to withdraw, and went to the regional scene.
Maybe that was for the best, because he went straight to Ring of Combat, then LFA. Two of the absolute best places for a fighter to get their feet wet as a top prospect in the United States. All of his wins have been finishes, and he absolutely looks like he’s ready for prime time already.
This is a good heavyweight matchup. An honest-to-God great one.
Ismael Bonfim vs Nariman Abbasov
Ismael Bonfim (17-3) is the brother of Gabriel, who we just covered a bit ago. Another boxer with mean submissions, he’s fought some pretty decent opposition as well. Not any names that stand out in a big way, but it helps that he’s at lightweight, where there’s more stable and constant competition.
After toiling around in Jungle Fight and Shooto Brazil, he ended up in LFA and earned back to back wins by decision. He’s got a fair amount of finishes on his record but he’s gonna have a tough time finishing his next foe.
Abbasov (28-3, no – not gonna make any ABBA jokes) shouldn’t really be here. He’s good enough to be an instant signing. But this is what the reality of it all is, and he’s an absolute delight to watch. As expected from fighters in the region, the Azerbaijan native has a very strong base with his grappling and striking, showing layers of both and shifting phases quite easily. The only kind of questionable matchup was fighting someone making their pro debut when Abbasov was 12-2. Didn’t matter, because he’s still that good and that was six years ago. Having this guy in your face after he’s worn you down must feel like munching on ground glass; he just keeps making or finding openings to hit you even harder. Look at this sustained beating and stick around for what he did to the ref.
Tereza Bleda vs Nayara Maia
Bleda (5-0) loves to wrestle against the cage and hunt for submissions where she can get them. She’s got a good jab, although she doesn’t have a very deep or varied striking arsenal. But if she gets top position, she isn’t gonna give it up and she’s not gonna go easy on you.
Maia (7-0, 1 draw) works best on the ground and uses her strikes to set up her takedowns effectively. She’s great at ground strikes no matter where she or her opponent are, and doesn’t let up at all.
Check out the weigh-ins here, courtesy of the crew at MMAJunkie:
Full card is as follows:
Rodalfo Bellato (205.0) vs. Vitor Petrino (203.5) – Light heavyweight
Gabriel Bonfim (170.0) vs. Trey Waters (170.5) – Welterweight
Jimmy Lawson (263.0) vs. Karl Williams (233.0) – Heavyweight
Ismael Bonfim (156.0) vs. Nariman Abbasov (156.0) – Lightweight
Tereza Bleda (125.5) vs. Nayara Maia (126.0) – Flyweight
Dana White’s Contender Series takes place this Tuesday night starting at 8:00pm EST as usual. This event streams live and exclusively on ESPN+.
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