Dana White’s Contender Series Preview: Predictions for Season 5, Episode 2

dwcs season 5 episode 2 picks preview

Chris Unger/DWCS LLC/Zuffa LLC A general view of the Octagon prior to Dana White's Contender Series season 4 week one at UFC APEX on August 04, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

UFC’s Dana White’s Contender Series is headlined this week by a late-notice bout between Josh Quinlan and Logan Urban, with Urban stepping up just days ahead of the event after Darian Weeks had to be sidelined because of COVID-19 protocols. The second episode of the fifth season of DWCS will feature four other fights and will air on ESPN+ on Tuesday, September 7, 2021.

Along with the welterweight fight between Quinlan and Urban, Chidi Njokuani will face Mario Sousa at middleweight, Jose Alday takes on Saimon Oliveira at bantamweight, Bruno Korea challenges CJ Vergara at flyweight and Chad Anheliger fights Muin Gafurov at bantamweight. All of the fighters made weight at the weigh-ins held on Monday, September 5, 2021. The fights will be held as always at the UFC APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the show begins at 8 p.m. Eastern.

The fifth season kicked off on August 31, 2021, with UFC President Dana White awarding five fighters UFC contracts. Azamat Murzakanov, Joanderson Brito, AJ Fletcher and Victor Altamirano earned their way into the organization with victories, while White gave a losing fighter, Carlos Candelario, a contract for the first time in the tryout show’s history. Candelario lost a close split decision to Altamirano in a back-and-forth flyweight bout.

Here’s a preview of DWCS season 5, episode 2:

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Josh Quinlan (5-0, -310 favorite) vs. Logan Urban (5-1, +245 underdog)

Josh “The Renegade” Quinlan, an undefeated welterweight prospect originally from Kauai, Hawaii, is a solid favorite over Cleveland’s Logan “Hulk” Urban, who enters the fight on short notice. Quinlan and his initial opponent, Darian Weeks, had been at near-even odds before Weeks had to withdraw.

Quinlan made his professional debut in 2019 and has finished all five of his pro fights, according to Tapology. He was also undefeated as an amateur, finishing five of his six fights, his Tapology record shows. In his pro career, Quinlan has three knockouts and two wins via rear-naked choke submission. His four finishes as an amateur were all knockouts, including a 2018 victory over “The Ultimate Fighter Season 29” alum Ryder Newman.

Quinlan’s last three fights came in the Legacy Fighting Alliance. He defeated Dallas Jennings by third-round rear-naked choke at LFA 103 in March 2021. He earned stoppages via punches against Joe Boerschig at LFA 97 in January 2021 and Pete Keepers at LFA 91 in September 2020, in the third and second rounds respectively.

The 28-year-old Quinlan, a Muay Thai specialist and purple belt in jiujitsu, who fights out of Las Vegas, has shown skills on the feet and on the mat, and has shown an ability to finish fights late. Quinlan stands 6 feet tall and has a 72-inch reach. Quinlan is an opportunistic wrestler and grappler. Against Keepers at LFA 91, Quinlan caught a kick early and slammed his opponent to the ground. On the feet, Quinlan was able to consistently walk Keepers down while chopping at his lead leg with low kicks and firing explosive punches, getting inside Keepers’ reach advantage. Quinlan staggered Keepers with a lunging left hand halfway through the second round and then put him down with a left-right hook combo to the jaw as he staggered.

Against the 6-3, 31-year-old veteran Boerschig at LFA 97, Quinlan overcame early adversity after an aggressive flurry from his opponent in the first round. Boerschig was able to get Quinlan to the mat and briefly took his back before Quinlan reversed the position. Quinlan, ahead 2-0 on all three judges open scorecards in Kansas, again reversed a Boerschig take down and got into full mount, ending the fight with ground and pound.

In his most recent fight, against Jennings, Quinlan again overcame adversity, this time in the second round. Jennings landed several hard punches, rocking Quinlan against the cage, but Quinlan stayed on his feet. Quinlan began the third round with a hard right-hand of his own, staggering Jennings. He then fended off takedown attempts from Jennings and after working him over with punches from mount, took Jennings’ back and locked in a rear-naked choke, getting the tap.

Quinlan, a high school soccer star who transitioned to MMA after pursuing a college playing career, trains at Wand Fight Team Mixed Martial Arts. He can over commit to punches at times, leaving him off balance, and has taken hard punches, but his toughness and ability to weather a storm has kept him undefeated heading into his DWCS shot.

Urban took the headlining fight at DWCS on September 5, just two days before fight night, after one of Weeks’ team members tested positive for COVID-19, according to MMA DNA’s Marcel Dorff. Urban is also a finisher, coming into the fight against Quinlan on a four-fight win streak, all inside the distance. He fights out of Revolution Fight & Fitness in Euclid, Ohio.

While Quinlan is coming off of three fights in LFA, a feeding ground for the UFC, Urban has been impressing on the Ohio regional scene, with three consecutive victories in the Ohio Combat League and two wins in Erie, Pennsylvania’s Bayfront Brawl. Urban also had six wins as an amateur, including five finishes, two by knockout and three by submission.

Video footage from Urban’s career is hard to find online. Urban ended his most recent fight, against Antoine Blassingame at Ohio Combat League 14 on July 24, 2021, with a brutal knee to the head early in the second round. Urban caught his opponent with the knee as Blassingame threw a punch, knocking Blassingame out cold. Urban finished Ravon Baxter with a first-round rear-naked choke, just a minute into the fight, at Ohio Combat Legaue 10 in March 2021, and beat Jimmy Sandlin with a third-round rear-naked choke with only a minute left in the fight.

Against Baxter, Urban was able to take his opponent down along the fence after delivering a series of knees from the clinch, and immediately took his back, locking in the choke.

The 27-year-old Urban also has a second-round knockout win over Jeremy Joles and a first-round knockout victory over Brandon Odom at Bayfront Brawl, and his lone loss was by punches in the first round to Zack Davis at Honor FC 6, according to Tapology.

THE PICK: Quinlan by knockout

Quinlan is a finisher who has shown the ability to take damage and fight through adversity. He has competed against a higher level of fighters during his career and has been preparing for this fight for longer than Urban. The Ohio fighter could try to take Quinlan out early and the short-notice nature of the fight could come into play. Expect violence while the fight lasts, with Quinlan delivering hard shots to take Urban out and earn a UFC contract.

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Chidi Njokuani (19-7, +100 underdog) vs. Mario Sousa (12-1, -120 favorite)

Sousa, a 24-year-old Brazilian, will be making his second appearance on DWCS, earning a decision victory over Mariusz Ksiazkiewicz in November 2020. The middleweight will look to improve on that effort to earn a UFC contract against the 32-year-old “Chidi Bang Bang” Njokuani, a seasoned veteran who turned pro in 2007 and has fought in RFA, Bellator and LFA. The line has moved toward Njokuani in the leadup to the fight. Sousa and Njokuani are both 6’3″ tall. Sousa has a reach of 79 inches, while Njokuani’s reach is 80 inches.

Njokuani’s older brother, Anthony Njokuani, fought in the UFC from 2011 to 2014, and the younger Njokuani holds wins over UFC veterans Melvin Guillard, Alan Jouban, Max Griffin and Ricky Rainey. The Dallas, Texas, native, who fights out of Saekson Janjira Muay Thai in Las Vegas, last competed at LFA 91, headlining the card and winning the main event bout against Christhian Torres via a knee to the body and punches.

His Bellator career came to an end in July 2019 after back-to-back losses to Rafael Carvalho and John Salter. He had a 5-3 record in the promotion. Njokuani has 11 KO/TKO wins and 7 decision victories, along with one win by submission, during his career. Njokuani, a talented kickboxer, has struggled with his gas tank during his career, fading after fast starts.

Sousa’s first fight outside of Brazil came on the Contender Series in November 2020 against Ksiazkiewicz. Sousa, a slight favorite against the undefeated 32-year-old Polish fighter Ksiazkiewicz, won a unanimous decision. Sousa gave up a takedown to Ksiazkiewicz in the first round, but showed off his grappling and jiujitsu skills by reversing position and controlling most of the rest of the round, including an attempted guillotine choke to close it out.

Sousa delivered a flurry of punches, knees and elbows, hurting Ksiazkiewicz, early in the second round, but was taken down again. Sousa was controlled for most of the round. He came out hot again in the third round, delivering several hard shots, but was again taken down by Ksiazkiewicz. Refree Mark Smith stood the fight up after two minutes of top control by Ksiazkiewicz, and Sousa again unloaded power punches to try to get the finish. Ksiazkiewicz took Sousa down again, but Sousa delivered hard punches and an upkick from the bottom, and attempted a triangle submission. After Ksiazkiewicz tried a leg lock, Sousa ended up on top and finished out the round with heavy ground and pound.

During his interview with Laura Sanko at the end of the night, Dana White said about Sousa, “I didn’t think he won that fight. … I think the judges were wrong on that one. The kid is 24-years-old, he’s got nothing but time. He’s only going to get better, I think he’s got a lot of holes in his game and I think someday he’ll make it to the UFC.”

Sousa entered the DWCS bout with a four-fight winning streak in Brazil, including wins by triangle choke, armbar and knockout. Of his 12 victories, he has 7 knockouts and 4 wins by submission, according to Tapology.

THE PICK: Njokuani by knockout

Sousa showed weak takedown defense against Ksiazkiewicz, but an ability to fight hard for three rounds. But Sousa was unable to put Ksiazkiewicz while standing and his submissions were not enough to threaten his Polish opponent. Sousa did not attempt any takedowns of his own, and it’s unlikely Njokuani will try to bring the fight to the mat, which would give Sousa an opportunity to fight off his back like he did against Ksiazkiewicz. Njokuani’s energy could fade as the fight goes on, but he’s the better kickboxer and can take out Sousa with an early knockout. An impressive finish could make him the second Njokuani to fight in the UFC.

Jose Alday (14-5-1, +188 underdog) vs. Saimon Oliveira (17-3, -225 favorite)

The UFC has this listed as a featherweight fight in its preview article, but at the weigh-ins it was revealed to be bantamweight bout. Like Urban in the headliner, Alday enters the fight on short notice, replacing Javid Basharat, who had to withdraw on September 2 because of visa issues, Marcel Dorff reported. Alday had five-days notice.

Jose “Pochito” Alday, 29, is from Mexico and has been fighting in Combate Global since 2017. He turned pro in 2013. Alday has 7 wins by decision, 4 wins by submission and 3 wins by KO/TKO, according to Tapology. He last fought on May 14, 2021, against Marcos Lopez, earning a TKO win by punches with 57 seconds left in the first round.

He has faced three fighters who competed in the UFC. Alday beat John Castaneda by decision in 2018, split two fights with Gustavo Lopez in 2019 and lost to Joby Sanchez by decision in October 2019. His win over Lopez earned him the Combate Bantamweight Championship. Alday did not fight in 2020, returning to competition against Lopez in May 2021. Alday trains alongside UFC bantamweight Casey Kenney at Rise Combat Sports in Tucson, Arizona.

The 30-year-old Oliveira fights out of Brazil and has 11 submission victories and 5 wins by KO/TKO during his career, according to Tapology. But he has not fought since December 2019, when he defeated Wataru Mimura by front choke at Pancrase 311. Oliveira trains at Astra Fight Team in Brazil. He has never been finished.

Oliveira’s only loss since 2016 was at ACB 82 to LFA veteran Ary Farias. But he showed an ability to battle through adversity during that fight. Farias caught a kick early in the bout and used a punch to take the off-balance Oliveira to the mat. Farias controled Oliveira for the first round, including by moving to mount, but Oliveira was able to reverse position with a minute left in the round and cut Farias open with a nasty elbow. He then dropped Farias with a punch in the closing seconds of the rounds. In a bloodbath of a second and third round, Oliveira was able to fight out of submissions and escape dominant positions, but could not mount enough of his own offense to get the win. But like the first round, Oliveira showed an impressive ability to continue battling, ending the fight on top with ground and pound.

The Pick: Oliveira by submission

Alday is a pressure fighter, who should get into Oliveira’s face early and try to catch him off guard as he comes off the long layoff. But Oliveira could capitalize on Alday’s aggression and lock in a submission to earn a UFC contract. Alday’s short notice status and Oliveira’s time away from the cage could also lead to a sloppy decision, with both men tiring down the stretch. But Oliveira has shown the ability to end fights with his submission skills and there’s potential he has improved in that area during his time off. If Alday had more time to prepare, he would likely be a favorite.

Bruno Korea (12-3-1, -225 favorite) vs. CJ Vergara (8-2-1, +175 underdog)

Bruno “Korea” Rodrigues is no stranger to the UFC. The Brazilian flyweight competed on season 4 of “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil,” competing on Team Shogun Rua in the bantamweight division. He lost by submission in the semifinals to eventual winner Reginaldo Vieira of Team Anderson Silva. Bruno Korea was given a chance to compete in the UFC after TUF, losing by submission to current UFC flyweight and TUF castmate Matheus Nicolau on November 7, 2015, at UFC Fight Night 77 in Sao Paulo. After that loss, Bruno Korea competed in Titan FC and on the Brazilian regional scene.

He is looking to take advantage of his second shot at a UFC contract while riding a five-fight winning streak that dates back to 2018. He last fought in November 2020, defeating Felipe Gheno by D’Arce choke at Taura MMA 10 in Brazil. According to Tapology, Bruno Korea has 2 wins by KO/TKO, 4 wins by decision and 8 wins by submission in his career. The 30-year-old fights out of Tata Fight Team in Rio de Janeiro.

Bruno Korea has shown explosiveness on his feet, solid wrestling and good jiujitsu during his career. He was thrust into higher-level competition by appearing on TUF, and wasn’t ready for the big show when he took on Nicaleau, but has shown improvements after returning home in the years since.

Carlos “CJ” Vergara is a 30-year-old Texas native who fights out of Pete Spratt Muay Thai in San Antonio. He has won four fights in a row, all by TKO/KO in Fury FC, including a round 3 win over Jacob Silva at Fury FC 44 in March 2021. He lost to Devin Miller by rear naked choke at LFA 40 in 2018 and to UFC figher Jonathan Martinez at Fury FC 3 in 2015, by split decision. He has finished 5 of his 8 career wins.

According to MMAJunkie, Vergara weighed in initially at 126.5 pounds, but returned to the scales an hour later and made the flyweight limit of 126 pounds.

The Pick: Bruno Korea by decision

Bruno Korea will have to fend off Vergara early on, but the issues on the scales call into question how much energy the Texan will have down the stretch. Look for Bruno Korea to get Vergara to the ground and control him, while looking for submissions, to earn a decision win. The flyweight division needs new blood, and a victory would likely send Bruno Korea back into the UFC. But even if he loses, Vergara is a guy who also could earn a shot at the big show soon. And as Dana White showed last week, a close action fight in a division like flyweight could lead to both men walking out with UFC contracts.

Chad Anheliger (10-5, +190 underdog) vs. Muin Gafurov (17-3, -235 favorite)

Chad “The Monster” Anheliger, a native of Alberta, Canada, fighting out of Champion’s Creed Martial Arts in Calgary, is returning to MMA action for the first time since 2019, when he defended his Rise FC Bantamweight Championship over Brady Hiestand, who just nearly won the TUF bantamweight division against Ricky Turcios in an impressive outing.

The 34-year-old is on an 8-fight win streak dating back to 2016, overcoming a 2-5 start to his MMA career with an impressive run, that includes seven wins inside the distance, according to Tapology. The veteran Canadian fighter has 6 KO/TKOs, 3 submissions and 1 decision on his record.

In his last fight against Hiestand, Anheliger bloodied the future TUF contender early with punches, but could not take him out. After a back-and-forth second round, Anheliger dropped Hiestand in the first minute of the third round and earned the victory.

Muin “Tajik” Gafurov is from Tajikistan and has traiend at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. The 26-year-old has been a pro since 2013 and has competed in UAE Warriors, ONE Championship and ACB. He last fought in January 2021, defeating Walter Zamora by decision at UAE Warriors 15 in Abu Dhabi, with Dana White and Khabib Nurmagomedov in attendance. He had a five-fight win streak snapped by UFC veteran John Lineker, by decision, at ONE Championship in October 2019.

According to Tapology, Gafurov has 9 wins by knockout, 7 wins by submission and 1 decision victory. He holds a win over UFC veterean Leandro Issa in 2018 in ONE. Against Issa, Gafurov was taken down immediately and fought out of a guillotine choke attempt in the first minute. After they returned to their feet, Gafurov dropped Issa with a huge right looping right hand to the chin.

Gafurov, who has shown power and good wrestling and scrambling ability, is a combat sambo world champion. Against Lineker, one of the most powerful strikers in UFC bantamweight history, Gafurov showed his toughness, putting Lineker on the back foot at times and withstanding flurries of hard punches. In his most recent fight. against Zamora, Gafurov used his wrestling to solidify the decision victory, including landing a big belly-to-back suplex throw in the fight’s final seconds

The Pick: Gafurov by decision

Gafurov has the potential to dominate, and could overwhelm Anheliger with a late stoppage. Gafurov should do enough to win a contract. This fight could be closer than the line indicates. Anheliger has shown the ability to keep up a pace for three rounds, and in his last fight took out Hiestand late after an intense battle. Just ask Turcios how hard it is to do that. Gafurov will need to keep up with Anheliger and use his superior wrestling to earn the victory. But Anheliger should stay on the UFC matchmaker’s radar even if he can’t pull out the win, and the 34-year-old could earn another DWCS fight or be someone the UFC calls to fill a spot on a card sometime down the line.

Dana White Contender Series Season 5 Week 2 Best Bets

Quinlan inside the distance: If you can get a line on Quinlan inside the distance, take the shot. Quinlan is an action fighter who is constantly looking to take his opponent out with power strikes and submissions. And with Urban coming in on short notice, it’s possible he fades and allows Quinlan to take him out.

Quinlan/Urban Under 1 1/2: Expect violence in this fight while it lasts. Both men are finishers and Urban will likely be looking to go for broke with the limited time to prepare.

Njokuani to win: Njokuani has the experience and is the better kickboxer. He’s a great underdog pick. He has fought under bright lights and against high levels of competition, while Sousa faltered in his first Contender Series shot.

Quinlan + Oliveira Parlay : Both of their opponents are coming in on late notice. The Contender Series tends to draw out action and both Quinlan and Oliveira have a history of going for finishes and being able to end a fight late. The under in Oliveira/Alday could also be a good play if available, and is a potential parlay piece with the Quinlan/Urban under. DWCS is known for finishes and all four men in those fights are eager to deliver highlights and have a history of doing so.

Odds as of September 7 from DraftKings Sportsbook via BestFightOdds.com.

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