Dana White and his team have been very generous during the first two weeks of the fifth season of the Dana White’s Contender Series and 12 more fighters will have a shot at earning a UFC contract during the third episode on Tuesday, September 14, 2021, on ESPN+.
The third week of the season is headlined by a light heavyweight fight between Brazil’s Jailton Almeida and Russia’s Nasurdin Nasrudinov. Along with the headliner, Mo Miller takes on Brandon Lewis at bantamweight, Albert Duraev faces Caio Bittencourt at middleweight, Lukasz Brezeski will fight Dylan Potter at heavyweight, Jack Della Maddalena battles Ange Loosa at welterweight and Jasmine Jasudavicius challenges Julia Polastri at women’s flyweight.
White has handed out 10 contracts during the first two weeks of this season of DWCS, with every winner earning a spot in the UFC along with one losing competitor, Carlos Candelario, who White thought did enough to be victorious. Joining Candelario with contracts are his opponent, Victor Altamirano, along with AJ Fletcher, Joanderson Brito and Azamat Murzakanov from the first episode of the season and Chad Anheliger, CJ Vergara, Saimon Oliveira, Chidi Njoukuani and Josh Quinlan from the second episode.
In its preview of the third episode, the UFC said, “Where it used to be that highlight reel finishes were the key to hearing your name called at the end of the night, things have seemingly changed this season, as White has been more appreciative of gutsy efforts and hard-fought decision victories than in previous years.”
Here’s a preview of each fight on the Dana White Contender Series Season 5 Week 3 and a pick for who will win:
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Jailton Almeida (13-2, +175 underdog) vs. Nasrudin Nasrudinov (9-0, -210 favorite)
Brazilian light heavyweight Jailton “Malhadinho” Almeida enters Tuesday’s Dana White’s Contender Series matchup with undefeated Russian prospect Nasrudin Nasrudinov as an underdog, but with more professional experience and wins over two UFC veterans. The 30-year-old fighter holds wins over Ildemar Alcantara and Ednaldo Oliveira, who have both fought in the UFC.
Almeida has won eight fights in a row, all inside the distance, according to his Tapology record. During his career, Almeida has five wins by knockout or TKO and eight wins by submission. He has not lost since 2018. He also competed in the Submission Circus grappling event in Brazil in May 2021, winning four bouts by submission.
The 6’4″ tall Almeida has one MMA fight in 2021, a victory over Edvaldo de Oliveira at Thunder Fight 24 in February, and he was victorious in three fights in 2020, beating Alcantara and Leonardo Vasconcelos. He was the first fighter to ever submit Alcantara. Almeida has trained in the past with UFC heavyweight Carlos “Boi” Felipe and was in his corner at his UFC fight in Abu Dhabi in January 2021, according to his Instagram.
Almeida has been on the UFC’s radar for a while. In December, Cageside Press’ Shawn Bitter called him a light heavyweight the UFC should sign in 2021, and MMA Fighting’s Guilherme Cruz called him one of the top 10 prospects in Brazil in February 2021. After that win, “Malhadinho” compared himself to Khabib Nurmagamedov during an interview with Cruz. He also said at the time he thought he was already UFC ready and didn’t need to prove himself on the Contender Series.
“It’s a different game, Khabib-style. No one can stop that game,” he told MMA Fighting. “I’m very versatile, I can trade on the feet and take you down. I watch a lot of videos of Khabib and try to do his game as much as possible. It’s an aggressive style, takedowns and submissions or ground and pound finish. Khabib is a reference for me. … I want to go straight to the UFC and kick that door down. I’ll call for the top contenders and go for it after my first win there.”
The 29-year-old Nasrudinov is undefeated in his career, which began in 2013. His last four wins in the Russian Absolute Championship Akhmat promotion, including a doctor’s stoppage in his last fight, against Evgeny Egemberdiev at ACA 107 in July 2020, and a majority decision victory over “Ultimate Fighter Season 23” and PFL veteran Cory Hendricks at ACA 105 in March 2020.
Nasrudinov, who fights out of Moscow, also has a victory over Jorge Gonzalez, who was signed to the UFC in 2020, but has had three canceled bouts before being suspended in September by the USADA after testing positive for multiple banned substances, MMA Fighting reported. Nasrudinov beat Gonzalez by TKO at ACA 97 in August 2019. Nasrudinov has four wins by KO or TKO, one win by submission and four wins by decision, according to Tapology.
Nasrudinov, who is four inches shorter than Almeida at 6′ tall, trained in June with UFC middleweight Nassourdin Imavov, according to his Instagram page. Bitter also featured Nasrudinov on his list of 10 light heavyweight prospects the UFC should sign in 2021.
Against Gonzalez, Nasrudinov was able to rock the Mexican fighter with a hard right hand as Gonzalez tried to back him into the fence. He did not push for the finish, and eventually ended the round with a takedown. Nasrudinov then used a single leg takedown to bring Gonzalez back to the mat just under a minute into the second round and was able to fight off a kimura attempt by Gonzalez. He dominated from there, taking Gonzalez’s back and delivering heavy ground and pound to finish the fight.
Against Hendricks, the two men spent the first three minutes of the bout grappling along the cage, with neither man able to get the other to the ground. But Nasrudinov was able to overpower Hendricks and reverse his takedown attempt to end up on top with just over two minutes left in the first round. The fight returned to the feet late in the round and Nasrudinov unloaded heavy punches and catching him off balance with a punch that sent him onto his back. Nasrudinov was able to control much of the second round after one takedown, but he wasn’t able to threaten a finish.
Nasrudinov quickly took the American fighter down to start the third round, and after controlling him for more than a minute, Hendricks used a hip turn to get onto his knees and Nasrudinov took his back. The Russian found himself in danger when Hendricks reversed him and nearly took Nasrudinov’s back. He tried an omoplota submission, but Nasrudinov fought out of it and got back on top, where he remained for the rest of the fight, earning a decision victory.
THE PICK: Almeida
Both of these men will likely be in the UFC at some point in the near future, even if the loser has to make a second appearance on DWCS. This should be a close fight, but Almeida’s size and submission grappling could give him a slight advantage. Almeida has talked about fighting at heavyweight in the UFC in the future, while Nasrudinov could have a future at middleweight. Almeida should win a contract with a victory.
Brandon Lewis (5-0, +350 underdog) vs. Mo Miller (5-0, -475 favorite)
Two undefeated American bantamweight prospects square off in the penultimate fight of the night, with Tampa, Florida’s Brandon Miller facing Ohio’s Mo Miller.
The 24-year-old “Superman” Lewis, who was born in Connecticut, returned to MMA at LFA 102 in March 2021 for the first time since 2017, beating Jimmy Meza by split decision. Before that, Lewis defeated Cameron Miller at LFA 16 and had three wins in RFC in Florida. He also had a 7-1 amateur record from 2013 to 2016. As a pro, Lewis has two wins by KO/TKO, two wins by decision and one by submission, according to Tapology.
Lewis was sidelined after rupturing a disk in his back while lifting weights in 2017, he told The Scrap. He told the site, “I didn’t have health insurance at the time and I just focused on work for a while. I got health insurance, but it took a whole year to schedule the surgery. Then, I got the surgery and it took about six months to recover and I was finally able to get back into training. After like six to eight months back in the gym, I wanted to take another fight again. It was like a three-and-a-half-year layoff from one fight to the other. … It allowed me to reset a little bit and just kind of settle into being a different person and a different fighter. I’m glad I went through that experience so now I know how to train a lot smarter”
The 5’4″ Lewis was a big favorite over the 29-year-old Meza at LFA 102 despite the long layoff. Lewis was able to battle through several hard punches by Meza during a back-and-forth first round. He showed off impressive combinations, including a left cross to right to the body into a wheel kick that glanced off Meza’s head. In the second round, Lewis dropped Meza with right cross, but wasn’t able to finish him. Both men slowed down in the third round, but Lewis was able to continue throwing hard punches. He displayed impressive volume from start to finish and won two of the three judges’ scorecards.
The “Mo Show” Miller is a teammate of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic at Strong Style Fight Team in Cleveland, Ohio. The 29-year-old has also fought twice in the LFA, most recently at LFA 96, winning by slam knockout over Regivaldo Carvalho in the second round in December 2020. He won his LFA debut over Mando Gutierrez by second-round rear-naked choke in September 2020. He also has two stoppage wins and a decision victory on the Ohio regional scene, and was 6-0 as an amateur.
Miller was a standout college wrestler at the NCAA Division II level at Notre Dame College, placing at the D2 national championships three times. Miller told MMA-Prospects in 2020 that his love for mixed martial arts goes beyond wrestling. “At age 6 I started Tae Kwon Do. My parents kind of made me and my brothers. [In] fifth grade I wanted to try wrestling, when I saw a flyer in my school about the upcoming youth season.”
He told MMA Sucka in 2019, “I definitely like to use my hands more than before. I’m not a boxer, but I’m willing to throw. I already had good kicks from my taekdowndo background, but Strong Style got me really comfortable with my hands. They taught me good technique, good habits. “I think I’m pretty well-rounded, even as a debuting fighter. I’m comfortable everywhere. I know what to look out for with jiu jitsu, I’m pretty good at boxing and muay thai, taekwondo, wrestling. I would say I’m a freestyle fighter. I take what’s there. I like to get a feel for my opponents then go from there.”
In the first round of his fight against Carvalho, Miller went right to wrestling, taking his opponent down to the mat and then controlling him against the fence when he got back to his feet before slamming him back down with a huge suplex takedown. He dominated the round, controlling Carvalho on the mat. In the second round, Miller battled through a few hard punches and withstood sharp elbows to the head while trying to take Carvalho down and knocked him out with a slam with two minutes left in the fight.
THE PICK Miller
Miller’s All-American NCAA wrestling ability gives him a clear advantage in this fight. Lewis is scrappy and has shown an ability to fight hard for three full rounds. But Miller should be able to take him down and control him on the mat. With the way Dana White has handed out contracts during this season of DWCS, Miller would likely earn a spot in the UFC with a win with his wrestling pedigree and ties to Miocic.
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Albert Duraev (13-3, -350 favorite) vs. Caio Bittencourt (14-6, +270 underdog)
Russia’s Albert Duraev and Brazil’s Caio Bittencourt are both making their return to MMA for the first time since 2018 for a middleweight tilt. Duraev and Bittencourt are both coming into the Contender Series after the long layoff with eight-fight win streaks.
The 32-year-old Chechen has eight wins by submission, three wins by KO/TKO and two wins by decision during his career, which began in 2011, according to Tapology. The Contender Series bout will be his first fight outside of Russia. His last fight was a decision victory over Piotr Strus at ACB 89. He holds victories over UFC, Bellator and WSOF veteran Clifford Starks and UFC veteran Sergey Khandozhko. Two of his losses are to the UFC’s Ramazan Emeev and Bellator’s Anatoly Tokov.
“Machete” Duraev, represented by Ali Abdelaziz, has been working out at the Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, according to Instagram. Duraev is the former ACB middleweight and welterweight champion. He has displayed strong wrestling and solid striking during his career.
While Duraev has taken on former UFC fighters and solid challengers in Russia, Bittencourt hasn’t faced the highest level of competition on the Brazilian regional scene, with his recent wins coming against a 12-5 fighter, an 0-1 fighter, an 0-0 fighter, a 5-6 fighter and two fighters who don’t have records on Tapology.
“Leao” Bittencourt lost one of his toughest tests, to then 18-1 Tiago Verejao, in 2013. He began his career with a 6-5 record, including two losses to UFC veteran Tiago Trator. Bittencourt is not well known and it’s unclear how many improvements he’s made during his absence from fighting. In his last fight, in June 2018, he finished Adilson Ferreira with a 50-second knockout.
THE PICK Duraev
The Russian has fought a higher level of competition. But the long layoffs for both men leave a lot of unanswered questions heading into the fight. Duraev has been working out with top coaches at Xtreme Couture and training with several UFC fighters during his time outside of the cage. Duraev should get a contract and will be looking to finish the fight from the start.
Lukasz Brzeski (8-1-1, -350 favorite) vs. Dylan Potter (10-5, +270 underdog)
Heavyweights Lukasz Brzeski, of Poland, and Dylan Potter, of Olympia, Washington, are both looking to make a major impact on the Contender Series. Potter enters the fight on short notice, replacing Lorenzo Hood, while Brzeski has had multiple weeks to get ready for his DWCS appearance. He was originally expected to face Hood during the first week of the fifth season, on August 31.
Brzeski is on a six-fight unbeaten streak that includes three TKO wins and a submission victory, along with a decision win and a draw. He last fought in May 2020, stopping Michael Piowowarski with punches and elbows at Babilon MMA 13 in Poland in a main event bout. In October 2019, he picked up a unanimous decision win over UFC veteran Ednaldo Oliveira at Babilon MMA 10. The Polish fighter has five wins by KO/TKO, two by submission and one by decision in his career, according to Tapology.
“Big Poppa” Potter fights out of American Top Team Portland, where he trains alongside UFC veteran Ed Herman, Bellator’s Taylor Johnson and Tyree Fortune. Potter took the fight against Brzeski in late August, according to his Instagram.
Potter wrote on Instagram after weighing in, “This isn’t 2 weeks of preparation. This is 11 years of hard work, ups and downs, self doubts, and a lot of unknown, but the one thing I know for sure is I’m ready. I’m hungry, experienced, conditioned, I’m battle ready. Tomorrow is time to feast. It’s time to show the world how much I not only want this, but NEED this. Someone tell @danawhite to get that contract ready because I’m here to entertain now.”
Potter has finished all of his pro victories, with three wins by KO/TKO and seven by submission, according to Tapology. He is coming off a rear-naked choke victory in the second round of his CageSport 61 fight against Nick Mills in July 2021. He previously fought “Ultimate Fighter” veteran Myron Dennis at LFA 95 in November 2020, losing by split decision. He also has a decision loss to UFC veteran Anthony Hamilton on his record.
THE PICK Potter
Potter is coming in on short notice, which puts him at a disadvantage, but he has faced tough competition during his pro career and an upset is not out of the question. Brzeski has shown aggressiveness and finishing ability during his career in Poland, but he has also been sloppy at times and allowed himself to be hit with hard shots and taken to the mat and controlled. He has used his physicality and superior athleticism in many of his fights to overpower his opponents, and a savvy fighter like Potter could take advantage of the lack of technique to pull off the surprise. Look for Potter to withstand Brzeski’s aggression, tire him out and finish him to earn a UFC contract.
Ange Loosa (7-1, +115 underdog) vs. Jack Della Maddalena (9-2, -135 favorite)
Ange Loosa, of Switzerland, and Australia’s Jack Della Maddalena face off at welterweight. Della Maddalena is the reigning Eternal MMA welterweight champion. Loosa has fought in Titan FC and LFA and trains at Sanford MMA in Florida.
The 27-year-old Loosa has not fought since April 2019. He won his last fight by split decision over Collin Lubberts at Titan FC 54, rebounding from his first career loss, a split decision against Jonathon Thomson at LFA 56 in December 2018. Loosa has five wins by KO/TKO, one by submission and one by decision during his career, according to Tapology.
Della Maddalena started his career 0-2 and has not lost since, entering the DWCS bout on a nine-fight win streak. He has finished all of his fights, with eight wins by KO/TKO and one submission victory. Della Maddalena trains at Scrappy MMA and Fitness in Western Australia.
He has never seen a third round in his MMA career. He won his most recent fight, in October 2010 at Eternal MMA 53, knocking out Aldin Bates with a punch about a minute into the first round.
THE PICK Loosa
Loosa enters the fight after two years of development, including at Sanford MMA under the tutelage of Henri Hooft, and has shown explosiveness and finishing ability during his career. Della Maddelena made the trip from Australia to the U.S. just one week ago, so the time change and short preparation time compared to Loosa making the trek from Florida to Las Vegas could also play a role in the fight. Look for Loosa to enter the fight with a high-level gameplan and earn a spot in the UFC alongside several of his Sanford MMA brethren.
Jasmine Jasudavicius (5-1, -135 favorite) vs. Julia Polastri (8-2, +115 underdog)
Canada’s Jasmine Jasudavicius and Brazil’s Julia Polastri will face off in the first women’s Contender Series fight of the fifth season. They will be fighting in the flyweight division.
The 32-year-old Jasudavicius has is coming off of three fights in Cage Fury. FC, including a decision victory over Ashley Dean at CFFC 93 in March 2021 and a split decision loss to current UFC fighter Elise Reed at CFFC 83 in August 2020. It was her first loss as a fighter.
She won her CFFC debut in February 2020, stopping Gabriella Gulfin with knees in the first round. Jasudavicius has a submission win by rear-naked choke in her pro MMA debut, a decision victory in her second fight and a win by body shots in her third contest. She was also 4-0 with two stoppages, one by submission and won by KO, in her amateur career, according to Tapology.
Jasudavicius followed a unique path to MMA. She began training later in life, at 27, after tagging a long on a friend’s Tinder date in 2015 and meeting Niagara Top Team wrestling coach Chris Prickett, according to TSN. She told the news site they began dating and she began training with him, eventually turning pro.
Polastri has been impressive on the Brazilian regional scene, entering DWCS with a six-fight win streak, including three consecutive stoppages, one by rear-naked choke and two by TKO, according to Tapology. She submitted Jessica Cunha in October 2020 at SFT 22. Polastri has three wins by KO/TKO, one by submission and four by decision in her career. Polastri holds a win over Invicta FC’s Jessica Delboni.
But Polastri will be making her flyweight debut on the Contender Series. She began her career with two fights in the 105-pound atomweight division and has competed at the 115-pound strawweight division since then. Jasudavicius has spent her career in the 125-pound division, except for the fight against Reed, where she dropped down to challenge for the CFFC Strawweight Championship. Polastri is 5’2″ and Jasudavicius is 5’7″.
THE PICK Jasudavicius
Jasudavicius has a size advantage and has been tested against UFC-level competition, nearly defeating Reed in the CFFC title fight in 2020. Look for her to pick up a solid decision victory in a back-and-forth fight to become the first woman to earn a contract on this season of DWCS.
DWCS Season 5, Episode 3 Best Bets
Last week, all four of Heavy’s best bets cashed (Josh Quinlan inside the distance, Josh Quinlan/Logan Urban under 1 1/2, Chidi Njoukuani to win and Quinlan/Saimon Oliveira parlay). Here are the best bets for week 3:
Almeida to win (+170): Almeida is a solid underdog. He has skills on the feet and the mat and has a size advantage he could exploit. Nasrudinov showed a willingness to sit in his opponent’s guard and look to control on the mat in his fight against Hendricks, and nearly got reversed into submissions multiple times. Almeida has the ability to do what Hendricks couldn’t and finish Nasrudinov on the ground if the opportunity presents itself, and Nasrudinov has shown a tendency to look to take the fight to the mat.
Miller & Duraev parlay (-195): Miller’s NCAA-level wrestling and Duraev’s higher level of competition and superior training camp make them the top favorites on the card.
Loosa to win (+105): Loosa is another strong underdog who could spring an upset. His time at Sanford MMA is what makes him worth taking a shot on.
Loosa/Della Maddalena under 2 1/2 rounds (-190): Loosa and Della Maddalena are both finishers and DWCS brings out the action.
Potter/Brezeski under 2 1/2 rounds (-185): If this was a fight in LFA or even on a UFC Fight Night card, a sloppy decision could be in play. Both men have shown toughness and an ability to last late into fights, and Potter survived a lot of heavy blows in his LFA debut against Dennis. But the Contender Series is a different situation. Both men should be eager to finish the fight and get into the UFC. Just hope they don’t tire out and lean on each other for several minutes.
DWCS Season 5 Record: 3-2 picks, 4-0 best bets
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