A record-setting 10 contracts had been given out in 9 fights in the first 2 weeks of the 5th season of Dana White's Contender Series. And for the first time ever in the show, both a winner and a loser of a matchup received a contract after former LFA Flyweight Champion Victor "El Magnifico" Altamirano won a controversial split decision over former DWCS Season 1 alum Carlos "The Cannon" Candelario and both were awarded a contract. Other highlights from the episodes include the season kicking off with a first-round flying knee KO for A.J Fletcher, who happens to train with Dustin "The Diamond" Poirier, former Fury FC flyweight champion CJ Vergara finishing TUF Brazil Season 4, and UFC veteran Bruno Korea with a nasty knee to the body 41 seconds into the fight, Bellator veteran Chidi "Bang Bang" Njoukani dominated and finished highly-touted Brazilian prospect Mario Souza via 3rd Round TKO and undefeated Russian prospect Azamat Murzakanov knocking out Matheus Scheffel and improved to 10-0. With 5 KO/TKO's and only 4 decisions, the contracts have been given out at a higher rate than ever, with the level of competition on the show steadily increasing with each episode. Most fighters on the first two episodes made great impressions on the boss with great technical fights and highlight finishes; however, some fighters will have greater impacts on the UFC compared to others.
Fighters to watch from Episode 1
Joanderson "Tubarao" Brito
The Brazilian is known for his insane pressure and aggressiveness, and that was seen against rising prospect Diego Lopes. Escaping all the submission attempts done by Lopez and controlling the part of the fight that he was supposed to lack on which was the ground due to being known as a wild gunslinger who prefers to throw bombs on the feet. Brito stayed in his face and pushed the furious pace that he is known for the first two rounds. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Brito had two accidental eye pokes, the second causing him to lose a point and leaving Lopes unable to compete. Going to the judges' scorecards, Brito won a technical unanimous decision and earned himself a contract for the UFC. Earning the label as a finisher, with the win over Lopes being only the second decision he has ever seen in his career, with 5 KO/TKO's and 5 submissions out of his 12 career wins. His cardio holds up with even the crazy pace, and there are a lot of fun matchups to make in the already stacked featherweight division and being only 26 and loads of experience, he has time to really grow and master his craft and potentially have a shot at top 15 ranking with a few highlight-reel finishes he is accustom to earning.
Azamat "The Professional" Murzakanov
The former Brave CF light heavyweight champion was handed a tall task (literally) when facing off against 6'2 Brazilian knockout artist Matheus "Buffa" Scheffel. With a height difference of 5 inches, with Murzakanov standing at 5'10, which is quite short for light heavyweight. However, even with the height difference, Azamat found the chin and finished Scheffel with a clean right hook and ground and pound with 3 minutes into the 1st Round. With 8 finishes in his 10 wins, he is looking to carry his momentum into his UFC debut against Marcin Prachnio. Prachnio is a glass cannon when it comes to his UFC run, with a 2-3 record with all 3 losses by KO/TKO, so if Murzakanov can find the sweet spot with any punch, it is lights out. Murzakanov is very calculated with his strikes and usually is light on his feet, and is very active for a fighter at light heavyweight, shown in his final bout in Brave CF against Mohammad Fakhreddine. After dropping him with a left hook and using his underrated ground game to control him in side control for a good portion of the 1st, once back to the stand-up, Fakhreddine injured his leg on a blocked leg kick and knowing he would shoot for a double, times an uppercut for the KO finish. Murzakanov has all the potential in the world, and it will be put to the test once he dips his feet in the waters of the UFC.
Fighters to watch from Episode 2
Chidi "Bang Bang" Njokuani
Brother of former UFC and WEC fighter Anthony Njokuani, Chidi followed in his brother's footsteps and earned a respected 19-7 record with stints in companies such as LFA, RFA, and even Bellator and wins over former and current UFC fighters like Melvin Guillard, Max Griffin, Ricky Rainey, and Alan Jouban. He was worthy of a straight UFC contract but going 2-3 in his last 5 with stoppage losses to Andrey Koreshkov and John Salter in Bellator main events most likely relegated himself to a spot to earn a contract. His opponent, Mario Souza, was on Season 3 of DWCS, winning a Unanimous Decision victory over Mariusz Ksiazkiewicz and did not earn a contract; however, his 2nd chance at the UFC was very unsuccessful. After two hard groin knees to Njoukani causing Souza to lose a point in the 1st round, the veteran experience of Chidi proved useful as he recognized that Souza had very little to offer on the ground and rained ground and pound for the majority of 2 rounds and hurting the striker Souza on the feet when it was there. Eventually, Njoukani broke Souza's spirit, and after a hard elbow followed by a succession of more elbows, the fight was called a 3rd Round TKO for Njoukani, and a UFC contract secured. He looked UFC ready from the beginning of the fight and could make a huge splash into the loaded UFC middleweight division in the upcoming years.
Oliveira came into the fight against former Combate Global bantamweight champion Jose Alday seen as just a ground guy and is going to look for takedowns and submissions; however, how it played out was Oliveira was winning the exchanges on the feet and stung him with a right hook in the 3rd and won a split decision (29-28 x2 28-29) and won himself a contract with his gritty performance and a great fight overall. With the split decision only being his 2nd decision win with 5 via KO/TKO and 11 submission wins and his favorite submission of choice being a guillotine choke and holding 7 stoppages with said choke. Oliveira was one of the two bantamweights signed from episode 2, with Chad Anheliger winning a split decision, but Oliveira by far has the better skills and the better potential in the big show. He has a basic but effective Muay Thai stance and holds a high block, and fires off a high rate of strikes on the feet, throwing 114 significate strikes and landing at a 41% clip. The style of fight and the ability to stand in a pure dog fight will elevate Saimon Oliveira out in the log-jammed UFC bantamweight division.