DANA WHITE CONTENDER’S SERIES PREVIEW 7/11: Grocke’s preview of fights on debut episode tonight on Fight Pass

By Michael Grocke, MMATorch contributor

Dana White Contender Series

Week 1 of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series debuts tonight on UFC Fight Pass. The weekly series will feature five fights between both MMA prospects as well as veterans of the sport looking for another opportunity to make it back to the UFC. The fights on the show will be regulated by the Nevada Athletic Commission which means wins and losses count on the fighter’s record.

Dana White was granted a separate promotor’s license which means DWTNCS does not fall under the UFC umbrella. However, expect White, Sean Shelby, and Mick Maynard to be cageside for the fights.

“This sport continues to get bigger all over the world, and the more fights we can put on, the more talent we can find, the better the events will be for the fans,” UFC President Dana White said in an initial press release. “I love looking for up-and-coming talent. This show’s going to give us another opportunity to bring in young fighters who we think have potential to make it in the UFC or maybe even one day become world champions. It’ll also give some fighters who might be in a slump or on their way out of the organization an opportunity for that last shot. I truly can’t watch enough fights and I think our fans will love this new Fight Pass show.”

The Pre-Fight show starts at 6:30 p.m. CT with the main card airing at 7 p.m. CT.


Matt Bessette (22-7) vs. Kurt Holobaugh (17-4) – Featherweight 145 lbs.

Matt Bessette comes into his fight against Kurt Holobaugh riding a seven fight winning streak. His last four fights all took place for the Classic Entertainment and Sports (CES MMA) promotion in Rhode Island. Bessette has also fought under the Bellator banner seven times with a record of 5-2. The thirty-two year old Underdog Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu product has seven wins by KO/TKOs to go along with eight wins by submission in twenty-two career wins.

Kurt Holobaugh has won his last three fights in a row all under the Titan Fighting Championship (Titan FC) banner. All three fights ended inside the distance. Holobaugh also fought once for the UFC at UFC 159 back in April, 2013 where he dropped a decision to Steven Siler. The thirty year old Gracie United product boasts thirteen finishes in seventeen career wins.

Azunna Anyanwu (13-4) vs. Greg Rebello (22-7) – Heavyweight 260 lbs.

Anyanwu has spent the majority of his career fighting under the Cage Fury Fighting Championship (CFFC) umbrella where he has amassed a 9-2 record. While he doesn’t have experience fighting in the UFC or Bellator, Anyanwu, at thirty-five years old has seventeen professional fights under his belt to go along with two as an amateur. Nine of his thirteen pro wins have come via stoppage with seven KO/TKOs and two submissions.

CES has been the home of Cranston, Rhode Island native Greg Rebello over his last ten fights. He is 7-3 with six finishes. In Rebello’s pro career he has thirteen wins by KO/TKO to go along with two submissions. He has been finished five times in seven losses. The thirty-five tear old fights out of Team Sityodtong in Boston, MA.

Ricky Turcios (8-0) vs. Boston Salmon (5-1) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.

Ricky Turcios is undefeated in eight fights. Five of those wins were under the Fury Fighting Championship (FF) promotion including the previous two. Turcios won his only fight for Bellator by winning a split decision over Steve Garcia at Bellator 151. At twenty-four years of age, Turcios has yet to taste defeat going 8-0 as a professional and 4-0 as an amateur. Of his eight pro wins, three were by KO/TKO with five by decision.

Boston Salmon has fought under the Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) banner his entire professional career. Under RFA, Salmon has amassed a 5-1 record with four of the wins coming via knockout. The twenty-six year old Hawaiian native is a well-rounded fighter with solid skills in boxing, wrestling and jiu-jitsu.

Charles Byrd (7-4) vs. Jamie Pickett (7-2) – Middleweight 185 lbs.

Charles Byrd is 1-1 over his last two fights. He dropped a decision to Bojan Velickovic at AXS TV Fights and most recently beat Quentin Henry by first round knockout at LFC 57. Byrd has fought for multiple promotions in his eleven fight career including LFC, Dominion Warrior Tri Combat (DWTC), Fight Game, Legacy Promotions (LP), King of Kombat (KOK) and Global Fighting Promotions. In Byrd’s seven wins, three are by KO/TKO with 2 submissions.

After losing his first two fights as a professional, Jamie Pickett has rattled off six straight wins. His most recent fight was at Conflict MMA 42 where he decisoned Rashaun Spencer. Pickett has fought for LFC, Next Level Fight Club (NLFC), Zed Mitchell MMA (ZMMMA), the Warfare Fighting Championships and Triangle Promotions. He was supposed to get his first opportunity to fight for Bellator back in May but according to Pickett the fight was canceled due to budget issues. The twenty-eight year old has four wins by knockout with one submission in his six career wins.

Manny Vazquez (11-2) vs. Joby Sanchez (9-2) – Flyweight 125 lbs.

After starting his career winning his first six fights on the regional circuit, Joby Sanchez got his opportunity to fight in the UFC. His first fight was against Wilson Reis at UFC Fight Night 49 where he lost by decision. Sanchez returned at UFC Fight Night 59 where he won a split decision over Tateki Matsuda. His last fight under the UFC banner came at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale where he was stopped in the second round by Geane Herrera. After that loss, Sanchez returned to the regional circuit where he has won his last two fights. The twenty-six year old Jackson-Wink product has three wins by KO/TKO to go along with four submissions in nine career wins.

Manny Vazquez amassed a 10-2 record fighting on the regional circuit. He fought for the Xtreme Fighting Organization (XFO), LFC, Turf Wars Extreme Fighting (TWEF), KOTC, United Combat League (UCL) and the American Predator Fighting Championships (APFC). Manny’s most recent fight came under the Bellator banner where he beat Nate Williams by decision at Bellator 157. Fighting out of the Patriots Fighting Systems in Elmhurst, IL, the twenty-three boats seven finishes in eleven career wins.

Enjoy the fights!

NOW CHECK OUT THIS PREVIOUS COLUMN: UFC 213 PREVIEW & PREDICTIONS: Grocke’s guide to Nunes vs. Shevchenko, Whitaker vs. Romero, Werdum vs. Overeem

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