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Dana White’s Contender Series: How have contract winners fared so far in the UFC?

Dana White’s Contender Series: How have contract winners fared so far in the UFC?

Maycee Barber secures a win in the UFC

Since its inception in 2017, Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS)  has been a must-watch for fight fans. Once a week, for eight weeks, we’re treated to five fights. Those who impress UFC brass the most are awarded a contract and move on to the Octagon to test their mettle under the big lights. The pacing is a dream for the MMA devotees who are used to cards being packed with filler to assure the events occupy a certain amount of airtime.

But that’s not the case on the Contender Series. After a fight is over, it’s right to the next one. Most of the summer series’ episodes end up clocking in at just over an hour.

On paper, the Contender Series is not affiliated with the UFC. Dana White had to apply for his promoter’s license and made it very clear to the Nevada State Athletic Commission that “this is not the UFC, this is not the UFC brand.” It’s a showcase for up-and-coming fighters. So how have those who have been presented a contract fared so far in UFC? Let’s break it down.

Note: The records listed below are only against competition who have never appeared on DWCS. For example, Kurt Holobaugh recently lost to fellow Contender Series alum Thiago Moises. That fight won’t appear on either’s listed record. Some fighters were offered developmental deals and have appeared in other organizations since. Those fights also won’t count here. We only want contract winners with UFC records.


Season 1 – 2017

  • Kurt Holobaugh 0-2
  • Boston Salmon 0-1
  • Sean O’Malley 2-0
  • Karl Roberson 2-2
  • Geoff Neal 3-0
  • Julian Marquez 1-1
  • Brandon Davis 1-3
  • Mike Rodriguez 1-1
  • Alex Perez 4-1
  • Charles Byrd 1-1
  • Grant Dawson 1-0
  • Benito Lopez 1-1
  • Joby Sanchez 0-2
  • Matt Frevola 0-1-1
  • Lauren Mueller 1-2
  • Allen Crowder 0-1

The combined record for Season 1 = 18-19-1

Winning percentage = 48.65%


Season 2 – 2018

  • Greg Hardy 1-0 UFC
  • Matt Sayles 1-1 in UFC
  • Anthony Hernandez 0-1
  • Ryan Spann 2-0
  • Dwight Grant 2-1
  • Antonina Shevchenko 1-1
  • Te Edwards 0-2
  • Bevon Lewis 0-2
  • Jordan Espinosa 1-0
  • Maycee Barber 2-0
  • Edmen Shahbazyan 1-0
  • Jimmy Crute 2-0
  • Sodiq Yusuff 2-0
  • Jeff Hughes 1-0
  • Roosevelt Roberts 2-0
  • Ian Heinisch 2-0
  • Juan Adams 1-1
  • Devonte Smith 1-0
  • Kennedy Nzechukwu 0-1
  • Bobby Moffett 1-1

The combined record for Season 2 = 23-11

Winning percentage = 67.65%

The combined record between the two American seasons is 41-30-1

Winning percentage of both seasons combined is 57.75%


Contender Series Brasil

  • Rogério Bontorin 1-0
  • Mayra Bueno Silva 1-0
  • Sarah Frota 0-1
  • Augusto Sakai 2-0
  • Taila Santos 0-1
  • Johnny Walker 3-0
  • Marina Rodriguez 1-0-1
  • Raulian Paiva  0-1
  • Launa Carolina 1-0
  • Thiago Moises 0-1

The combined record for Contender Series Brasil = 9-4-1

Winning percentage of Contender Series Brasil = 69.23%

The total combined record of all three shows is 50-34-2

Winning percentage of all three shows is 59.52%


Has Contender Series been a success?

It must be noted that there are a lot of things to take into consideration when looking over these records. First, contract winners have faced varying levels of competition. Second, many fighters have taken short notice fights. We’re aiming for a general idea of how those from the show are performing since earning their contracts.

Season one may have produced the worst win percentage overall, but it’s also manufactured the biggest potential star in Sean O’Malley. Geoff Neal has also been coming into his own and putting on technical striking displays. Alex Perez’s lone hiccup against Joseph Benavidez doesn’t hurt his stock much. Perez has looked great in his other four outings in the UFC.

Season 2 has fared much better thus far in terms of win percentages, and it’s also given us a lot of talent with solid potential. Maycee Barber and Edmen Shahbazyan, both 21-years-old, are undefeated and have could be main-eventers one day if their careers are handled well by the promotion. Sodiq Yusuff and Jimmy Crute are two young and exciting fighters who have already passed some stern tests. They will also likely become integral in building the brand in their home countries of Nigeria and Australia. Alonzo Menifield (who isn’t listed because he’s only fought opponents who also appeared on Contender Series) is 8-0 and has never gone the distance in a professional bout. Ian Heinisch just bested the surging Antonio Carlos Junior and has an intriguing back story. Juan Adams is very interactive with fans on social media and will have the backing of most spectators come July 20 when he meets Greg Hardy.

Maurina Rodriguez from Contender Series Brasil is about to get a big step up in competition when she meets Tecia Torres at UFC Uraguay in August. Grappling ace Mayra Bueno Silva is someone to watch going forward. But the standout from that series is without a doubt, Johnny Walker. The charismatic knockout artist has had three UFC bouts and finished all three fights in the first round.

With Contender Series contract winners claiming victory 60% of the time against their non-Contender Series counterparts, it’s safe to say that the show is doing an excellent job of scouting talent. Sure, fighters will fall to the wayside and be cut down the road. Signing fighters to the UFC is a crapshoot. But if the initial data is a sign of things to come, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of many of these combatants.

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