Week 7 of Dana White’s Contender Series (2021) took place on Tuesday in Las Vegas, and we’re grading the winners from the four-fight card, which streamed on ESPN+ from the UFC Apex.
With a simple but digestible format that has had the MMA fanbase responding, this series has shown to have legs in multiple ways while serving as a crockpot for contenders whom the UFC matchmakers can use for future events. So, with that trend in mind, I will once again be taking a look at the winning fighters regardless of whether or not they won a UFC contract, grading their performances in regards to their probability of returning to a UFC stage.
Weight class: Strawweight
Result: Maria Silva def. Kathryn Paprocki via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Summary: In what was a bit of a forgettable fight, Maria Silva earns a solid C for her winning effort over Kathryn Paprocki.
Silva showed solid offense overall, but her decision-making and previous strength of competition somewhat shined through as this fight prolonged.
Don’t get me wrong: Silva had some fun and aggressive ideas that she went for early, as she definitely looks the part. I just believe that her rawness and inexperience cost her a finish against an outmatched opponent who took the fight on just one week’s notice.
For that reason, I wasn’t too surprised that Dana White declined on signing her, as she could certainly use a bit more seasoning (preferably in a North American promotion like Invicta FC).
Weight class: Lightweight
Result: Viacheslav Borshchev def. Chris Duncan via knockout (punch) – Round 2, 0:28
Summary: After turning in what might be my favorite performance of the night, I found it hard to deny Viacheslav Borshchev an A for coming through as an underdog over Chris Duncan.
Coming from a kickboxing background, Borshchev displays a comfort and wherewithal that is beyond his MMA resume. Even though Borshchev will mix in flashy attacks, he largely stays disciplined with his fundamentals from head movement to hand positioning.
The Russian fighter also seems diligent about going to the body, which is always a big plus in my book. Thankfully Borshchev has the self-awareness to work on his grappling and getup game, demonstrating serviceable defense and solid urgency in that department.
Signing Borshchev was a no-brainer for the UFC president, but lightweight is no walk in the park. For that reason, I hope that Borshchev gets paired up with someone similarly experienced like Uros Medic, as I suspect that would be guaranteed fireworks.
Weight class: Flyweight
Result: Jake Hadley def. Mitch Roposo via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 3:11
Summary: Despite missing weight and apparently bringing some baggage to boot, Jake Hadley still squeaks out a B+ for the skills he showed en route to beating Mitch Roposo.
Hadley showed some interesting looks on the feet, utilizing wing block variations from a southpaw boxing guard that smacked of Tom Breese. However, after seeing how Hadley uses his frame on the floor, it’s clear that the Englishman makes his money with his ground game.
Thanks to some well-timed takedowns from Roposo, we are able to see the gogoplata threats that earned Hadley victories in his amateur career. However, I’m curious to see how Hadley stacks up against fully-fledged flyweights who aren’t fighting on short notice.
It was interesting to see White go against his matchmakers’ orders to sign Hadley, but perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised given the UFC president’s longstanding track record when it comes to going to bat for the “bad boys.” But as talented as Hadley may be, there is absolutely no excuse for missing weight or mistreating the UFC staff (who remain some of the most over-worked and under-appreciated parts of the promotion’s production).
Should the rumors of Hadley and his behavior be true, then I’d like to see the opposite of the enabling treatment that fighters like Conor McGregor have received, as I’m over this trend of self-entitled imitators. If White feels that Hadley is special, then match him up as so – preferably against proven products like David Dvorak or Tyson Nam.
Weight class: Heavyweight
Result: Martin Buday def. Lorenzo Hood via TKO (knee, punches) Round 1, 4:56
Summary: Since heavyweights tend to be graded on a bit of a different scale, I still found it justifiable to award Martin Buday a B for finishing Lorenzo Hood in the first round.
Sure, the fight may have resembled a UFC video game simulation between one player who is still figuring out the controls while the other only knows how to do one thing, but Buday found what worked for him and stuck to it (which is sadly rarer than it should be in this sport).
Buday also had to overcome a bit of adversity by showing off his chin opposite the southpaw slugger, as Hood was able to tag him off of the break. Thankfully for the Slavic fighter, he was able to persevere through the punishment and push Hood back into his wheelhouse against the fence for the eventual finish.
I’m not sure what the UFC brass have him mind for Buday, but I’m not surprised to see him signed given that the heavyweight roster could always use some help. If it were up to me, I’d pair him up with Jarjis Danho for all the cage-clinching weirdness and go from there.
Weight class: Bantamweight
Result: Christian Rodriguez def. Reyes Cortez via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Summary: Despite being the second fighter to miss weight in a winning effort, I still saw fit to give Christian Rodriguez an A for the host of well-rounded skills he showed opposite Reyes Cortez.
Although Cortez hung tough to try and become part of the first brother-sister tandem in the UFC, Rodriguez’s technical acumen proved to be too much. Whether it was the stellar defensive wrestling or the tactical hand-fighting approach, Rodriguez did so many of the things that I love to see.
Rodriguez also showed some savvy elbows in close, whether it was sneaky up-elbows in exchanges or slick slices off of wrist-feeds from the clinch. I know that my sensibilities are different than Dana White’s, but smart, technical fighters who parlay defense into offense always score big with me.
Although White decided to hold the weight miss against Rodriguez and not Hadley, I can understand the age argument for not being in a rush to sign the Roufusport product. That said, from what I saw – Rodriguez is absolutely UFC ready.