The contracts continue to come aplenty on this season of the UFC’s Contender Series.
UFC president Dana White handed out contracts to three of the four winning fighters at Tuesday’s event at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, bringing this season’s total to 13 contracts awarded out of 14 total winners.
In the featured bout of the evening, 29-year-old middleweight Zach Reese (6-0) needed just 74 seconds to hand Eli Aronov his first professional loss (6-1) and earn a UFC deal.
The end came swiftly, as Aronov bulldozed Reese into an early takedown then went to work with punches, only for Reese to catch Aronov with a slick armbar in the ensuing scramble.
“This is just surreal. I can’t wait to make my UFC debut,” Reese said. “I know my style is going to resonate with the fans. I’m going to bring it every single fight, I promise you guys that. It’s kill or be killed. I have a hit list and I can’t wait to start knocking names off of it.”
The night’s most exciting fight came courtesy of Welsh prospect Oban Elliott (9-2), who scored an improbable victory over Kaik Brito (16-5) to earn his UFC contract after surviving a hellacious second round in an absolute war of attrition.
The 25-year-old welterweight won the opening stanza with a steady diet of body kicks and ground work, but things took a turn for the worse in a crazy second round that saw Brito nearly catch Elliott in a standing guillotine, then badly hurt the Welshman with a monstrous salvo of looping shots. Brito then defended a desperation takedown and was mere seconds away from finishing a fully locked-in armbar before Elliott was saved by the bell.
Heading into the final frame tied at one round apiece, an exhausted Elliott remarkably found his second wind and battered Brito with a vicious stream of grounded elbows after the Brazilian tripped to the floor off a missed spinning backfist. In the end, Elliott captured two 29-28 scorecards in his favor, with the lone dissenter scoring a 28-28 draw, giving Elliot a hard-fought majority decision and a chance to plead his case to Dana White.
In the opening bout of the evening, Luis Pajuelo (8-1) bulldozed through Robbie Ring (6-1) to become the second Peruvian fighter to earn a UFC contract over the past three weeks.
A 28-year-old featherweight with a boxing background, Pajuelo found a home with his right hand early and often, then settled into top position off a failed takedown attempt by his previously undefeated foe. The finish arrived soon after, as Pajuelo smashed a hard grounded knee into Ring’s midsection then rained down blows to earn the TKO stoppage at 3:43 of Round 1.
The only victorious fighter thus far on this Contender Series season to not earn a UFC contract was undefeated strawweight prospect Josefine Knutsson (6-0), who made easy work of Isis Verbeek (4-2) en route to a one-sided unanimous decision win.
The 27-year-old Swede staggered Verbeek in the opening seconds of the bout with a huge lead head kick then cracked her with an array of knees and slick left hooks throughout the 15-minute affair, ultimately sweeping the judges’ scorecards with a trio of 30-27 scores in her favor. In the end, however, White cited Knutsson’s lack of finishing instincts as his reason for not adding her to the UFC strawweight roster.