Season 4 of Contender Series showcased some amazing fights and UFC-ready talent. However, many fans were left confused with the future of the show and what Season 5 could bring to the table that was missing this season.
Although we did have some exciting weeks, there really was no rubric in place to get a contract and Season 4 left many puzzled. The fact that young talent were passed over while fighters seeking their second or third opportunity left knowing their next fight would be in the UFC made no sense. Next season will need to have a few changes if they want to keep the excitement going.
Below are three mistakes Dana White made this season, and two things that need fixing to get rid of confusion.
Mistake: Anthony Romero doesn’t get a contract
Anthony Romero was an undefeated Canadian prospect that was featured on Week 4 of DWCS. UFC already lacks Canadian talent, and on top of that, many would argue Romero was the most complete fighter we’ve seen on Contender Series this season. However, that wasn’t enough after beating Mike Breeden, dominantly.
After the fight, Breeden’s toughness was the focal point and the first talks of a loser getting a contract started to surface. An idea that truly makes no sense and would devalue the Contender Series product.
Romero should have gotten the contract; being young or not being able to finish a tough fighter should not be relevant reasons. This is especially true if Dana gave a contract to a fighter who also couldn’t get the finish in Week 1. Dustin Jacoby received his opportunity on the show after a Unanimous Decision win. Jacoby won his fight that night against Ty Flores via Unanimous Decision. His gas tank by round three was shot, yet was awarded what could be his last opportunity in the UFC.
What is this show truly about? It makes you wonder a bit.
Change: Isn’t DWCS about true up-and-coming prospects? hmm…
What is DWCS about? Really think about it… We saw UFC vets come back on the show and get a contract on their last shot with the organization and we’ve seen others who came back on the show for the second or third time. With the amount of regional talent available, it’s hard to understand some of the matchmaking that took place.
If Contender Series is about the talent of tomorrow, then the show should reevaluate who they allow compete on the show. People shouldn’t be on the show a third time, but that’s up for debate. We have also seen that sometimes Dana feels fighters are “too young” and some even get signed off a decision, while others don’t. It seems as if though you need to get Uncle Dana on a good week, otherwise, it’s tougher to receive a contract.
Not to take away from Jacoby and his win, but he is an older fighter, who was previously in the UFC. If an older fighter can earn a contract with a decision win, why can’t a younger fighter earn a contract with a decision win, that was widely considered to have the better performance?
Mistake: Kenny Cross doesn’t get a contract
This was one of the sadder things we witnessed this season. I think many fighters can learn from Kenny Cross — who seemed to be a company man before being signed to the company itself.
If you remember correctly, Kenny Cross was supposed to headline the first card of the season. After his opponent was forced to pull out, UFC tried everything in their power to save the fight, getting Cross a replacement. Unfortunately that opponent was then deemed unable to compete, leaving Cross without an opponent, but the promise to get on one of the upcoming cards.
Well that opportunity came much sooner than Cross probably expected, having to go though back-to-back weight cuts (that truly messes with your body). Cross would end up going to a decision in his fight with his original opponent on Week 3, but he was the only fighter not to get a contract.
On Contender Series, you are only judged on that night. Sometimes these outside factors that should receive kudos, don’t. So it makes you wonder what the issue is with DWCS and why Kenny didn’t get the contract that night.
Is it all political? What really matters?
Change: Stop talking about losers and focus on the winners.
There are great fights that happen in the smaller cage on Tuesdays. Great fights deserve the attention they receive, but the winner of the fight deserves to shine in their victory. Too many times in Season 4, the knock against the winner was how tough their opponent was. Then this narrative is too often created that the win is not as impressive because the opponent was a great fighter and is just as deserving of a chance at getting a contract.
The attention then gets shifted to the loser of the fight. If the loser was tough, and a legitimate prospect, that should be a testament to the winner. Credit was not always given where it was deserved. There were occasions where the loser of the fight was talked about returning to the show later on, or that they were on a list for short notice call-ups.
This needs to change, and it needs to change fast. This is on the commentators too. Be better.
Mistake: Nick Maximov doesn’t get a contract
Nick Maximov is UFC ready. Whether he ends up at 185 or 205 long term, he went up to heavyweight on short notice and controlled the entire fight with a guy who had over 50 pounds on him. This was a gutsy performance that you think Dana would have gone crazy for, especially on Contender Series. But, in the end, Maximov was awarded an opportunity to compete on the reboot of The Ultimate Fighter in January.
This is another decision from Dana that made little sense, as Maximov was worthy of at least a developmental contract. It should make all fighters more cautious of taking a fight on the next season of Contender Series, unless every aspect of it favors them.
Change: The idea of the “young kid”
Almost every time Dana starts talking about, “this is a young kid” or “they’re still young”, they are not getting a contract. Being young, “you will have another opportunity, you can try again later.” Or maybe the Dana gives the encouraging, “you will be in the UFC someday, but just not today”.
I never understood the excuse of youth. Isn’t the purpose of the show to be a steady pipeline for young talent to enter the UFC? Sometimes being young is really the only “negative” after their performance, so it doesn’t make sense sometimes when they are passed up. Here’s a list of a few DWCS fighters and their age at signing:
- Sean O’malley (22)
- Grant Dawson (23)
- Benito Lopez (23)
- Maycee Barber (20)
- Edmen Shahbazyan (19)
- Jimmy Crute (22)
- Chase Hooper *developmental* (18)
- Brendan Allen (23)
- Cory McKenna (20)
So the real question is, how young is too young? It raises the argument that, if the reason a fighter doesn’t get signed is because they are “young”, then sign them to a developmental deal. After all, that’s why they were created, right?
DWCS needs to come with a rubric of some sort and truly hone in on their product before it dies out like TUF did. There’s too much confusion and too much of an emphasis on a fighter’s sad story. If the show is about creating a pipeline of future champions, then we should be seeing younger prospects get their opportunity much more often than not.
Details of Season 5 have not been revealed just yet, but I remain hopeful that we see a much less chaotic, more defined, and equally exciting season of Dana White’s Contender Series.