Dana White’s Contender Series, Season 5 started on August 5th and lasted a full ten weeks. Out of fifty fights, there was a record thirty-nine fighters that earned a contract.
Out of those who were signed, here are the top ten fighters to expect the most from in the UFC.
Flyweight, Kleydson Rodrigues (7-1)
Nobody expected Kleydson Rodrigues to beat Santo Curatolo. Even more so, nobody expected the way he would end up beating Curatolo. Rodriguez won a 30-27 on the scorecards just styling on Curatolo from bell to bell. The Brazilian Rodrigues showed a diverse skill set along with excellent movement. He never let Curatolo get anything off and kept him on the outside keeping him guessing.
Rodrigues came into the fight virtually unknown, but came out with arguably the most hype. Rodrigues is set to make his UFC debut on January 15th against Zarrukh Adashev. It’s a great stylistic fight for Rodrigues. In all sense, Adashev is a set-up fight for Rodrigues.
Lightweight, Slava Borshchev (5-1)
Slava Borshchev had a stern test in Chris Duncan for his contender series opportunity. It wasn’t long until Borshchev had Duncan in trouble. All the damage accumulation forced Duncan to wrestle. It wasn’t until round two where Borshchev found the kill shot. A clean left hook landed on the jaw putting Duncan out in highlight-reel fashion. He jumps in the UFC’s lightweight division with some of the best boxing skills.
The Team Alpha Male product will continue to have his takedown defense tested and if anything, that will be what holds him back. Even when taken down he always gets back up to do more of his superior boxing. Borshchev already has his debut on the calendar for January 15th. He’s taken on a good wrestler in Dakota Bush.
Borshchev is gonna be tested right away in his debut but still a very winnable fight.
Light Heavyweight, Jailton Almeida (14-2)
Jailton Almeida is a welcomed addition to the UFC’s light heavyweight division. He beat Russian Nasrudin Nasrudinov and dominated him, handing him his first pro loss. Almeida was a +165 underdog too, making his one-sided performance even more impressive. Taking the fight to the mat and winning top position, he eventually secured the rear-naked choke in round two.
His size, athleticism, jiu-jitsu, gas tank, and wrestling is gonna play a big factor in the light heavyweight division. On February 5th, Almeida is fighting fellow Brazilian Danilo Marques. Marques has struggled immensely so this is a fight made for Almeida.
Welterweight, Jack Della Maddalena (10-2)
Jack Della Maddalena arguably had the most entertaining fight of the entire season. One of the toughest opponents in Ange Loosa matched up in the season. It was a war for three rounds…
Maddalena is the only fighter on the season from Australia and he did his country proudly. Maddalena is very technical mixing in kicks and punches into combos. He is solid at attacking the body, going there often, and effectively using his elbows. All that was displayed in his scrap with Loosa. He brings real excitement to the UFC’s welterweight division.
He may never be ranked, but at least he will be in a lot of exhilarating fights.
Middlweight, Caio Borralho (10-1)
Brazil’s Caio Borralho is the only fighter to fight twice on the season to earn his contract. He beat a respected prospect in Aaron Jeffery in week five. It wasn’t enough for a contract, so he was invited back on week eight, up a weight class against Jesse Murray.
That win resulted in a first-round TKO win and it earned Borralho that contract. The UFC added six new Brazilian fighters to the roster from the Contender Series. Borralho is arguably the readiest UFC talent.
Bantamweight, Javid Basharat (11-1)
Javid Basharat earned his contract against Oron Kahlon after Kahlon missed weight and proceeded to call Basharat a terrorist, stupidly. With the animosity leading into the fight, it had the fans tuning in wishing Basharat would make Kahlon pay for his words. That is what he did. Basharat had success early on getting the takedown, he landed a huge amount of ground and pound.
It was the final minute of the final round when Herb Dean stopped the fight. Basharat look great, he is a well-rounded fighter the oozes potential. He jumps into an already stacked bantamweight division, but nobody quite fights like him.
Flyweight, Jake Hadley (8-0)
It was evident Jake Hadley was gonna get signed to the UFC, but it came with some controversy. Hadley came in heavy on the scales missing weight. He beat Mitch Raposo and although finished the fight, he wasn’t expected to get signed. In the end, Dana gave Hadley the contact just because he couldn’t pass on his talent.
Despite the controversy, Hadley has been one of the best flyweight prospects in the last couple of years. Going through the Contender Series didn’t even need to happen, but he did and now he’s a major player in the UFC’s flyweight division.
Light Heavyweight, Azamat Murzakanov (10-0)
Azamat Murzakanov headlined the first Contender Series of season five. He had a layup fight against Matheus Scheffel and three minutes in, he knocked him out. Even with the height disadvantage, Murzakanov still was able to find his range for the clean knockout. As Dana signed Murzakanov, he did mention he should be fighting at 185 and I agree. Even at light heavyweight, he has knockout power and his speed is what would separate him from some others.
If he was to go against the middleweights, he’s fighting guys his size and he wouldn’t have to close the distance as much. Murzakanov is 32 so age isn’t on his side, but he’s at his prime. He’s easily one that can make an immediate impact. He’s debuting on December 4th against Philipe Lins, which is a fight scheduled for him to win.
Middleweight, Gadzhi Omargadzhiev (13-0)
One of the biggest blowouts of the season was when Gadzhi Omargadzhiev took out Jansey Silva with ease. He finished Silva in the first round with a nasty kneebar. He’s been massively under the radar when he was fighting in Russia. Even though his fighting style is exciting and high-level, not many are talking about him.
Omargadzhiev has the skill set to be a talked-about fighter in the welterweight division in years to come.
Welterweight, Michael Morales (12-0)
Michael Morales may have not had a showcase performance like the fighters listed above, however he showed a lot of promise. He comfortably beat Nikolay Veretennikov, a respected fighter out of Kazakhstan. The Ecuadorian is only 22-years-old… His biggest concern coming into his fight on DWCS was his lack of high-level competition. His performance against Veretennikov proved he is worthy of a UFC opportunity.
With each fight, Morales has adapted more into a good striker. He fights long well, using straight punches going to the one-two. Early on in the career of Morales, he displayed more grappling and wrestling than anything. Morales has a fight against Trevin Giles on January 22nd. It’s a stiff test for his UFC debut but a fight that’s gonna tall how good he is at the moment.