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Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series: Week 5 Preview

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The fourth week of the UFC Summer show ended up being, as expected by this writer, the best week of the show yet. From bloodbaths to ground battles to highlight reel knockouts, we saw pretty much everything last Tuesday Night.

In the end, Cuban-American middleweight Julian Marquez’s head kick knockout of the highly-touted Phil Hawes brought him a UFC contract, as well as a spot of UFC’s highlight reels for years to come. Meanwhile, Mississippi featherweight Brandon Davis engaged in a three round war with Washington’s Austin Arnett, and turned his win in the best fight of the series so far into a contract as well. Meanwhile, twenty-two year Kyler Phillips might have been a victim of his own brilliance, missing out on a contract despite his forty-seven second knockout of James Gray Jr.

Now, ten new fighters from up and down the scale will hope to add their names to the UFC roster this week, and go into this week knowing that a knockout may not be enough…

1) Everette Sims (4-0) vs. Shelton Graves (6-3) – 3 Rounds, Heavyweights

The big boys will be starting the night off on Tuesday with an interesting bout matching American Top Team product Sims and New Jersey’s Graves. Sims will be the second Glory kickboxer we see on the show and hopes to be as successful as the Week 3’s Karl Roberson, who got himself a contract. Sims was flattened by a more experienced pro, Xavier Vigney, in his Glory fight in February 2015, but has been much more successful since turning his attention fully to MMA. He has finished all four of his fights in the first round, but his opposition has been nothing to write home about and two of his wins come versus the same fighter — some dude named Frank Tate — not the boxer from the ’84 Olympics, thankfully.

Sims opponent will be a much more experienced fighter in Graves, who turned pro in 2012. After a rough 2-3 start to his career, Graves took two years off before coming back with a vengeance in 2015, racking up four straight wins, the last three coming by stoppage, including heavyweight title victories in Global Proving Ground, as well as the well thought of Ring of Combat. While Graves has more experience and has fought better opposition, this one may come down to weight and conditioning, and whether Sims can use his kickboxing against the more well-rounded Graves.

2) Ricky Simon (9-1) vs. Donovan Frelow (6-2) – 3 Rounds, Bantamweights

Next up is a very even matchup at 135. Simon is a well-rounded fighter out of the Gracie Barra Camp in Portland who fought in such well thought of promotions as King of the Cage, Taiichi Palace, and Titan FC. He started out with seven wins to start his career and was dominating Anderson Dos Santos in Titan FC title fight in February 2016, when he got clipped with a left hook and put to sleep in a RNC, but never tapping out. He has since bounced back with two wins in King of the Cage, the last coming in May by submission. As good as he has been at times in the cage, he may be most famous in the MMA World from some comments made by Chael Sonnen on his podcast recently, where he claimed Simon “was better than McGregor.” Well, Simon will get the chance to show how good he is this Tuesday.

He draws a very credible opponent in Frelow, a World Series of Fighting veteran who started his career off with five straight wins after a 4-1 championship amateur career. Coming out of the Syndicate MMA gym in Las Vegas, Frelow has four wins by submissions and his two losses both come by five round decisions in WSOF bantamweight title fights, including one to current UFC Flyweight Magomed Bibulatov. This an excellent matchup that has a little bit of striker vs grappler to it and has fighters who have only lost their biggest fights. This is one that could produce some fireworks.

3) Kevin Gray (9-3) vs. Alex Perez (17-4) -3 Rounds, Bantamweights

Sporting the very cool name of “Pocket Herc”, Gray is a well-traveled flyweight based in the Midwest who has a reputation for being very strong for the weight class. He has competed mostly in the Midwest, including a title win in Caged Aggression over current hard-luck UFC flyweight Eric Shelton. His last two wins came in Victory FC, including submitting the more experienced Nick Mamalis for their flyweight title in May. Gray has a lot of experience, but he will be taking the most experienced fighter on the card here.

Perez has twenty-one pro fights, making him one of the most experienced fighters we’ve seen so far. Fighting mostly out of the Taiichi Palace promotion in California, Perez was on a three year, eleven fight win streak before being submitted in back to back fights by TUF 24 contestant Adam Antolin and UFC vet Jared Papazian. Since then he was fired off four straight victories in four different promotions. This should be an interesting fight between two well-traveled veterans. Two things could come into play here-first, both men have proven to vulnerable to chokes in the past, with four of their seven losses coming by choke. Two, Perez has won ten of seventeen fights by decision. If he’s content to getting another here, it will probably take him out of the running for a contract.

4) Julio Arce (12-2) vs. Peter Petties (5-2) – 3 Rounds, Featherweights

Fighting for most of his career in New Jersey’s Ring of Combat promotion, Arce went 5-0 as an amateur before starting off his pro career with eight straight wins, including winning the ROC bantamweight title and defending it three times. Arce then dropped two straight to current UFC bantamweight Brian Kelleher and moved up in weight, winning four straight including the ROC featherweight title. Arce is from the Tiger Schuman team that had several fighters shine at the recent UFC Long Island card and is both a former WKA Kickboxing Champion and a former New York Golden Gloves champion. He will bring an abundance of top flight striking experience into this Tuesday.

But his opponent had been touted by some in recent years as one of the most promising prospects in MMA. Petties was an elite high school and junior college wrestler who left wrestling after his first year of college to set his sights on MMA. Due to a habit of smiling manically during his matches, he wasn’t given the name “The Joker” which he is not shy about playing up. When he is on, he is a devastating striker who has several highlight reel knockouts (he also once made an opponent vomit in the ring as an amateur, ala Here Comes The Boom.) But he has played around a little too much for his own good in fights, which have led to two split decision losses to more experienced fighters. He’s coming off a decision win in April and he’s facing a guy who might be willing to stand and trade with him. This one is going to have fireworks. If you were going to bet on a fight to produce a contract winner, this is the fight to do it.

5) Mike Rodriguez (8-2) vs. Jamelle Jones (7-4) – 3 Rounds, Light Heavyweights

A tall light heavyweight at 6’3, Rodriguez clearly favors a certain UFC light heavyweight. He even borrowed his nickname, “Bones.” Rodriguez is a dynamic striker fighting mostly out of the CES MMA promotion in New England, which has also produced Week 1’s Matt Bessette and Week 4’s Carlos Candelario. His chances of being the first from the promotion to actually get a contract looks good. He has finished all eight of his wins by stoppage and after submitting to first round foot lock in November, Rodriguez has come back in 2017 with three first round knockout victories. Training with UFC lightweight veteran Joe Lauzon, Rodriguez looks primed for a contract and may have the right guy in front of him.

Jamelle Jones was an elite high school wrestler and junior college national champion who made the transition to MMA after his third year as a college wrestler. Fighting mostly at the CFFC and KOTC promotions, Jones jumped out to 6-2 record as a pro when he tried out of Season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, but he was matched with an a more seasoned striker, Myron Dennis and was the victim of the first round (sorta quick) stoppage. But Dana White seemed to like him. So maybe that was despite this loss and two out of three since, including being KO’d in the second round by TUF 19 contestant Anton Berzin in May. So unless Jones can impose his wrestling early and often against the dynamic striker in Rodriguez, he could be in real trouble come Tuesday Night.

Winners: Graves, Simon, Gray, Arce, and Rodriguez

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