After a crazy second full of fun fights, crazy knockouts, and a good bit of controversy, “the world’s toughest job interview” finishes out its second season, and we al hope that things will go out with a bang. This week’s edition of Contender Series featured a returning light heavyweight, a Dana White: Looking For A Fight discovery, and well, you know who…
1) Kennedy Nzechukwu (5-0) versus Dennis Bryant (5-1) – Light Heavyweight
Last year, the UFC thought of enough Nzechukwu to put him in the main event of Episode 7 of the Contender Series, and he ended up in a tough battle with more experienced Ukrainian Anton Berzin. The fight was very close and a little clunky at times, but the Dallas based Nigerian did enough to win a split decision. Even though Nzechukwu didn’t get a contract that night, it had to be an invaluable learning experience for him. Since then, he has picked up two knockout wins, but the jury seems to be out on whether he his learned to use his most potent asset, his height and reach. Kennedy is a towering for 6’5 and has a 83-inch reach, but he doesn’t seem to have learned to use that properly just yet…
He will have a significant height and reach advantage over his opponent tonight, Alaska’s Bryant. All of Bryant’s fights have come in the pretty competitive Alaska Fighting Championship (they aren’t the most skilled, but they go for it up there), and he’s on a four-fight winning streak, all by stoppage. He should know the score here. He needs to get inside and he needs to make Nzechukwu fight. He will be looking get inside, take him down, and get on top. If Kennedy doesn’t establish his jab early, Bryant can get some work done.
Another factor here is that Kennedy is a really big dude and he may be cutting too much weight to make 205 pounds. He may be better off bulking up and becoming a heavyweight. If the weight cut is taking too much out of him, Bryant may be the guy who has the style to expose that. Plus, Nzechukwu got taken down twice in his last fight by a 7-13 fighter. Take that for what you will…
2) Alex Gilipin (10-1) versus JR Coughran (6-0) – Featherweight
One of the contract favorites this week may be Wisconsin’s Gilpin, an excellent wrestler who has seen big improvements in striking in recent years. Since his only loss to recent UFC signee Dan Moret in 2016, Gilpin has racked up five straight wins, four of them by stoppage. Fighting mostly in the Wisconsin based Chosen Few Fighting Championships, Gilpin is coming off the biggest win of his career, choking out undefeated Russian prospect Adlan Mamaev in England. He’s peaking at the right time.
He will be facing a less experienced fighter in Oklahoma’s Coughran, who has fought mostly in the Oklahoma based HD MMA and Rage in the Cage promotions. He’s stopped all but one of his pro fights, four by stoppage and he is definitely a striker by trade. He also had two pro boxing fights last year, going 0-1-1, but that probably gives him an advantage with his hands in the cage. This striker versus grappler paradigm should make for an interesting matchup.
Gilpin comes across to me as a bit of poor man’s Frankie Edgar, and he’s going to come in boxing and looking for that takedown. Coughran has to catch him was a combination before he goes for that shot, and he has to do his best to back Gilpin up. If they are in the center of the cage, Gilpin is winning. If Coughran’s back into the cage, he’s losing. It’s a tough fight for Coughran, but his hands give him a chance…
3) Joseph Lowry (7-0) versus Devonte Smith (7-1) – Lightweight
This has the potential to be very fun fight, as these two fighters are ones that are known for stopping their opponents and two guys who seem to be peaking in their career. You have to start with Lowry, an excellent prospect from Philadelphia who works full-time as a sheet metal worker. But he has been excellent in the cage. After going undefeated as an amateur, Lowry has fought exclusively for the CFFC, a very competitive promotion that has produced a lot of UFC fighters. He knocked out Mike Pope to the first round to win their lightweight title and defended it with a first-round knockout. He’s ready for this opportunity.
He will get a serious challenge from Ohio’s Smith, an explosive fighter who’s had all of his fights end by stoppage. Since being stopped in the third round by TUF 27 veteran John Gunther in January 2017, he has stopped three fights in row, the last round being a first-round knockout as well. He is an explosive fighter with power. This one is going to be fun.
I expect these two guys to came right each other, Smith may be the more powerful fighter, but Lowry may have the better chin. Also, if one guy decides to take the fight to the ground, it may be Lowry. But I have a feeling that we have two guys go straight at each other and whoever comes out on top should look good for a contract…
4) Bobby Moffett (12-3) versus Jacob Kilburn (6-1) – Featherweight
The most experienced fighter on this fight card, Moffett trains out of the MMA Lab in Arizona and he has spent most of the last few years it the top flight RFA and LFA promotions, fighting very solid competition. Of all the fighters we have seen this season, he may be the most UFC ready as far as the competition he’s faced. He’s coming off a tough loss off of Thanh Le three fights ago but he’s coming off a submission victory six weeks ago in Memphis, Tennessee, where Dana White saw him on the last episode of Looking for A Fight. This guy is ready.
He’s facing Tennessee’s Kilburn, a very strong grappler with a black belt in Judo. He’s the third fighter this season to come out of Roy Jones Jr’s Island Fight promotion, and those guys haven’t done the best in this series this season. He will be looking to get close and get the takedown, but it’s a big question whether he can handle Moffett’s complete MMA game and experienced. It’s a big jump in the competition.
Given the gap of experience, I expect Moffett to come right at Kilburn, keep his distance and come at him with strikes. He’s an experienced as guy we’ve seen and ready for this opportunity. It’s a big hill for Kilburn to climb.
5) Greg Hardy (1-0) versus Tebaris Gordon (3-0) – Heavyweight
Perhaps the worst thing, well the only bad thing, about this season of the show has been the tainting presence of Greg Hardy, the former NFL defensive end who was finally thrown out of the NFL when his transgressions became too much. He debuted on Week 1 of the series against another former NFL player in Austen Lane. Despite Lane being a big athlete who was much more experienced than Hardy, the former Carolina Panther only need a few minutes and two big punches to stop Lane in his pro debut. It was freaking scary.
Now he gets another spot on this series and North Carolina native Gordon gets a big opportunity. A former high school football star who is also a good athlete, Gordon has five amateur fights before turning pro in May 2016. He has finished all three of his pro fights and he is the kind of guy who is going to come forward and out pressure on Hardy. But he will be giving up four inches height and significant size. It’s a tough hill for him to climb.
Gordon has no choice really in this fight. He needs to find a way to get inside and back Hardy up, and maybe, hope to get a takedown. No one has come anywhere close to getting him on his back, something that is bound to happen sooner or later. The question is not just does Gordon have the skill to do so, but can he get through the blades of the helicopter to get there. Hardy is a freak who has shown incredible power already in his short career. It’s hard to like Gordon’s chances.
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