The Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series hit a low note two weeks ago as every fight on the card went to a decision. This will no doubt put more pressure on the remaining fighters on the series to chase a finish if they are looking to earn a contract.
The first bout of the evening in Episode 3 of Season 3 was proof of that as Jacob Rosales faced Jonathan Pearce in a back and forth affair that featured wild striking exchanges, submission attempts and powerful ground and pound.
Rosales outstruck Pearce by a slim margin in the first and got him into a deep guillotine choke as the round ended.
The second round was all Pearce, who dominated in the striking, exhausting Rosales in the process before landing a huge takedown that rattled Rosales and ultimately led to a massive ground strike that caused referee Herb Dean to stop the fight.
Following the fight, FanSided reporter Amy Kaplan revealed that Rosales stayed in the fight despite suffering a broken leg in training.
TSN reached out to the Nevada State Athletic Commission for comment as to why Rosales was licensed to compete but did not receive a reply.
The second matchup featured Season 2 veteran Justin Sumter, who lost to rising UFC middleweight Ian Heinisch and Maki Pitolo.
Sumter started off well by landing some nice counters, but ultimately Pitolo rushed Sumter, landing some big body shots. He finished Sumter with a big left hook to the body in less than two minutes.
A training partner of Max Holloway, Pitolo is normally a welterweight fighter but moved up to middleweight for this fight and ultimately got the impressive win.
The third fight featured Arizona-based wrestler Hunter Azure and undefeated Chris Ocon. Azure put on a show and absolutely dominated Ocon over three rounds.
Azure put on a clinic, especially in the grappling realm, where he was constantly pushing a very tough Ocon to the brink with a bevy of submission attempts.
In the end, Azure earned a unanimous decision, controlling all 15 minutes of the fight.
The fourth bout featured lanky Brazilian light heavyweight Antonio Trocoli facing Norwegian fighter Kenneth Burgh, the first fighter from Norway to be featured on the show.
Early on, after exchanging strikes, Burgh held Trocoli in the clinch and after being warned by the referee to do more, Trocoli threw Burgh to the ground and sunk in a vicious neck crank, scoring the first-round finish.
Making the win even more impressive, Trocoli badly broke his foot in the first round and fought through it en route to the victory.
The 6-foot-6 Trocoli has size and charisma that is similar to his fellow countryman and Contenders Series veteran Johnny Walker, and they are coincidentally both managed by Lucas Lutkus.
In the main event, Joseph Solecki defeated Jesse Wallace in a fight that was mostly one-way traffic. Solecki dominated from start to finish, ultimately sinking in a deep guillotine choke to score the win.
My two contract selections: If I had only two contracts to give out, I would award them to Maki Pitolo and Hunter Azure. This was a very tough decision as every fighter put on an incredible display, but I went with Pitolo because he finished a much bigger fighter in vicious fashion, and with Azure because he appeared to have the most talent on the show – whether that was because we got to see more of him than any other fighter or because he had more tools. But I am sold on Azure being a contender.
Dana White’s contract selections: White had a very difficult decision to make as every fighter on the show proved that they were worthy of a contract, so rather than making a tough call, he gave all five winners a contract for the first time in the show’s history.
The fighters were all elated and, after taking a week off due to International Fight Week, the show got back on the right track with a ton of momentum after five fantastic fights.
Highest ceiling: The reason that I chose Azure despite not scoring a finish is because I think that he has the highest ceiling. His wrestling at the bantamweight division is going to make him a tall order for anyone in the division and his raw talent shows that there is still a lot of room for growth.
Biggest question mark: Despite his resilience and height, I am still not sure exactly how Trocoli is going to defeat a lot of the fighters in the light heavyweight division. He looks like he has a lot of tools, but his future may be at middleweight. He has fought at both welterweight and middleweight in the past, so that could be his best path to success in the UFC.
The Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series airs every Tuesday night on TSN GO.