The season finale of the Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series featured the return of former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy, who scored a win on the first season of the show against Austen Lane.
Hardy would face undefeated Tebaris Gordon in the main event, potentially with a contract on the line.
The night started with Alex Gilpin facing J.R. Coughran and it started off fast and furious, with the two fighters trading strikes with one another.
Early in the fight, Coughran got the better of the exchanges, but Gilpin found some success towards the end of the first round.
In the second round, Gilpin took the fight to the ground where he held a clear advantage and he showcased his submission skills by applying a D’Arce choke that Coughran initially resisted, but ultimately succumbed to after some adjustments.
The next fight featured Bobby Moffett facing Jacob Kilburn and Moffett was able to show off his versatile ground game. He took Kilburn down and attacked with a variety of submissions, which Kilburn was able to stave off throughout a first round that ended with Moffett throwing strikes from mount.
In the second, Kilburn came out swinging, but was inevitably taken down again and didn’t last long as he was finished with a D’Arce choke, which was the second straight fight ending with such a result.
The third fight marked the return of Kennedy Nzechukwu, one of the top light heavyweights outside of the UFC, who competed in last year’s incarnation of the show and won via split decision.
In this particular fight against 5-1 Dennis Bryant, he would not leave the result up to the judges as he stopped Bryant just shy of two minutes into the first round with ground strikes after dropping him multiple times in the round.
It was an impressive win for the Dallas-based Nzechukwu and the fastest of his career.
In the second to last fight of the evening, Devonte Smith and Joe Lowry, two of the top-ranked lightweight prospects outside of the UFC, squared off.
Smith had success on the feet early on and Lowry’s corner called for a takedown, which ultimately ended up being a bad idea as Smith attacked Lowry with vicious elbows to the side of the head and scored a knockout win at 2:52 of the first round.
The back-to-back first round finishes did not stop there as Hardy returned to the octagon against Gordon and blitzed him with an all-out striking display that floored Gordon in just 17 seconds.
Hardy showed that he has the power to be a force at heavyweight in the UFC.
My two contract selections: With Hardy already under contract, I was most impressed by Smith and Nzechukwu. Most of these matchups appeared lopsided with the exception of Smith’s fight against Lowry and he fared really well considering the level of competition. He is also a very enthusiastic and eccentric personality, which makes him an asset from a promotional standpoint.
Nzechukwu fills a big hole in the UFC’s roster as they lack good, young light heavyweights and, at age 26, he has time to eventually become a contender in the division if he fights like he did on the show during his UFC tenure.
Dana White’s contract selections: White gave contracts to the aforementioned Smith and Nzechukwu and also gave one to Moffett. When asked about Hardy, White said that the UFC has nothing but time when it comes to him and that he still needs more time to develop.
Highest ceiling: With the light heavyweight division thinning out, it presents a great opportunity for Nzechukwu to quickly make a name for himself. He has the youth and size going for him as well as a good head on his shoulders and a good camp behind him.
Biggest question mark: Despite the two first-round finishes, Hardy has yet to be tested against a UFC-calibre opponent. It will be interesting to see if he can impose his will on someone with UFC experience and time will tell whether he can become a contender in the heavyweight division.
The Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series has an upcoming season that will feature some of the top talent from Brazil looking to earn their way into the UFC that will air on UFC Fight Pass.