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Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series Season 2 – Week 5 Preview

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By Damon Martin
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The latest season of Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series will roll on this week with a featured matchup taking place in the women's strawweight division between Maycee Barber and Jamie Colleen.

On last week’s show, UFC President Dana White handed out two more contracts as Bevon Lewis and Jordan Espinosa will join the roster following two highlight reel finishes.

Lewis is now a two-time Contender Series veteran with a pair of knockouts as he joins the UFC's middleweight division. Meanwhile, Espinosa also picked up his second win on the series while earning a TKO finish with just two seconds remaining in the fight.

This week's edition will feature matchups ranging from the women's strawweight division all the way up to middleweight, with several exciting prospects looking to catch the attention of the UFC matchmakers.

With that said, let's take a look at the matchups that will take place tonight.

MAYCEE BARBER VS. JAMIE COLLEEN

Maycee Barber has not been shy about her goals in the sport of mixed martial arts, but to get there she's going to have to go through Jamie Colleen, who will be looking for her second win in the Contender Series.

At just 20 years of age, Barber has said she wants to be the youngest champion in UFC history and she still has three years to go before she'll run into Jon Jones‘ all-time record. Barber is a ferocious mixed martial artist with four wins, three by way of knockout or submission and she's been competing at a high level with all of her bouts taking place in LFA – an organization known for producing a ton of fighters who are on the current UFC roster.

As for Colleen, she's returning to the Contender Series after earning a stunning third round submission against Tiffany Masters last year. Colleen suffered a knee injury in that fight but still managed to gut out the victory and now she's back for more. Colleen is a very solid prospect training out of the Gracie Academy and her only career loss came to current UFC strawweight Danielle Taylor back in 2016.

This should be a barnburner between two very hungry strawweight prospects.

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VINCE MORALES VS. DOM PILARTE

A pair of top-flight bantamweight prospects will meet on Tuesday when Vince Morales takes on Dom Pilarte.

Morales comes to the Contender Series with seven wins — all coming by way of knockout or submission — so he's definitely going to be gunning for the finish in this fight. Morales comes from a wrestling background, although he was a late arrival to the sport after first deciding to hit the mats when he was a freshman in high school. Morales also comes from a fighting family, as his cousin Ricky Simon is currently a member of the UFC roster.

Meanwhile, Pilarte comes out of Houston, where he owns an 8-1 record. Pilarte is a long, lanky fighter competing in the bantamweight division and he's currently riding a four-fight win streak. Pilarte is better known for his slick groundwork and a vast submission arsenal, but don't sleep on his standup, as he's earned a pair of wins by knockout as well.

AUSTIN VANDERFORD VS. ANGELO TREVINO

A pair of welterweight hopefuls will square off this week when Austin Vanderford takes on Angel Trevino.

Vanderford is already well known by many UFC fans thanks to his girlfriend Paige VanZant, who has been very excited to see him get his shot in the Contender Series this week.

Vanderford trains out of Gracie Barra in Portland, Oregon where he works under former UFC fighter turned coach Fabiano Scherner. Vanderford is undefeated with two of his wins coming by way of knockout or submission.

Trevino will definitely have the experience edge in this matchup, with more than twice professional fights as Vanderford when they step into the cage together. Trevino trains out of Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, which is ironically where VanZant used to call home before moving to Oregon. Trevino has won his past four fights in a row and obviously spends most of his days training alongside a bevy of top fighters around his own division including fellow prospect Sage Northcutt.

EDMEN SHAHBAZYAN VS. ANTONIO JONES

The first matchup of the night will see a pair of undefeated middleweights meet in the Contender Series.

Edmen Shahbazyan comes into his fight with six professional bouts on his resume with all six ending by way of first-round knockout. Shahbazyan trains out of the Glendale Fight Club, where he works with head coach Edmond Tarverdyan, who of course was also the head coach of UFC Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey. Shahbazyan is best known for his fast hands and knockout power, so look for him to keep this fight standing and gun for the finish in the early going.

As for Jones, he's a 33-year old prospect out of Texas who has put together an impressive resume thus far in his career. Jones holds a win over UFC veteran Roger Narvaez from June 2017 and he has shown a well-rounded mixed martial arts game. And while he has gone to decision on several occasions, he's faced some stiff competition during the early part of his fight career.

CHIBWIKEM ONYENEGECHA-PALMER vs. ANTHONY ADAMS

Chibwekem Onyenegecha-Palmer will take on late replacement Anthony Adams in a middleweight tilt on the Contender Series.

Adams replaced an injured Maki Pitolo on short notice to accept this opportunity on short notice. Adams comes into the fight with an undefeated record training out of Aurora, Colorado. Adams trains under mixed martial arts veteran Thomas Denny, who was one of the most active fighters of his era. Through his first six fights, Adams has gone to decision each time but that also means he's got plenty of gas in his tank to push the pace for all three rounds if that's what it takes to get the win.

Meanwhile, fellow unbeaten Chibwikem Onyenegecha-Palmer will make his Contender Series debut fighting out of Oklahoma, where he works under head coach and UFC veteran Matt Grice. Palmer is an exciting fighter with a ton of knockout power considering he's finished every single one of his opponents by KO. At just 24 years old, Palmer seems like a fighter to watch for the future and he'll definitely look to shine when he steps into the cage tonight.

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Fight Night Hamburg: Fantasy Cheat Sheet

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The UFC will embark on a return to Germany this weekend with a card headlined by a pair of light heavyweight matchups, including one that sees former champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua looking for his fourth straight win as he takes on upstart contender Anthony Smith in the main event.

Former title challenger Glover Teixeira will also be back in action this weekend as he takes on former Ultimate Fighter winner Corey Anderson, who stepped up on short notice for the opportunity to take on the top five-ranked light heavyweight.

It will also be a battle of the big men when Marcin Tybura takes on Stefan Struve in what should be an action-packed affair.

In today's fantasy preview, we'll examine these fights and several more to see who has the advantage and who might be staring at a potential upset at UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Smith in Hamburg, Germany

SPLIT DECISION
These are the fights that are just too close to call, but a few minor differences between favorite and underdog could lead one fighter to victory and the other to defeat.

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Anthony Smith

Former light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua has been on his best streak since winning the title as he looks for four wins in a row when he fights in Germany.

While “Shogun” is best known for his blistering power and devastating knockouts, in recent years he's started to adapt that style to avoid taking as much damage while also being able to land with volume over multiple rounds. That doesn't mean Rua doesn't pack a punch any longer; he's just not as reckless as he once was during his early days as part of PRIDE Fighting Championships.

Rua will need to showcase both solid offense and defense in this particular matchup because he's taking on a very heavy-handed opponent with dynamite coming from his hands, kicks and knees.

Anthony Smith was cutting a lot of weight to compete at 185 pounds but his body was built for fights at light heavyweight, so that's where he's at now. Smith made quite the debut back in June when he demolished former champion Rashad Evans in the first round and he'll look for a second win over a legend of the sport when he faces Rua in Germany.

Smith rarely keeps his game plan a secret, as he likes to step forward and unleash a barrage of strikes that will typically overwhelm his opposition. Smith lands with good volume, solid accuracy and he doesn't slow down much over three rounds thanks to conditioning that will get only better now that he's not shedding so much weight before his fights.

Smith's ability to unleash that fight-ending power, especially when he's working from the clinch against Rua, will be a key to winning this fight. Rua loves to use the clinch to set up knees and elbows, but he might not be able to use that strategy against a fighter as tall and powerful as Smith. At a distance, Rua and Smith are very similar with their striking patterns and neither one are exactly known for having the best head movement to avoid damage.

That said, Smith has the kind of fight-altering power that could spell disaster for Rua if he's not able to avoid those strikes on the inside that could shift the direction of this fight in favor of the American. Smith hits like a truck and he only needs one or two solid shots to land to do maximum damage to “Shogun.” This fight might turn into an all-out brawl, and once again that favors Smith, as he's younger, fresher and seems like the kind of fighter who will give anybody problems in the light heavyweight division.

Prediction: Anthony Smith by TKO, Round 3

Glover Teixeira vs. Corey Anderson
WINNIPEG, CANADA - DECEMBER 16: Glover Teixeira of Brazil poses for a backstage portrait backstage during the UFC Fight Night event at Bell MTS Place on December 16, 2017 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)Glover Teixiera has been one of the best light heavyweights in the world for quite some time, but Corey Anderson will do his best to steal that spot when they meet in the co-main event.

Anderson is coming off a dominant win over Patrick Cummins in his most recent fight and he'll look to build on that when he returns in Germany. Anderson is best known for his top game and wrestling-heavy attacks, where he averages over five takedowns per fight. Anderson will probably need to fall back on that grappling strategy to negate the kind of power that Teixeira will be throwing at him on the feet. Anderson has developed a very slick jab that he uses very well to set up his takedowns and that will definitely be a weapon he'll want to use against Teixeira. With a three-inch reach advantage, Anderson using that jab to keep Teixiera at a distance and then swooping in for the takedown will definitely be a great weapon to use in this matchup.

As for Teixeira, he will be looking to stuff that takedown and light up Anderson on the feet with his powerful punches. Teixeira isn't the most technical boxer in the world, but he definitely has knockout power in both hands and he can put together finishing combinations from the outside or inside. Teixeira has also showcased incredible toughness throughout his UFC career, so he has no problem digging deep and gutting out a round or two if that's what it takes to get the job done.

What's more likely, however, is Teixeira testing Anderson's chin with those clubbing strikes that he likes to throw from the outside . If Teixeira can stop Anderson's takedown and then begin firing back with his best punches, it's going to be awfully tough for the former Ultimate Fighter winner to take that many shots before he's down on the canvas, staring up at the lights. Anderson certainly has the skills to win this fight, but taking this matchup on short notice, combined with Teixeira's massive punching power, makes it tough to pick against the Brazilian.

Prediction: Glover Teixeira by knockout, Round 2

Marcin Tybura vs. Stefan Struve

It will be do-or-die for a pair of heavyweights in Germany when Marcin Tybura and Stefan Struve clash, with both fighters looking to bounce back from two straight losses.

Tybura was on a three-fight win streak before suffering back-to-back losses to Fabricio Werdum and Derrick Lewis, so it's not like he's been falling to lesser competition. Still, Tybura wants to get back on track rather than suffer a third straight defeat. Tybura has shown well-rounded skills in all of his fights in the UFC, including solid output on the feet as well as an underrated ground game. Tybura has also been able to push the pace for all three rounds, which is rare in the heavyweight division.

As for Struve, the “Skyscraper” has struggled to find consistency, with a pair of impressive wins against Antonio Silva and Daniel Omielanczuk before then dropping his past two fights. Struve is obviously one of the tallest fighters to ever compete in the UFC but he rarely uses that length to his advantage, especially on the feet. Struve notoriously fails to establish his jab and prefers to look for looping hooks and power shots. That's gotten him into trouble in the past and he has to fight against that tendency while facing a fighter like Tybura, who is high output from the first minute until the last.

Struve does possess fight-ending power and he definitely has a nasty submission game where he does use those long legs and arms to lock up all sorts of chokes on the ground. Struve might want to mix things up to bring Tybura to the mat and try out his grappling game rather than just trading shots on the feet.

Unfortunately, old habits are hard to break and it's likely that Struve will be happy to stay standing until he's forced to go to the ground, and that gives Tybura the advantage to pick where this fight takes place. Tybura will likely opt for a standup battle, but he may mix in a few takedowns to keep Struve guessing. Tybura's ability to press the pace for all 15 minutes should help him to do damage and then begin to wear out Struve round after round en route to the victory.

Prediction: Marcin Tybura by unanimous decision

KNOCKOUT PICKS
These are the fights that appear to be a little more one-sided, but remember that this is MMA, where anything can – and usually does – happen.

Marc Diakiese vs. Nasrat Haqparast

Following a pair of heartbreaking losses, Marc Diakiese will look to get back on track when he returns to action against Nasrat Haqparast.

Haqparast has only fought once in the UFC when he suffered a loss last October, but he's typically known for his fight-finishing power, where he's earned eight victories by way of knockout. Haqparast will definitely be gunning for the finish from the first minute until the last in this fight.

Unfortunately, that kind of game plan may be what dooms him against a striker as good as Diakiese, who is both creative and devastating with his combinations.

Diakiese loves to mix together a diverse Muay Thai style attack, where he will blitz an opponent with punches and kicks while also having no problem throwing elbows and knees on the inside. Diakiese's output is also tough to deal with because he's constantly forcing his offense and rarely slows down from the first exchange until he gets the finish. Diakiese's confidence may have been shaken a bit from those two straight losses but this seems like the perfect matchup to help him get back on track.

Prediction: Marc Diakiese by knockout, Round 2

Nick Hein vs. Damir Hadzovic

Nick Hein will look to bounce back when he fights at home against Damir Hadzovic in a lightweight showdown.

Hadzovic has struggled to find consistency since joining the UFC roster with a 1-2 record, although he did manage to score a devastating knockout in his lone victory. Hadzovic is a big lightweight with good range and a solid reach advantage where he'll have four inches on Hein in this matchup. Now Hadzovic has only shown his striking offense thus far in his UFC career, as he's yet to attempt a takedown while struggling to stop the grappling attacks from his opponents.

Hein has the ability to mix things up very well on the feet or on the ground and that will definitely be an asset for him in this fight. Hein would obviously prefer to stay standing, but he won't hesitate to take this fight to the ground if that's what it will take to win. Perhaps Hein's best ability is the way that he always seems to find a way to push the pace and really mount damage round after round. Hein doesn't typically display one-punch knockout power, but he will land combinations in succession and rarely slows down over 15 minutes.

If Hein can stay the course with his game plan and not get thrown off by Hadzovic's reach, he should be able to land crisper combinations and do more damage over three rounds to get the win.

Prediction: Nick Hein by unanimous decision

Justin Ledet vs. Aleksandar Rakic
Former heavyweight Justin Ledet will drop down to 205 pounds for his fight this weekend against Aleksander Rakic.

Rakic is currently 1-0 in the UFC with an impressive win in his debut fight against Francimar Barroso last September. Rakic has been a devastating finisher throughout his career, with eight career knockouts with his only decision coming in his UFC debut. At 6-foot-4-inches tall, Rakic is definitely one of the bigger and taller light heavyweights in the division, but he may be facing his toughest competition to date when he takes on Ledet.

Ledet is undefeated in his career with several impressive wins in the UFC heavyweight division. Ledet was definitely undersized at heavyweight so now he'll look to reinvent himself at 205 pounds. Ledet is a powerhouse both on the feet and in his grappling exchanges, so assuming that followed him down to light heavyweight, that will be an advantage in almost every one of his fights. Ledet hits hard but he's not reckless with his combinations.

Instead, Ledet is very active on the feet where he lands just under five significant strikes per minute and he's very good at distance or in the clinch. Ledet will actually hold a two-inch reach advantage over Rakic, which is something the Austrian-born fighter probably hasn't had happen to him very often in the past.

Ledet's ability to bully Rakic around the cage and then put together that voluminous striking attack should be more than enough to score him the victory in his light heavyweight debut.

Prediction: Justin Ledet by unanimous decision

RELATED: On the Rise Hamburg EditionKO of the Week Shogun Rua vs Lyoto Machida 2

UPSET SPECIAL

Bartosz Fabinski vs. Emil Meek
Former middleweight turned welterweight Bartosz Fabinski will attempt to earn his third straight UFC win as he takes on heavy-handed Emil Meek.

Now there's no secret what Meek does well or what he'll be looking to do in this contest. Meek loves to strike and he will absolutely pour on the offense with a heavy barrage of shots that will typically come from punching combinations. Meek has blinding power on the feet so don't blink if he begins to unleash a flurry because his shots can come in rapid-fire succession without slowing down. Plus, Meek definitely has incredible toughness that he's shown throughout his career, so he won't go away until this fight is finished.

That being said, Fabinski has a path to victory and it happens to be something he does very well.

Fabinksi has to negate Meek's incredible punching power and the best way to do that is to engage him in the clinch and the look for the takedown. Fabinski has been a wrestling machine in his first two UFC fights and that strategy will serve him well against someone like Meek, who will undoubtedly want to keep this fight standing. If Fabinski can manage a couple of early takedowns or at the very least suffocate Meek so he can't get his striking combinations together, that game plan will pay off as the minutes tick away on the clock.

Because Meek throws with such tremendous power, Fabinksi just has to do his best to avoid those shots in the early part of the fight and then begin to wear away at his opponent round after round. It's easier said than done, which is why Meek is a heavy favorite going into the fight, but Fabinski has a path to victory if he can stick to a grappling-heavy game plan. It would definitely be an upset, but Fabinski has the skills to get the job done.

Prediction: Bartosz Fabinski by unanimous decision

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Teixeira loves his job, still motivated

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By E. Spencer Kyte
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Sitting in the backyard of his Danbury, Connecticut home just a few days prior to departing for Hamburg, Germany, Glover Teixeira is as content as can be.

Another training camp in the books, the warm summer afternoon is spent in the company of the characters in the book he’s reading and the birds that flit and sing as he flips the pages and soaks up the sun.

“I told my wife a few years ago that I was looking for different things to do eventually because I could start planning my retirement,” says the 38-year-old Brazilian, who squares off with Corey Anderson in the co-main event of this weekend’s fight card at Barclaycard Arena. “But right now, I’m feeling great and I want to keep fighting for a little bit.

“You’ve just got to say smart, stay healthy and don’t look down on anyone because anything can happen. Don’t take anything for granted, keep working hard and enjoy.

“I enjoy this job because it gives me this opportunity here, right now – reading a book in my backyard,” he laughs. ”I don’t want to stop this. I want to do anything that I have to do to be able to do this for a little while longer.”

From a competitive standpoint, there is no reason for Teixeira to walk away.

Despite being one of the elder statesmen on the roster, the veteran finisher remains a fixture in the Top 5 in the light heavyweight division, a position he’s maintained for the majority of his time competing in the Octagon.

Tabbed as an immediate contender when he arrived in the UFC just over six years ago, Teixeira quickly lived up to his advanced billing, extending his winning streak to 17 with stoppage wins over Kyle Kingsbury and Fabio Maldonado in his freshman and sophomore appearances in the eight-sided cage before routing Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in his third fight to climb into the upper echelon in the 205-pound weight class.

While he’s suffered a handful of defeats inside the Octagon, Teixeira has only ever been beaten by the cream of the crop in the division – champions and title challengers – which both bolsters his confidence and gives him a goal to work towards at the same time.

MORE HAMBURG: Shogun vs Little Nog Free FightHamburg On the Rise

He’s also motivated by the performance of the man everyone in the division is chasing at the moment.

“As soon as I got in the UFC, I was Top 5 in two, three fights and I never came out of there,” he says. “I lost a couple tough fights that I had, but no excuses. I had to figure it out. I have to change what I have to change in order to be the best. I’ve only lost to the No. 1 and No. 2 fighters, the top, top contenders.

“I’ve got to figure out the way to be champion, to beat those guys, but I’m doing something right because I’ve been in the Top 5 for a very long time and I hope to stay there for a little while.

Daniel Cormier is a motivation,” he adds, referencing the reigning light heavyweight champion’s triumphant performance against Stipe Miocic at UFC 226. “If that doesn’t motivate older guys like us, there’s no motivating anybody.”

Not that he’s lacking for motivation either.

A professional for well over a decade, Sunday’s appearance opposite Anderson will be the 34th fight of Teixeira’s career, and while he’s logged plenty of rounds inside the cage and routinely put his body though intense training sessions for more than a dozen years, the Brazilian has been relatively healthy throughout his career.

He’s only had to go under the knife once – to repair a broken hand suffered in his loss to Alexander Gustafsson last year – and continues to take the necessary steps to maintain his health and help extend his career even further.

Plus, he’s as passionate about competing and in love with fighting today as he was when he started.

“I know I’m 38 years old and I don’t have too many years (left), but I’m going to keep trying,” laughs Teixeira. “I’m very smart with my body, the way I train. I train all the time and I’m always doing conditioning, so hopefully I can last longer than the average fighter.

“I’ve got to change my lifestyle and I’m doing it slowly – eating better, enjoying things in a different way – and I feel like I’m in a good place right now. I’m happy with the camp, I love fighting and I want to keep doing it.

“I’ve only lost to No. 1 and No. 2 fighters,” he reiterates. “I lost to Alexander Gustafsson, Anthony Johnson, Jon Jones; I haven’t lost to many people. My goal is to be champion and I have to figure out how to beat those guys, but I still love fighting and I’m enjoying life.”

And at the end of the day, isn’t that all that really matters?

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Dana White Announces UFC Contract Winners – Week 5 | Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series

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UFC President Dana White joined Laura Sanko to announce the athletes that were awarded UFC contracts after Week 5 of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.

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Bellator 204: Darrion Caldwell vs. Noad Lahat – FRIDAY, August 17th on Paramount Network!

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Up next: Darrion Caldwell faces Noad Lahat in the featherweight main event. Plus, James Gallagher returns to the cage! #Bellator204
TICKETS: http://bit.ly/2KoxdVd

#Bellator204 | FRIDAY, August 17th, 2018 | On Paramount Network at 9/8c

Upcoming events: http://www.bellator.com/events

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KO of the Week: Shogun Rua vs Lyoto Machida

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Shogun Rua won the light heavyweight championship with a knockout of Lyoto Machida back at UFC 113 in 2010. Rua looks to build a case for another title shot when he faces Anthony Smith in the main event of Fight Night Hamburg on Sunday, July 22.

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Fight Night Boise: Fantasy Rewind

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It was a dominant return to the Octagon for former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos, as he came back from more than a year away to dish out a unanimous decision victory in his main event fight against newcomer Blagoy Ivanov.

Over the course of five rounds, Dos Santos looked like he hadn't missed a step in his time off, as the Brazilian used his boxing arsenal to land punches at range on Ivanov all night long.

Despite his best efforts to return fire with some counter shots, Ivanov just couldn't seem to land his best punches and instead found himself eating straight shots from Dos Santos all night long.

When it was over, Dos Santos had earned a lopsided decision victory, with each of the judges handing him 50-45 scorecards as he gets back in the win column in his first fight since May 2017.

Heading into Saturday night, Dos Santos was definitely a decided favorite according to fantasy players, with a whopping 82 percent picking the former champion, and he certainly came through with a strong performance.

In the co-main event, Sage Northcutt finally got his first win as a welterweight with a stunning knockout against Zak Ottow. Northcutt had to endure a scary exchange in the opening round as he got dropped with one of the first punches thrown by Ottow.

Still, Northcutt survived and came back guns blazing in the second round to earn the knockout victory as the 22-year old prospect continues to evolve in his UFC career.

In identical fashion to the main event, Northcutt was selected by 82 percent of fantasy players in an overwhelming margin as he gets the job done in Idaho.

In one of the biggest upsets all night, Rick Glenn pulled off a split decision victory over Dennis Bermudez in a featherweight fight on the main card. It was a back and forth battle throughout, but Glenn gutted out the victory with just 14 percent of fantasy players picking him to win.

Niko Price pulled off a stunning knockout to finish Randy Brown in a welterweight showdown. Price actually finished the fight from the bottom with a series of hammerfists that separated Brown from consciousness in one of the most unique knockouts in UFC history.

Price pulled through as the favorite with 65 percent of fantasy players picking him to win while also earning an extra 120 points because this was such a tight matchup on paper.

Former title challenger Chad Mendes came back from more than two years away and made short work of Myles Jury in a featherweight bout on Saturday night. Mendes slammed home a huge left hand in the opening round that floored Jury before the Team Alpha Male fighter got the finish a few seconds later with some vicious ground-and-pound.

Despite his long layoff, Mendes was heavily favored in the fight, with 81 percent of fantasy players picking him to win as he gets his first victory since 2015.

Cat Zingano also got back in the win column with a very impressive outing against fellow top 10 ranked women's bantamweight contender Marion Reneau. Zingano earned the unanimous decision with 79 percent of fantasy players picking her to win while also taking home an extra 120 point bonus because it was such a close matchup going into Saturday night.

On the preliminary card, Alejandro Perez picked up yet another win, this time over former WEC champion Eddie Wineland. Despite several victories in a row, Perez was a decided underdog going into the fight, with just 37 percent of fantasy players selecting him, but the former Ultimate Fighter competitor came through with a winning performance.

In another upset, Australian powerhouse Alexander Volkanovski took out Darren Elkins in a three-round battle, with just 39 percent of fantasy players picking him. With the win, Volkanovski will undoubtedly find himself ranked very soon as he looked strong against Elkins over all three rounds.

Earlier in the night, former title contender Liz Carmouche got her first win in the UFC women's flyweight division as she took out former Invicta FC champion Jennifer Maia in a three-round decision. Carmouche was the favorite going in, with 77 percent of fantasy players picking her to get the victory while also earning an extra 120 points because the matchup was expected to be so closely contested.

When the night was over, nine favorites were victorious, with just four upsets taking place according to the selections made by fantasy players for UFC Fight Night from Boise, Idaho.

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Fight Night Boise Scorecard

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5 – Chad Mendes
Two years and seven months is a long way to be away from anything, but in the fight game, it’s usually a death sentence. Chad Mendes may have something to say about that, though, as the three-time featherweight title challenger returned from a two-year USADA suspension to not just beat the always tough Myles Jury, but to knock him out in the first round. Talk about jumping right back into the mix.

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By Thomas Gerbasi
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On the Rise: Hamburg Edition

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By E. Spencer Kyte
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July is one of those months where there are no weekends off, so following a fun night of fights in Boise, Idaho, the Octagon is making a transatlantic journey and settling down in Hamburg, Germany for UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Smith this weekend at Barclaycard Arena.

The sixth UFC event to be held in Germany and second to take place in Hamburg, Sunday’s 13-fight lineup is capped by a pair of contests in the light heavyweight division, both of which underwent last-minute changes, but remain compelling contests, as former champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua looks to extend his winning streak to four against Anthony Smith, while veteran contender Glover Teixeira squares off with former TUF winner Corey “Overtime” Anderson in the co-main event.

In addition to the familiar faces closing out the show, Sunday’s return to Hamburg also offers up an opportunity to see a handful of talented newcomers in action for the first time, including a pair of featherweight neophytes who face off against one another on the preliminary portion of the card.

Here’s a closer look at that trio of first-timers.

This is On the Rise: Hamburg Edition.

A 32-year-old newcomer with a 13-1-1, 1NC record, Azaitar was initially expected to make his promotional debut last September in Rotterdam, Netherlands opposite Siyar Bahadurzada, but an injury forced the Moroccan-German middleweight off the card. Now 10 months removed from that event, the surging “Gladiator” is ready to step into the Octagon for the first time against Brazilian veteran Vitor Miranda this weekend.

Azaitar has had a cup of coffee in several prominent secondary promotions, collecting victories in KSW, Cage Warriors, ACB and World Series of Fighting during his current nine-fight unbeaten streak, which includes a first-round knockout win over current UFC fighter Jack Marshman. Because of the injury that kept him from debuting last fall, he hasn’t fought since October 2016, but with a home game for his UFC debut, you can be sure he’ll be fired up and ready to go this weekend.

Miranda is a solid opening assignment for Azaitar, a durable, experienced talent who has gone 3-3 in the Octagon and brandishes legitimate fight-changing power. Though he’s dropped his last two appearances, the 40-year-old veteran earned three straight stoppages before that and has the skill and savvy to spoil Azaitar’s debut.

This is a tough test right out of the chute for Azaitar, but with the division currently in a state of flux, it’s an opportunity to make a statement in front of a partisan crowd and set himself up for bigger and better next time out.

Nad Narimani and Khalid Taha

 (L-R) Nad Narimani and Khalid TahaNewcomers to the featherweight division meet on Sunday’s preliminary card as the 31-year-old Bristol native Narimani takes on the Dortmund man Taha in what promises to be an entertaining affair.

Narimani was scheduled to make his UFC debut earlier this year when the organization ventured to London in March, but his bout with Nasrat Haqparast was pulled from the card at the 11th hour when Haqparast was diagnosed with an eye infection and declared unable to compete. After a brief delay, the former Cage Warriors featherweight champion returns this weekend, fighting on the same card as Haqparast, but squaring off with Taha instead.

Riding a three-fight winning streak that includes a pair of stoppages and dethroning Paddy Pimblett from the CW featherweight throne, Narimani is a seasoned veteran equally capable of ending your night standing up or on the ground.

On the other side of the cage, Taha is a hulking youngster who has competed in three divisions thus far during his 13-fight career, going 1-for-1 at lightweight, 8-1 at bantamweight and 3-0 at featherweight, including a second-round submission win last time out following the first loss of his professional career.

The 25-year-old has yet to face an opponent as polished and professional as Narimani, but bolstered by a supportive crowd and the excitement that comes with stepping into the Octagon for the first time, don’t be surprised if fans in attendance and those watching at home see the best version of Taha yet on Sunday.

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By E. Spencer Kyte
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Bellator 202: Julia Budd TKO finish

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Take a look at Julia Budd's impressive TKO finish from her title defense at #Bellator202!

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