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Dana White's UFC Contender Series: Do you need more MMA in your life?

For years, UFC president Dana White has wanted a show similar to USA's long-canceled series Tuesday Night Fights: a weekly fight show featuring a variety of prospects and veterans looking to achieve/get back to prominence and big paychecks.

His dream became a reality Tuesday as Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Seriesdebuted on UFC Fight Pass with five fights airing live from the TUF gym in Las Vegas, NV.

You might be asking why you need more MMA in your life given the current output of the UFC, Bellator, etc. In The Content Era, however, there is no such thing as too much of anything. Hence, we get five more fights every Tuesday this summer.

If you're deciding on whether to add DWTNCS to your MMA viewing diet, may this look at the first episode be a helpful friend in your decision.

The Production

The show featured former NFL Network host Dan Hellie making his UFC play-by-play debut alongside retired fighter Yves Edwards while Snoop Dogg and Urijah Faber provided gin and juice fueld commentary on an alternate feed called Snoopcast.

For their first outing, Hellie and Edwards were average, but you could tell they hadn't spent that much broadcasting time together, so it's tough to be that harsh on them. While insightful at times, Edwards needs to be a little more vocal at higher volumes and less promotional in some of his thoughts, while Hellie is a relative MMA newbie that simply needs more reps. There will be some different pairings throughout the summer, so perhaps UFC is using this as a training ground for future big show backups.

The production of the show is toned down, right down to the lack of the UFC logo on the gloves or the mat, save for the UFC Fight Pass logo. There's no entrance music, nor a ring announcer. There's video packages, but no in-cage post fight interviews, just quick backstage interviews after the fight is over. After years of a certain format, it's a little disarming at first but you get used to it.

If you're into no frills MMA production, this show is for you.

The Fights

- Joby Sanchez (10-2) def. Manny Vasquez (11-3) by unanimous decision

This opened the show and was kind of a blah fight. Sanchez is a fairly forgettable former UFC fighter who hasn't been in the Octagon since late-2015 while Vasquez is a prospect from Illinois. Vasquez looked decent in the first, but Sanchez turned it on the 2nd/3rd in relatively unspectacular fashion, taking advantage of an energy-sapped Vasquez. I scored this 29-28 for Sanchez, but I have no idea what the scores were because they didn't read them.

- Charles Byrd (8-4) def. Jamie Pickett (7-3) by first round submission

The 33-year-old Byrd survived a stretch of Pickett pressing him up against the cage, rocking him with a spinning back elbow. He reversed a Pickett takedown attempt, leading to a head and arm choke in the round's waning seconds for a tap and win. This was quick, but nothing to write home about.

- Boston Salmon (6-1) def. Ricky Turcios (8-1) by unanimous decision

Turcios is a character, a Team Alpha Male guy who was shown jumping off trees in the lead-in package and ran out to the cage screaming. Salmon is Hawaiian and is the exact opposite of Turcios.

Salmon's steadiness was the key here, leveraging his amateur boxing background to rip up Turcios' face and body. He was just too much for the game Turcios who had no answer. This was an entertaining fight that would have some implications later on in the night.

Zu Anyanwu (14-4) def. Greg Rebello (22-7) by 2nd round KO

After a plodding first round in which there was a lot of circling and not much action, Anyanwu hit an overhand right in the second round that dropped Rebello, hitting hammer fists that knocked Rebello out. Both guys looked to be carrying some additional weight in the midsection and not the type of heavyweight that is ruling the top 10 of the UFC. 

Kurt Holobaugh (18-4) def. Matt Bessette (22-8) by 1st round KO

This was the night's featured fight (not called a main event, mind you). Holobaugh performed like it was a main event though, ripping through Bessette like he wasn't even there. The ex-UFC vet bloodied up Bessette early on in the first and was unrelenenting, finally dropping Bessette with a right hook that caused ref John McCarthy to call it.

In an appropriately non-descript manner, White told the backstage interviewer that both Hollobaugh and Salmon were being offered contracts. And in 2 hours and 10 minutes, we were done. I would have liked to see the announcement played up a bit more, maybe in the middle of the cage with all of the winners there, but there's time to improve.


In general, this wasn't the worst MMA show I've seen but it's essentially a weekly regional main card with a potential big reward for the winner(s). Since it's on Fight Pass, it's playing to the hardest of the hardcores so big numbers aren't really the game here. What it does give UFC is the ability to essentially do tryouts for young fighters and veterans without having them actually compete in the UFC or TUF. 

If you have a FP subscription and just feel like watching fights while doing other things this summer, there are worse directions to point you to. The full impact and relevance won't truly be felt from the show until the guys that get contracts make waves in the UFC. If they truly get behind this as a developmental group of sorts and not just a summer time filler, the importance could, and hopefully will, grow.

And hey, maybe they could run out CM Punk on one of these someday. He's certainly not doing anything on the main roster these days.