Aug 11, 2020
Brett OkamotoESPN Staff Writer
- MMA columnist for ESPN.com
- Analyst for «MMA Live»
- Covered MMA for Las Vegas Sun
Even with the added challenge of a global health pandemic, Season 4 of Dana White’s Contender Series got off to a prolific start last week in Las Vegas.
The show’s first three seasons saw 80 new fighters sign with the UFC, including budding stars such as Sean O’Malley, Dan Ige and Maycee Barber. Last week’s opening episode of the new season saw the UFC award three new exclusive contracts in just four fights.
The series continues Tuesday night on ESPN+, with five fights in four weight classes. The event starts at 8 p.m. ET. Here are three fighters to look for.
American-German prospect Dustin Stoltzfus
Middleweight headliner Dustin Stoltzfus was born and raised in Pennsylvania but moved to Germany in 2014 and has called the small town of Germersheim home since. He actually took his first amateur fight in the U.S. and found a promoter in Pennsylvania through Google.
Knockout artists tend to stick out, and so it’s easy to think submission specialists, like Stoltzfus, are fighting an uphill battle on a show like Contender Series. But Stoltzfus is quite entertaining on the ground, as evident by a rare twister submission in his most recent fight last November.
Underdog Daniel Swain
Swain, 29, is the biggest betting underdog on the card, in a featherweight bout against T.J. Laramie. Swain has far more experience than your average Contender Series contestant, as he’s been fighting professionally since 2010, accumulating 30 pro fights. He’s constantly looking for a finish and is comfortable with the risks tied to that. He’s recorded 17 finishes in his career, but he’s also been knocked out five times.
Between fights, Swain has five children to raise: three adopted boys and a biological son and daughter. He’d been keeping himself ready for any opportunity that could result in a UFC contract throughout 2020. He’s a 3-to-1 betting underdog to Laramie, who is only 22, but we’ll see if experience pays off for Swain in a big way.
Return contender Impa Kasanganay
It’s always interesting to see an athlete return to the Contender Series for a second time, after failing to earn a contract in their first appearance. This week, that’s Kasanganay, who fights out of Gastonia, North Carolina. Kasanganay picked up a decision win on the show one year ago, and that was actually his most recent fight. He’s had three scheduled bouts canceled in the past year.
Kasanganay, 26, is the evening’s only undefeated fighter. But at 6-0 he’s still raw as a fighter, which might be why he wasn’t selected last year. He only started training in 2017, as a way to improve his conditioning on the football field. All six of his professional fights came in 2019. So, he’s had a very inactive year, following a stretch in which he fought six times in eight months. It should be very interesting to see his growth.
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