Season 2 of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series kicked off at the UFC Training Center last night in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the show is off to a fast start so far, albeit not without some controversy. Heading into the premiere of the show’s second season after a fantastic debut last summer, much was being made of former NFL player Greg Hardy’s pro MMA debut. The former Pro Bowl-defensive end for the Carolina Panthers had a domestic violence incident a few years ago and questions about his inclusion on the show dominated the pre-fight narrative. Many believe the UFC shouldn’t have given him a chance on the Contender Series while many believe he deserves a second chance to turn his life around. Either way, there’s no question Hardy’s debut was the fight everyone was talking about.
And he went out there and delivered, needing just under a minute to dispatch of ex-fellow NFLer Austen Lane. Hardy is a big, athletic heavyweight and his striking is coming along very nicely working at American Top Team. He looked like a great prospect in this fight and the UFC signed him to a developmental deal following his KO of Lane. This gives Hardy time to continue to train and develop while not officially in the UFC, and it also gives the UFC some time to decide if they really want to go down this road. Getting on the Contender Series is a good first step for Hardy, but it doesn’t guarantee him a spot in the UFC. Even though he’s super athletic and looks like a natural in MMA, the questions of his past rightly will never go away. By signing him to a developmental-type deal, it buys the UFC more time to decide if the positives outweigh the negative.
Personally, I don’t know how to feel about Hardy right now, as it’s clear this guy is an amazing heavyweight prospect, but at the same time, you just can’t ignore what he allegedly did in the past. While Dana White may have no problems signing him, it’s possible that others at UFC headquarters do, and that’s why he only got a developmental deal for now instead of a UFC contract. We’ll see what happens, but for now Hardy will continue to train at ATT and get ready for another fighter on the Contender Series in August.
Though Hardy dominated the headlines, the actual main event featured light heavyweight super prospect Alonzo Menifield against fellow undefeated fighter Dashawn Boatwright. Menifield appeared on season one of the Contender Series and won his fight on the show but was not tendered a UFC contract as he was still green at the time. But after knocking out Boatwright in just eight seconds, the UFC had to snatch him up, and Menifield has officially been signed to the UFC with a 7-0 pro record. I am really looking forward to seeing Menifield perform in the UFC and I believe he has what it takes to be a top-10 fighter in the light heavyweight division. I’d love to see him fight Ovince St-Preux.
But while Menifield got a contract, fellow winner Chris Curtis did not, even despite the fact he knocked out Sean Lally with a hook kick. The UFC decided for whatever reason that Curtis is not worthy of a UFC deal even though he showed lots of skills in the fight, and apparently Curtis retired after the fight, as he no longer wishes to toil in the minor leagues when he’s clearly good enough to be in the UFC. Similarly, Montel Jackson finished Rico DiSciullo in the third round of their fight, while Kevin Holland won a decision over Will Santiago, but neither fighter was awarded a contract despite winning.
Overall, the first episode of season two of Dana White’s Contender Series was a success. Hardy emerged as a potential crossover star in the sport with his quick knockout win while Menifield showed he is a UFC-caliber light heavyweight right now with his own fast knockout win. If the rest of this season features some of the breakthrough performances that we saw last night, then there could be a lot of new fighters headed to the UFC. The Contender Series is proving to be a great way to weed out who belongs in the UFC and who doesn’t, and it will be interesting to see how the rest of the season goes after a strong week one.
What is your biggest takeaway from last night’s Contender Series?