This Tuesday night brings episode four of Dana White’s Contender Series and we have a full five-fight card again. As always, I will break down each specific matchup and give you a background on each fighter along with my official prediction for each fight. If you have any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.

Nazim Sadykhov vs Ahmad Hassanzada
Sadykhov, -260; Hassanzada, +220

Nazim Sadykhov is a 6-1 prospect with four of his wins coming by knockout. He trains out of Longo and Weidman MMA in New York and has previously fought in Cage Fury and Fury FC on the regional scene. He is a southpaw striker with legitimate knockout power in his hands and some powerful leg kicks as well. He also comes from a wrestling background and has shown off excellent takedown defense across multiple fights on the regional scene. He seems to be very well-rounded with no major flaws from what I have seen on tape.

His opponent, Ahmad Hassanzada is an 8-1 prospect with seven of his wins coming inside the distance. He fights out of Afghanistan and spent the majority of his time on the regional scene fighting over there before making his LFA debut with a decision victory as an underdog to James Wilson. He has faced much lower level of competition, but he is not a bad fighter by any means. He has some sharp striking on the feet and will look to mix in some slashing elbows when he can. One of his most notable weaknesses is his ability to be taken down. However, he does not accept position and will be looking to land damage even off his back and has won rounds that way on the regional scene.

This is a good matchup as both men are solid fighters, but I have to lean with the more well-rounded fighter in Sadykhov. He should be the sharper fighter on the feet and if anyone is going to land takedowns then it is him as he will have a clear advantage on the ground as well. Sadykhov by knockout is the official pick.

Hailey Cowan vs Claudia Leite
Cowan, -165; Leite, +140

Haily Cowan is a 6-2 prospect with four of her wins coming inside the distance. She spent most of her regional time in LFA before making her Invicta debut in January with a second-round submission victory. She is an exceptional athlete and former NCAA all-American gymnast and seems to have a very well-rounded skillset. She is primarily a striker and fights from the southpaw stance and will look to land some heavy leg kicks while the fight plays out at range. But she has also shown a solid ground game as well as she does not accept positions and is a good scrambler on the mat. She is dangerous when she gets in dominant position but is careless defensively and has been submitted in both of her professional losses.

Her opponent, Claudia Leite is an 8-2 prospect with four wins coming by knockout. She has faced much lower competition on the regional scene but has shown a solid wrestling base and looks to land takedowns in all of her fights. She seems to carry some power but is even more reckless on the feet than Cowan as both women are there to be hit. This fight basically comes down to if you believe Leite can land takedowns and control Cowan for multiple rounds or potentially submit her.

I get the interest in wanting to back the aggressive wrestler in WMMA, but I favor the Cowan side for multiple reasons. Despite being submitted multiple times, she has shown to be a good scrambler and also defend takedowns and fight for underhooks against the cage pretty well. She is also going to have a clear cardio advantage as Leite tends to gas out in fights and Cowan spent her fight camp at Elevation Fight Team in Colorado. I see Cowan as the more well-rounded fighter and I favor her striking, athleticism and cardio so she should get her hand raised here. Cowan by decision is the official pick.

Jose Johnson vs Jack Cartwright
Johnson, -135; Cartwright, +115

Jose Johnson is a 14-7 prospect with eight of his wins coming by knockout. He comes from a high school wrestling background and has a ton of experience dating back to his lengthy amateur career. He previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2020 but faced Ronnie Lawrence who has been a standout prospect in the UFC. Johnson is very long for the division and will throw a variety of strikes and should have a sizable advantage while the fight plays out at range. His biggest issue is his durability as he has been submitted three times in his career and was knocked out by Leomana Martinez in his last loss in May of last year.

His opponent, Jack Cartwright is the former Cage Warriors Bantamweight champion. He is an undefeated prospect fighting out of SBG Manchester. He is 10-0 professionally with five of those wins coming by submission. He seems to be a well-rounded fighter with solid striking as he shows a tendency to beat up the legs of his opponents. He has also looked to land takedowns and holds a purple belt in BJJ, but his defensive wrestling still needs improvement, and he typically gives up position regularly hunting low percentage submission attempts.

I expect Johnson to have a clear edge on the feet while both men carry some knockout power but Johnson being more dangerous in that respect. Cartwright is likely going to force the wrestling here and I expect him to be able to land a takedown or even multiple but not convinced he has much success holding Johnson down. Johnson rarely accepts the position and works back to his feet well along with being able to scramble and reverse position too. I expect the striking advantage along with the power and the experience to be the difference in this one. Johnson by decision is the official pick.

Claudio Ribeiro vs Ivan Valenzuela
Ribeiro, -120; Valenzuela, +100

Claudio Ribeiro is a 9-2 prospect training out of Brazil. Eight of his nine wins have come by knockout and seven of those were inside the first round. As his record suggests, he is a very powerful striker and just needs to connect clean one time to put your lights out. That being said, he has very little technique and is very one-dimensional as he essentially just wings looping hook shots that makes him look like a budget version of Francis Ngannou. His defensive grappling is suspect along with his gas tank and he needs that early finish to win.

His opponent, Ivan Valenzuela is an 8-1 prospect with seven of his wins coming inside the distance. He trains out of Mexico but has spent part of this camp at Xtreme Coutour MMA in Las Vegas. He has fought out of the first round just twice in his career, so he is typically a quick finisher as well. He is the former Middleweight champion in LUX and has faced better competition than Ribeiro has on the regional scene. He also comes from a Muay Thai striking background and boasts a 37-6 record prior to focusing on MMA. Lastly, he has some tight chokes and has four wins by guillotine, but it mostly comes from others trying to make him grapple so I expect this to primarily play out on the feet.

This is a high variance matchup as both men have clear finishing ability. However, I favor the technicality of Valenzuela who is much sharper on the feet and picks his spots well as opposed to Ribeiro just going wild looking for the kill shot. I would also expect Valenzuela to have the cardio edge if this fight somehow makes it out of the first round. Valenzuela by knockout is the official pick and this one likely ends early either way.

Esteban Ribovics vs Thomas Paull
Ribovics, -365; Paull, +300

Esteban Ribovics is an undefeated prospect from Argentina. His professional record is 10-0 with all 10 wins coming inside the distance, five by knockout and five by submission. He is a southpaw striker with clear knockout power in his hands as three of those knockouts came inside the first round. He has yet to be tested against the next level up of competition, but he seems to have a solid skillset with some questions yet to be answered.

His opponent, Thomas Paull is an 11-3 prospect fighting out of England. All 11 of his wins have come by knockout and it is very clear that he is trying to take your head off every time he steps inside the cage. His level of competition on the regional scene was arguably worse than that of Ribovics although both were very low level. Outside of the knockout power, there is not much to be concerned about with Paull as he is always looking for the kill shot but does not have much else to his game. He is also going to be smaller fighter in there as he is listed at 5 foot 7 inches which is short for the Lightweight division.

This is another high variance fight with both guys having fought low level competition and both typically finishing fights early. Because either guy can win by knockout, this betting line does seem to be a bit wide in such a high variance style matchup, but I still favor the Ribovics side. The durability of Paull concerns me as he has been finished in all three of his professional losses and was even wobbled in his last fight prior to getting the victory. Ribovics by knockout is the official pick.