This Tuesday night brings episode one of season seven for Dana White’s Contender Series and we have a full five-fight card. 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.

Victor Dias vs Kevin Borjas

Victor Dias is stepping in on short notice to replace Rickson Zenidim who pulled out due to visa issues. Dias is a 32-year old prospect fighting out of Brazil. He comes from a high-level submission grappling background and holds a black belt in BJJ. Of his 11 career wins, six of them have come by submission and he is clearly going to have a massive advantage on the mat.

His opponent, Kevin Borjas is a 9-1 prospect fighting out of Peru. He was originally scheduled to face Joshua Van in this fight, but Van already made his UFC debut and upset Zhalgas Zhumagulov. Borjas has eight of his nine career wins coming by knockout and he has only reached the third round twice in his career. But as with many of these prospects, the regional competition has been very poor so he is relatively unproven. He comes from a Karate striking background and is much more technically sound than his opponent here. He also struggles with defense though and his defensively grappling is unproven which is a concern here.

Borjas should be competitive while the fight plays out on the feet but he is going to be a sitting duck in the grappling exchanges. Dias by submission is the official pick.

Payton Talbott vs Reyes Cortes

Payton Talbott is a 5-0 undefeated prospect fighting out of Nevada. Of his five career victories, all of them have come by knockout. The competition he has faced has been relatively low and I have some serious concerns with his striking defense. He resembles Chase Hooper in terms of his striking defense but he is very durable and continues moving forward eating shots and returning. He also seems to have good cardio as that has been his best weapon in being able to take over fighters later on and get the finish. Lastly, despite coming from a little wrestling background, it does not seem like he has much defensive grappling chops which is another concern as well.

His opponent, Reyes Cortes is returning to the Contender Series after losing a decision to Christian Rodriguez two seasons ago. Since then, he has earned back-to-back victories on the regional scene. He is the older brother of current UFC fighter, Tracey Cortez and trains out of the MMA Lab in Arizona. Of his seven career victories, five of them have come by knockout. He is a well-rounded fighter with good boxing skills and a solid wrestling game as well. He typically accepts the back foot when his opponents try to pressure him but he is a good counter striker and has a strong check left hook that he will look for repeatedly.

I expect the experience to pay off for Cortez who is simply the better fighter at this stage in their respective careers. Talbott likely pressures him, but Cortez will be able to stick and move and land repeated counter shots on Talbott who plays very little defense. I also expect Cortez to be able to mix in the wrestling as well. Cortez by decision is the official pick.

Kevin Szaflarski vs Caio Machado

Kevin Szaflarski is an 11-1 Heavyweight prospect fighting out of Poland. He was originally scheduled to fight Jimmy Lawson on last season of Contender Series but pulled out and was replaced by Karl Williams. Of Szaflarski’s 11 career victories, nine of them have come inside the distance. He has the typical Heavyweight punching power but is more of a point fighter with a solid jab and stays light on his feet for a guy his size. He has also shown the ability to hold his opponents up against the cage and mix in a takedown or two when he needs to. The biggest concern with him is the level of competition as he has a padded record and has only beaten a few fighters with winning records.

His opponent, Caio Machado is the BFL Heavyweight champion. He is a 7-1 prospect fighting out of Canada. Of his seven career victories, six of them have come inside the first round. He has also not been tested much in terms of competition, but the level of opposition seemed more challenging than Szaflarski has faced. Machado is a very well-rounded prospect for the Heavyweight division. Not only does he have clear fininshing ability, but he has also been tested over five rounds which many Contender Series prospects cannot say. He is also a black belt in Muay Thai, kickboxing and BJJ.

I expect Machado to have multiple advantages in this fight. He seems to be the better athlete and the more skilled fighter. He should have the power advantage along with the grappling as well and this is a big step up for Szaflarski. Machado by TKO is the official pick.

Tom Nolan vs Bogdan Grad

Tom Nolan is an undefeated prospect with a 5-0 record, fighting out of Australia. Of his five career victories, three of them have come by knockout and he previously fought in Eternal MMA promotion. He seems to be a well-rounded fighter with power on the feet but he also holds a brown belt in BJJ. He fights out of the southpaw stance and has powerful leg kicks and is always looking to land heavy knees and elbows in the clinch. If he gets in dominant position on the mat, he has some vicious ground and pound but he can give up takedowns and be controlled by better grapplers.

His opponent, Bogdan Grad is an 11-1 prospect fighting out of Austria. Of his 11 victories, seven of them have come by knockout and it is clear that he has big power on the feet. He comes from a high level kickboxing background and the power he puts into his strikes cannot be overstated. He swings with everything that he has so typically starts to fade if the fight gets extended. But he has a ground game as well and is likely the better submission grappler in this fight along with the better wrestler if he decides to take the fight there.

I expect this to be fireworks from the opening bell as both fighters are high paced and powerful finishers. I favor the technical ability of Grad on the feet but only while he is fresh which is likely the first five minutes. Nolan needs to mind his P’s and Q’s on defense as he cannot take clean shots from Grad or he will be sleeping. But I slightly lean towards Nolan with the better cardio and body work if he can avoid getting knocked out early. Nolan by TKO is the official pick.

Lucas Fernando vs Cesar Almeida

Lucas Fernando is the current LFA Middleweight champion. He is a 9-1 prospect fighting out of Brazil with five of his nine wins coming by knockout, including three of his last four victories. He comes from a high-level kickboxing background as a former member of the Brazilian national kickboxing team. He mainly wants to keep the fight standing and use his range and technical striking. He has also shown the ability to land takedowns although it is not the primary game plan. He has some heavy leg kicks and mixes the body work in well.

His opponent, Cesar Almeida is another prospect fighting out of Brazil. But he is much less experienced in MMA as he is only 3-0 professionally and two of those fights were against opponents never fighting before. He also comes from a long kickboxing background and even boasts a win over current UFC fighter, Alex Pereira. But he is 35 years old and it seems like he is being brought in to showcase the younger prospect. I have serious concerns with his defensive grappling as it has been entirely untested but he is also at a disadvantage on the feet in this matchup.

I expect the speed and technique to be in favor of the younger prospect, Fernando. Fernando by TKO is the official pick.