The Definitive Guide: Dana White’s Contender Series Season 4 Week 5

Last week saw a strong group of prospects show their stuff to the UFC boss, Dana White. Looking at the lineup for week five, we should expect no different.

DWCS 2020 Week 5 Card

Melsik Baghdasaryan v. Dennis Buzukia
Jimmy Flick v. Nate Smith
Jose Johnson v. Ronnie Lawrence
William Knight v. Cody Brundage

Now that we know what the card looks like, let’s get into a bit more about who the fighters are, and who I feel is most likely to win.

Light Heavyweight: William Knight v. Cody Brundage

William Knight (7-1-0) is a returning athlete to the Dana White’s Contender Series cage. He fights out of Connecticut, and since his 2019 showing at DWCS, he has gone 2-1 in his last three. His last time in the DWCS cage, he secured a development deal, but a loss in his following bout put his progress in jeopardy.

An interesting fact about Knight is that while he is on the older end for a Contender Series fighter, 32, he has only been competing professionally since 2018, his amateur career dates back to only 2016.

This dude is sculpted. With that obvious strength, comes the obvious drawbacks. He is super strong, but he is at times immobile. His strikes are a bit slow, but when they hit, they’re like a stick of dynamite.

A definite strength of Knight is his overall wrestling and grappling. Knight really knows how to use his strength in top position, and his ground and pound is well-placed and powerful.

On the feet, Knight utilizes quick, stinging inside leg kicks, and stays much more relaxed than your typical 7-fight fighter.

A small note about Knight’s submission defense and ability to survive danger on the ground: it’s great. He usually finds himself in terrible positions on the ground, but he just finds a way to survive and work his way out.

Cody Brundage (6-0-0) is a fighter out of Factory X in Colorado. He started his career with Scorpion Fighting System, the same gym that recent contract winner Josh Parisian comes from. Brundage normally fights at middleweight, and the highest weight he’s competed at is 195lbs.

Brundage is similar in some ways to Knight, but he is much quicker. His overall game involves forward pressure and ground control. Striking-wise, Brundage has shown long, powerful punches, but they are used as entries into grappling.

At only 6-0, there isn’t a ton of footage on Brundage, but what little there is shows a highly athletic fighter that continues to grow.

I have the feeling that whatever footage we have for this young fighter is woefully out of date. These young athletes improve so much from fight to fight, and Brundage hasn’t fought since February.

Prediction: Cody Brundage. Michigan fighters have really been showing out on this season of DWCS. In addition, not one young fighter that has made the move to a higher level camp has lost this season. I think that Brundage will be no different.

Make no mistake, William Knight is a tough test for any fighter, and he will be the toughest test yet for Brundage. Knight’s ability to survive, combined with his great conditioning will prove a difficult puzzle for the young fighter out of Colorado.

As previously stated, Knight tends to get in at least one terrible position in every one of his fights, but he usually survives. I don’t thing that happens against Brundage. I feel that Brundage will be able to eventually capitalize on a Knight mistake, and possibly finish the fight via submission.

Bantamweight: Jose Johnson v. Ronnie Lawrence

Jose Johnson (11-5-0) is an exciting fighter out of Michigan with StriKings. He is a striker, and pulled off one of the most brutal one-shot elbow finishes I’ve ever seen at LFA 78. Johnson has been a mainstay in the WXC, and listening to the commentary of his fights, he has been seen as a big fish in a small pond for a long time.

The first thing I noticed when watching tape on Johnson is how relaxed he is in the pre-fight. He really looks like he owns the cage.

From the start of his bouts, Johnson sets a high pace with his striking, mixing leg kicks with straight punches, and front kicks. His hits are accurate and fast, and seem to do a bit of damage (He has five-straight first-round TKOs).

These combinations tend to back his opponents into the cage, once there Johnson will rattle off knees and elbows that are well-placed, well-timed, and just plain effective.

The main knock on Johnson is that he is susceptible to the takedown. That said, he is good at using butterfly hooks to work his way back to his feet. Johnson does not play on the floor, he wants up and he works his way there. The way he gets up usually leaves his neck exposed, which has contributed to a few of his losses.

Ronnie Lawrence (5-1-0) is a fighter out of Tennessee, and he possesses a well-rounded game.

Lawrence is comfortable on the feet, and he has decently heavy hands for a bantamweight. A weapon of note for Lawrence is the spinning back kick to the body. He actually ended his first professional bout with that kick.

In addition to throwing multiple spinning back kicks per-round, Lawrence is solid with leg kicks and front kicks o the body. He used these kicks to the body to great effect in his last bout at LFA 67, where he wore down his opponent over the course of 15 minutes.

While his standup is good enough at the prospect level, he does become undisciplined at times with his angles and footwork. He is able to redeem this at times with his clinch work.

The highlight of Lawrence’s game is the way he mixes his striking into his clinch work and back into striking. He will punch his way into the clinch and then throw knees and uppercuts from the single or double collar tie. In the middle of it all, he might even look for a takedown.

Prediction: Jose Johnson. This kid should have been in the UFC a couple of fights ago, and he just simply looks to be better on the feet and in the clinch. These are the positions that Lawrence normally looks for, but he’s outclassed.

To be clear, this is not a shutout, because Ronnie Lawrence is a solid fighter with solid skills. The unfortunate thing for Lawrence is that the areas in which he normally excels are the areas he would need to avoid to beat Johnson on Tuesday night.

It is possible that we see Lawrence try to take Johnson down – that would be a smart choice considering his options. To win, Lawrence would need to do what he did in his last fight, and be a true mixed martial artist, mixing all his skills with seamless transitions.

I think that Johnson will be able to take advantage of Lawrence’s occasionally sloppy footwork and defense en route to a finish.

Flyweight: Jimmy Flick v. Nate Smith

Jimmy Flick (14-5-0) is a fighter out of Oklahoma and is affiliated with Forza Combat Sports. His usual path to victory is on the floor. In his most recent victory, Flick caught an arm triangle in only 38 seconds to capture the LFA flyweight title.

Ten of Flick’s 14 wins have been via submission. The arm triangle is a favorite of his, and he will look for it whenever possible. Flick will even bait his opponents into grabbing a guillotine choke, so he is able to attack with a Von Flu choke.

Flick’s cage control and takedowns from the cage are solid and varied. He will dip down for double’s and single’s, but he is also good at following up unsuccessful attempts with trips and sweeps.

Flick’s striking ability is serviceable, but it’s in an effort to defend himself until he can find an avenue to the mat. He tends to shell as a defensive maneuver. This is a double edged sword. He is able to defend most shots, but the shell allows for opponents to tee off unchallenged.

If Flick is on bottom, he is a bit of a mixed bag. His guard is very active and dangerous, but his striking defense from bottom is similar to his striking defense on the feet. He will cover up until he can threaten with a submission again. If he misses a submission attempt, he has a habit of leaving himself open to strikes.

Overall, Flick is a fighter that is most successful when he’s in dominant position on the floor.

Nate Smith (6-0-0) is a young flyweight out of Denver that trains at Team Elevation. With almost 20 amateur fights, Smith has more experience than his small professional record might suggest.

Smith is an explosive athlete with quick, aggressive striking, and good takedown defense that will inevitably come in handy against his DWCS opponent.

Coming into MMA, Smith’s base was Greco Roman wrestling, but he doesn’t usually choose to use that part of his skill set in an offensive fashion. Smith shines on the ground with his defense, both propositional and in the submissions.

On the feet, Smith is great at the calf kick. His most recent fight at LFA 82, he was able to slip in more than a couple stiff leg kicks that visually affected his opponent. His hands are good too, as he is quick to throw out long hooks and straights.

All that said, at only 6-0, Smith is still green. Flyweight is a division that rests on technical prowess, and his athleticism might backfire against his more experienced DWCS opponent.

Prediction: Nate Smith. My usual rule is that pro-level experience is half the battle, but I have a gut feeling about one.

While he is younger and less experienced than Flick, the progression from his 5th professional fight to his most recent win was enough to make me believe that he might be something special. Additionally, training out of Team Elevation is a great asset for Smith.

If he can avoid being put on his back, Smith should be able to outstrike Flick.

On the other hand, if Smith ends up on top, Flick’s bad habit of leaving himself open to strikes could lead to Smith getting another stoppage win via strikes.

Featherweight: Melsik Baghdasaryan v. Dennis Buzukia

Melsik Baghdasaryan (4-1-0) is a fighter out of Glendale, California and he is affiliated with Edmond Taverdyan. Baghdasaryan is transitioning from kickboxing where he competed for the K1 welterweight title in 2018.

There is not a lot of tape for Baghdasaryan due to the speed at which he dispatches his opposition. He lost his debut, but he has since rattled off four-straight. These fights have lasted around 50 seconds combined.

Baghdasaryan’s game is that of a high-caliber K1 fighter. His punches are quick and powerful, but his kicks have been what’s been doing the work in MMA. In the little footage we’ve seen, Baghdasaryan’s opponents seem genuinely shocked by the power with which he fires off roundhouse kicks to the head and body.

Look for Baghdasaryan to strike. That seems like an obvious choice for him, because it is. His lone loss, his pro debut, was due to an inability to stuff takedowns. Hopefully he’s patched that hole in his game.

Dennis Buzukja (4-1-0) is a Staten Island-based fighter and trains out of Longo and Weidman’s LAW MMA.

Buzukja is a solid prospect everywhere. He is especially dangerous on the feet, and that is where he usually chooses to keep the fight. I like how he throws his straight punches, especially his right hand. He will slip slightly and fire it off, often hurting his opponents.

He will throw kicks, and he will switch stances, albeit only momentarily. This fight will truly test his ability to stand with the best in the world, because he’s already shown that he can beat most people at the prospect-level on the feet.

Side note: If you have UFC Fight Pass, look up his fight against William Calhoun III at ROC 70. Buzukia landed an awesome spinning elbow that knocked out his opponent in round one.

Prediction: Buzukja. Buzukja comes from a great team with top-level MMA training partners. It shows in his performances, but I think it will especially show against Baghdasaryan in the clinch and on the floor.

The danger for Buzukja is that he will believe in his standup a little too much against the much better striker, Baghdasaryan. In order to win, I expect him to take this fight to the mat quickly.

He trains with people with like Al Iaquinta and Aljamain Sterling who are obviously no slouches on the floor.

This fight is one of pride. Buzukja likes knocking people out, but he will need to be the more complete mixed martial artist to win on Tuesday, and I think he will.

And that’s it! Another week, another group of prospects will look to grab that UFC contract, and leap to the highest level of the sport.

Tell you what, this was probably the toughest week for me to make predictions. This is a really well-matched fight card, and every fighter has a clear avenue to victory.

We’re currently 14-5 on our predictions this season, and I hope we keep up our winning record.

*Note: As of writing, Tucker Lutz, who has been reported to be on this card, has not been given a replacement opponent. It could happen, but I expect that we only go forward with the four fights discussed in this preview.

5 comments

  1. “His last showing, he secured a development deal, but a loss in his following bout put that in jeopardy.”

    That’s a very bad phrasing buddy. Did he lose his last or second to last?

    Like

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