The Definitive Guide: Dana White’s Contender series Season 4 Week 8 predictions

How good it is to be back!

Welcome to Film Fight Freaks breakdown of week 8 of the Dana White’s Contender Series’ 2020 season. Join me as we take a look at the fighters who are set to mark the return of the UFC boss’ pet project.

We have a good mix of athletes across multiple weight classes for this week, so let’s take a look at the fights on the docket:

Light Heavyweight: Carlos Ulberg v. Bruno Oliveira

Welterweight: Ignacio Bahamondes v. Edson Gomez

Strawweight: Pauline Macias v. Gloria de Paula

Featherweight: Vince Murdock v. Luis Saldana

Heavyweight: Oscar Ivan Cota v. Jared Vanderaa

There are some exciting prospects in here. So now we have a look at the card overall and it’s time to get into the breakdowns.

Light Heavyweight: Carlos Ulberg v. Bruno Oliveira

Carlos Ulberg (2-0-0) is a City Kickboxing product out of New Zealand. He has only competed a couple times in MMA, but he has a good deal of kickboxing experience.

He has a fantastic jab and a great series of looping punches. His kicks are what you’d expect out of a seasoned kickboxer. Ulberg’s calf and leg kicks are quick and powerful.

Ulberg is a disciplined striker, but he loosens way up when he thinks he has an opponent hurt. He is willing to wing hooks and will often leave his chin out in open space to be tagged. In addition, he looks a bit uncomfortable in the clinch, but that is not to say he’s in any way unskilled there.

What I like most about Ulberg is his finishing ability. He is absolutely vicious when he smells a finish. While I said that he sometimes gets reckless in these types of exchanges, it is also true that his flurries of punches usually get results.

Bruno Oliveira (8-1-0), 36 years old, is one of the older competitors to enter the Contender Series cage. That said, he is a lethal striker who has ended seven of his eight wins inside the distance. And let me say that I love this dude’s style. It is high pressure and violent Brazilian Muay Thai.

Oliveira likes to move forward and he will throw thudding outside leg kicks. He does not throw a ton of straight punches and instead opts for looping hooks that have been hugely successful in the past at getting around the shell of his opponents. In addition, Oliveira has a fantastic rear uppercut that he will usually use in the beginnings of a finishing sequence.

In the clinch, Oliveira will open up with powerful elbows that lead into knees when his opponents shell to avoid the assault. He used these weapons in his destruction of Jared Gooden at Titan FC 55 which is really something to watch if you’ve never seen it.

Prediction: Carlos Ulberg.

This will be a heck of a featured bout. Both men are consummate finishers and like to go for broke if they sense that their opponent is hurt.

While both men clearly have the power to finish this fight, I think the high-level striking of Ulberg will pay off in this one. This is partly due to the fact that Oliveira’s success comes when he is able to play the bully. Ulberg is a bit too big for that to happen on Tuesday.

The danger for Ulberg will be if he gets wild looking for a finish. The hooks and step-in elbows of Oliveira seem to be able to put most people down.

Welterweight: Ignacio Bahamondes v. Edson Gomez

Ignacio Bahamondes (10-3-0) is a relatively young welterweight at 23 years old. He is affiliated with VFS academy and has been a pro since 2015. He is an outside fighter and prefers to use straight punches and oblique kicks mixed with roundhouses to the head.

Bahamondes really impressed me in the footage available with his ability to cut angles or slip just out of range and rip a rear straight to the chin of his opponents. He will constantly switch from southpaw to orthodox and back again. The constant movement of Bahamondes is usually in a forward motion if things are going his way, but he is able to fire off full kickboxing combinations when he is on the back foot.

The downside of Bahamondes’ style is that he tends to leave his chin exposed to overhand punches. Also, if he whiffs on a punch, his arm tends to loop back to his chin; leaving him open to counter attacks.

In short though, if things are going well for Bahamondes, he is firing off a variety of long, straight punches paired with an active kicking game. His counters are great too with punches or kicks.

Edson Gomez (6-1-0) is a Combined Martial Science fighter out of Upland, California. Full disclosure: I cannot find current footage of this fighter. Granted, I can find footage of his amateur fights, but that is useless when trying to analyze a fighter almost six years later.

He is a King of the Cage mainstay and currently holds the KOTC Welterweight Champion and KOTC Super Welterweight Champion. It continues to blow my mind that these organizations like KOTC make it so difficult to access the archives of their events.

Judging from the Tapology page on Gomez, we see that he hits very, very hard. Out of his six wins, only one has gone past the first round. He is also a shorter welterweight, standing at 5’8″. Another thing we know based off of the stats on Tapology is that Ignacio Bahamondes will be the most experience and most successful fighter he has ever faced.

Prediction: Bahamondes.

I don’t feel the best about this prediction considering I can only go off of Gomez’ stats for his side of this prediction. That said, experience is often king, and Bahamondes has the clear advantage there in terms of how many times he’s fought and the experience level of his past opposition.

Also, the fighting style of Bahamondes benefits greatly from having a height and reach advantage. He is 6″ taller and his rangy strikes will benefit from that. It’s clear that Bahamondes will have to be careful here against the power that Gomez seems to possess.

Strawweight: Pauline Macias v. Gloria de Paula

Pauline Macias (4-0-0) is a fighter out of Denver, Colorado and she has been competing as a professional since 2018. Macias has acquired three out of her four wins in the LFA. She also touts a high-level Judo background having a third degree (or 3rd Dan) black belt. She trains out of Factory X under the tutelage of Mark Montoya.

While the early days of Macias’ career would have you believe she is heavily reliant on her Judo, she has been putting in a concerted effort to develop her striking skills. For example, she used her last outing at LFA 82 to get some cage time in the stand up department. Granted, Macias’ opponent was the first in her career to have a shorter reach, but it was a good learning experience to utilize some of her newfound skills in a live competition.

In that contest Macias showed a developing striking arsenal which consisted of lead uppercuts that would flow into a straight left hand. She also utilized leg kicks and good movement to circle off the cage and out of returning fire from her opponent. The only bad habits I saw in her latest fight were her tendency to lift her chin in exchanges, and that she would sometimes totally square up when pressured against the cage.

In Macias’ previous bouts where she leaned on her Judo, the Factory X fighter was able to seamlessly hit high amplitude throws as soon as her opponent would press into her. It is really something to see and I would advise a look at her decision win at LFA 65 for examples of this. That said, Macias is not the best at maintaining control once the fight hits the floor, and her double/single leg takedowns lack the same emphasis as her upper-body throws.

Gloria de Paula (4-2-0) is a striker out of Sao Paulo, Brazil who trains in the Chute Boxe Diego Lima gym. She represents Brazilian Muay Thai to a T and her bouts are usually pretty fun to watch from an action standpoint. She has been a pro since 2017 and both of her losses are via decision.

While de Paula has a decently well-rounded striking game where she really shines is in her boxing and when she is able to strike in the clinch. She does utilize kicks, but they are often to the head or straight to the body and she seldom kicks to the legs.

De Paula’s boxing relies on a quick measuring jab which she will throw two or three at a time, and then follow it up with either a whipping straight or a straight into a left hook. She moves forward rather well with her punches and does pretty well to not stuff her punches by moving in too much.

Her clinch game blends knees to the head and body with elbows. She is most effective in the Thai clinch when she is pressing her opponent against the cage.

She has struggled against pressure grapplers and de Paula has a tendency to stand pretty straight up which adds to her takedown defense woes. De Paula does not have the greatest of skill off of her back, but she has shown flashes of offensive brilliance from her guard.

Prediction: Gloria de Paula

There is an argument for either of these athletes to win, but I think that the advanced striking of de Paula will be enough to win. While de Paula will have to watch herself in the clinch with her Judoka opponent and not get overzealous in looking for the Thai plumb.

Also, while I acknowledge that Macias has a definite grappling edge in this bout, she does not possess the type of pressure grappling that has plagued de Paula in the past. In addition, the top-control I have seen from Marcias in her past bouts is not of the type that has troubled de Paula.

Granted, Marcias is not shut out here. She does well to hit Judo throws when her opponents press into her with strikes, and while Marcias is not the greatest at ground control, she does have the ability to snap up submissions. De Paula will be very disciplined with her striking to avoid this scenario.

Featherweight: Vince Murdock v. Luis Saldana

Vince Murdock (12-3-0) is a fighter out of Team Alpha Male. He was once a UFC-signee, but a rare brain defect forced him from the sport and into surgery. After a tough surgery and long recovery, he is back to fighting. Needless to say, he has not competed in a while. Murdock’s last bout, a knockout finish, took place in 2018. In many ways, this showing at the Contender Series is his way to gain his roster spot back.

Murdock looks like a product out of Team Alpha Male. His defense is solid and his distance management is good as well. Another wrinkle to his game is his anti-wrestling. Murdock has great takedown defense and is able to control from the top if he needs to.

Murdock’s combinations are quick and opportunistic. He seems to be able to pick his shots well, and he mixes in his punches and kicks pretty well. Murdock’s most common attacks are a stiff right hand and left hook after he shuffles his way in.

Luis Saldana (13-6-0) is a fighter out of Phoenix, Arizona. His last bout was in 2019 and it added to a win streak that totals three fights. He is a rangy striker who utilizes long strikes and odd angles when he’s pressured. Spinning kicks are also not out of the question.

Saldana has a few weapons of note. His jab is particularly snapping and accurate and goes well with his solid head movement. In addition, he is very active with his kicks; throwing front kicks, middle kicks, and calf kicks in combination.

There is not much footage of Saldana, but what I’ve seen I am pretty impressed with. The lone full bout I could find was his second most recent and it was almost an entirely stand up affair, but he is a submission threat as well. Saldana’s most recent contest was at LFA 60, and he finished the bout in round two via rear naked choke.

Prediction: Luis Saldana.

The little bit of footage I have seen of Saldana makes me confident that he is heavily favored in this matchup. Granted, neither man has fought in over a year so evolution on either side is very likely. We should see different fighters compared to the footage we have currently. That said, a fighter will usually add to his/her game, not transform. The base styles we have here tell us enough about how this fight should go.

Saldana favors a matchup where he can snipe from the outside and use his footwork and head movement to keep out of danger. Murdock unfortunately has a style and body type that is very susceptible to Saldana’s avenue to victory. For example Saldana is a full 5″ taller and has a reach advantage of 9″.

That is trouble for a fighter like Murdock who has not been very effective in the past at getting on the inside on fighters like Saldana. He even had a bit of trouble in his bout against Carl Deaton III who was able to use his good movement and long striking to frustrate Murdock for much of the fight. Deaton only had a 4″ reach advantage and is the same height as Murdock.

I think this fight, like every fight, comes down to who’s game the fighters play. Is it going to be a Saldana game of cat and mouse, or is Murdock going to be able to turn this into a close quarters firefight? I think Saldana is most likely to set and keep the fight in his comfort zone.

Heavyweight: Oscar Ivan Cota v. Jared Vanderaa

Oscar Ivan Cota (11-2-0) is a fighter out of Kimura Training Center in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. This 36 year old fighter has been a professional since 2011; beginning on the Mexican regional scene. He was set to make his DWCS debut in 2018, but was unable to compete due to visa issues. He has not fought in a little over a year.

Let me start by saying that I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen from Cota. The guy moves like a middleweight, but looks like a slightly smaller Roy Nelson. Seriously, Cota bounces and does a great Fedor impression with his leaping overhand punch combinations. Cota throws a really nice outside leg kick that borders on being a calf kick.

In addition, Cota is able to grapple reasonably well, but his ground and pound is where he is especially effective on the floor. The takedowns Cota will use are usually trips when he crashes into an opponent during a striking combination.

Jared Vanderaa (10-4-0) is fighter out of Hemet, California and he fights out of Dan Henderson’s Athletic Fitness Center. Vanderaa has been a professional since 2015, and he has finished nine of his ten wins.

Vanderaa is big. He is 6’4″ and last weighed in at 260 lbs. If he needs to, Vanderaa can use that size of his to bully smaller opponents on the ground and in the clinch. Usually though, Vanderaa likes to use a couple striking attacks instead of wrestling.

Vanderaa is great at rolling his shoulder to block overhands and he will usually counter with a left hook or pokes with a straight right. His jabs are nice too, but are not particularly quick. Vanderaa throws some great leg kicks as well. His outside leg kick is nice and thudding.

Prediction: Oscar Ivan Cota.

I think the difference in this fight will be speed. Cota has the definite edge in that department and he also has a much more varied attack. I think, however, that the way Cota rushes in could get him into trouble against the hard-hitting Vanderaa. Overall though, I think that skill-for-skill Cota has the edge.

And that’s it! My first breakdown in about five weeks, so it felt good to get back in the swing of things.

Let me know what you think in the comments below or reach out to me at SparringPartnersPodcast@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading! Enjoy the fights!

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