The Definitive Guide: Dana White’s Contender Series Season 4 Week 10 Predictions

Welcome back to the Contender Series predictions here at Film Fight Freaks!

The end of the 2020 season of Dana White’s Contender Series is upon us. Our prediction record for this season now sits at 27-13-3NC. This week sees some returning talent to DWCS, and a few fighters who have been rebooked after earlier bouts were cancelled.

Let’s take a look at the talent for week 10.

The Card

Heavyweight: Nick Maximov v. Oscar Ivan Cota

Flyweight: JP Buys v. Jacob Silva

Strawweight: Pauline Macias v. Gloria de Paula

Lightweight: Sherrard Blackledge v. Tucker Lutz

Flyweight: Chelsea Hackett v. Victoria Leonardo

Like I wrote earlier, there are some returning names to the DWCS cage. Those include: JP Buys (DWCS 2017), Jacob Silva (DWCS 2020), Sherrard Blackledge (DWCS 2020), and Tucker Lutz (DWCS 2020). I think we’ll see some increased intensity in the Blackledge v. Lutz bout, because they both won their fights earlier this season, and a finish is about all that held them back from their UFC contract.

Without further ado, let’s get into the details.

Flyweight: Chelsea Hackett v. Victoria Leonardo

Chelsea Hackett (3-0-1) is an Australian athlete and is the youngest competitor on this week’s DWCS at 21 years old. While her mma record might leave you to assume that she is new to combat sports, fighting is not new to Hackett. She began her competitive career in Muay Thai, going 16-3 and picking up a super lightweight (126) championship.

Needless to say, Hackett’s striking is fantastic. Her delivery of strikes is still very much muay thai influenced. She will throw elbows from striking range, and puts together some beautiful combinations that utilize punches and kicks in equal measure. Her leg kicks and front kicks are especially effective.

Hackett does great work in the clinch and is not afraid to go to the ground. Even in her first professional bout she shot and completed takedowns. She even survived an air-tight triangle for almost a full minute before escaping.

Victoria Leonardo (7-2-0) is an athlete out of Shreveport, Louisiana. She last fought in September of this year at Invicta FC 42, a unanimous decision win. Leonardo has been a professional since 2018, and she has finished four of her seven wins.

Leonardo is a brawler (watch her bout against Geltmacher at Invicta 36). That is not to say she isn’t talented or technical, because she touts a pretty well-rounded game. She just clearly loves to fight, and she attacks in whatever position she is in. For example, when she pressures opponents against the cage, she uses that time to throw repeated hooks to the body and head.

The standup ability of Leonardo is comprised by a solid jab-cross, and kicks that look slow, but are impactful. Leonardo also offers a well-timed check hook, and great survival skills when she’s hurt. She has great movement that usually keeps her back off the cage, but she has not utilized great head movement in the past, instead opting to use a defensive shell.

Prediction: Chelsea Hackett

Leonardo is not a fantastic wrestler, but she needs to be one to win this fight.

In addition, the striking ability of Hackett is so much more fluid and lethal. Some of the tendencies of Leonardo lend themselves to being vulnerable to the kicks of Hackett. For example, Leonardo tends to keep her rear elbow a bit high, which will be a huge target for the fantastic body kicks of Hackett.

I just think that Hackett will be a few steps ahead in the exchanges, which will likely lead to a finish for the Australian.

Lightweight: Sherrard Blackledge v. Tucker Lutz

Sherrard Blackledge (5-0-0), a pro since 2018, fights out of Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas. He also competed as an amateur where he had a record of 6-1-1. He is a returning athlete to the Contender Series. In week 6 this season, he won a unanimous decision over Cameron Church in a high-pace bout that left me impressed.

He is a solid talent. Blackledge is a well-rounded striker who likes to to use long strikes from the outside. His kicks are sharp, and he targets them to the legs and body.

His punches are equally sharp and straight. He tends to play the counter-striker, but that does leave him backing straight up to the cage at times. That said, he will use that backwards motion to set up a well-timed takedown.

On the ground, Blackledge has nice top-control and will look to strike from the top. He can advance position reasonably well, but he will, more often than not, stop off at positions to land punches and elbows.

His finish of Brandon Olsen impressed me quite a bit. Blackledge stayed composed and went to work against an opponent that was giving up. Many fighters of his experience level would have gone wild for the finish, but he just plugged away until the referee waved the bout off.

Tucker Lutz (10-1-0) is a fighter out of Ground Control Academy in Reisterstown, Maryland. Lutz is usually a finisher, having finished eight out of his ten professional bouts. He last competed on week 5 of this season of the Contender Series. He won a dominant unanimous decision over Chase Gibson which showcased Lutz’ solid kickboxing.

Lutz has a background in wrestling and grappling, but he seldom uses that skillset to end his fights. He shows good control in the clinch, and in his last showing at the Contender Series, Lutz was able to showcase moments of domination from top ground positions.

Lutz’ striking arsenal is powerful and diverse. His most consistent weapons are the left hook and leg kick. He will often use those techniques together. Lutz has proven to be hittable, but so far his chin has held up.

I’m most impressed with Lutz’ ability to find his striking range. It takes him a little bit, usually half a round to a full round, but once he does, he is great at firing off boxing combinations that land.

Prediction: Tucker Lutz.

Lutz is the shorter man in this bout (5’7″ compared to Blackledge’s 5’11”) , but he has shown an ability to still land strikes in those situations where he is at a height disadvantage. In addition, Blackledge has shown a habit of backing up to the cage when an opponent advances with strikes. That is exactly where Lutz will want Blackledge to be, because Lutz will be able to better find his range.

For a shorter fighter, putting your taller opponent’s back to the cage is really important for striking success. With the taller fighter’s back to the cage, he can no longer move backwards to keep his shorter opponent on the end of his strikes. This is where I feel Lutz wins the bout.

Lutz likes to advance with strikes, and Blackledge fancies himself a counter-striker which causes him to stay in place or back up in striking exchanges to keep range.

Blackledge does have some solid wrestling, but so does Lutz. Also the height difference does not help Blackledge here, because he will have to go much lower to get under the hips of Lutz.

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.

Flyweight: JP Buys v. Jacob Silva

JP Buys (8-2-0) is a 24 year old prospect fighting out of Fortis MMA. This South African-born fighter has been on the Contender Series once before in 2017, getting stopped in the second round in a losing effort. He last fought in 2019 at LFA 78. Also, Buys is the former flyweight and bantamweight champion in the South African promotion EFC.

Since Buys’ last showing on the Contender Series he has gone on to win four straight bouts, all by finish. All of those finishes took place on the floor, which makes sense, because Buys is a fantastic wrestler. He is great at chain wrestling, and he shows pretty great technique in the clinch as well.

In the standup department, I would categorize Buys as serviceable. He moves his head pretty well, and he can switch from orthodox and southpaw with relative ease. Buys relies on defensive boxing and some solid kicks. That said, the only times when Buys fights standing is when he cannot secure the takedown.

Jacob Silva (6-3-0) is a fighter out of Texas and is affiliated with Metro Fight Club. Before losing on week four of this season’s DWCS, he was on a six-fight winning streak dating all the way back to 2015. All of those win have come via finish. Out of those six wins, five have been ended by knockout.

Silva is a super fun fighter to watch and is always looking to damage his opponent with hard, looping punches. He moves forward constantly and throws his whole body into his combinations, which explains his high finish-rate.

This hyper-aggressive style, especially when he senses a finish, sometimes leads to Silva getting taken down when he leaps in off-balance. When his strikes land, however, the results are often dynamic and violent.

Off of his back, Silva is good at starting scrambles and getting back to his feet as a result of his quickness and athleticism. That said, his reliance on power has lead him into trouble at times with more technical ground fighters.

Prediction: JP Buys

Heavyweight: Nick Maximov v. Oscar Ivan Cota

Nick Maximov (5-0-0) is a fighter out the the Nick Diaz Academy and is among the youngest fighters on the card at 22 years old. He is a regular competitor at Chael Sonnen’s Submission Underground, and he without a doubt touts the grappling of someone who would grace that platform. Professionally, Maximov typically fights as a light heavyweight, but he has competed as low as middleweight if we include his amateur bouts.

There is not a ton to write about when it comes to Maximov’s striking ability. He has shown decent boxing, and some kicks, but he is hittable in the moments he decides to play the striking game. Maximov’s greatest striking defense is his wrestling.

Maximov will shoot from the outside, and will sometimes go as far as to crawl towards an opponents legs if he misses the takedown. He did just that at his LFA 91 appearance where he landed seven takedowns in under two rounds. These takedowns are not overtly powerful, though.

I would say that Maximov’s fighting style is “persistence grappling”. On the mat, Maximov is relaxed and methodical, doing his best to flow from position to position. His ground striking is more of a Diaz-influenced patter to soften up his opponent rather than emphatic pounding.

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. Also, Cota was set to fight on week 8 this season, but was pulled for an undisclosed reason.

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.

Prediction: Oscar Ivan Cota.

This was particularly difficult to pick and to me, it is a matter of who gets to play their game first: The striking of Cota or the ground skills of Maximov.

If these fighters were of the same weight class, I would go with Maximov, because I think Maximov has the superior ground skills by a long shot, and if he gets Cota down, he is likely to win. That’s a big “if”.

Unfortunately for Maximov, Cota’s boxing should prove too much. As they say, all fights start on the feet, and that’s where Cota should look to keep it. Cota’s hands are fast and they hit pretty dang hard. In addition, Cota has the experience edge; he has nearly triple the professional experience of Maximov.

That’s it! The last breakdown of the 2020 season of Dana White’s Contender Series. Just like all the others, this week was tough to pick. That said, I’m hoping for one more clean sweep to send the season off.

As always, if you have a question, comment or concern leave it in the comments below, or reach out me at SparringPartnersPodcast@gmail.com.

If you’d like to keep up with what I’m up to or what I’m woking on next, consider listening to the Sparring Partners Podcast either on YouTube or Spotify.

See ya next season, thanks for reading.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s