The Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series debuted this week and proved to be a refreshing dose of weekday MMA. The card featured five bouts consisting of lesser known talent showcasing their skills in hopes of earning a contract from the UFC President. The series was broadcast via UFC Fight Pass with two commentary options, one of which titled “Snoop Cast” featured easy going personalities Snoop Dogg and Urijah Faber. In the end the fights were surprisingly entertaining and ended with Featherweight Kurt Holobaugh and Bantamweight Boston Salmon receiving contract offers. On the losing end of Holobaugh’s main event matchup was now 28-8 CES Featherweight Champion Matt “The Mangler” Bessette. Although Bessette fell victim to a vicious Holobaugh right hook, Dana White would be foolish not to offer him a contract with the world’s top promotion.
Bessette has made a name for himself with a 7-2 record in Bellator. Most recently he has racked up a five fight CES win streak, all by way of stoppage, to capture the promotion’s Featherweight Title and defend it successfully twice. The 32 year old Rhode Island native is a BJJ black belt who often under utilizes his grappling skills to entertain his array of diehard regional fans. Tuesday night may have very well been another instance of this which unfortunately resulted in a loss. The major issue with the DWTNCS is the only criteria for a contract is impressing White. Anyone that has followed the brash UFC President understands there is nothing that impresses him more than a highlight reel KO. In knowing this, Bessette was forced to throw any game plan out the window.
The beautiful thing about Mixed Martial Arts is that match ups make fights. On Tuesday night, Holobaugh proved to be a match up nightmare for Bessette. As previously mentioned, to make a lasting impression the fight had to stay standing. Holobaugh held a decisive 2.5 inch reach advantage that allowed him to utilize a crisp jab to set up additional power shots from the outside. Despite his efforts, Bessette could not close the distance. These efforts though were nothing short of inspirational to those watching at home. The pace these two warriors exhibited from the second Big John McCarthy said “fight” was legendary. Both men threw caution to the wind but Bessette ended up absorbing the majority of the damage. He very well could have curled up into a ball and called it a night, no one would have blamed him for this. Instead, he did the only thing he knows how to, tucked his chin, and did his best impression of a prime Chuck Liddell’s overhand right. While the stoppage by Big John was justified, Bessette quickly regained composure and rolled out quickly to grapple. One could argue he could have continued at least a bit longer.
In the end it is unlikely Dana White offers Tuesday night contracts to those losing by first round KO. On the other hand, if there is ever someone who deserves it, that’s Matt Bessette. The level of talent in the main event was head and shoulders above the rest of the card. I imagine we see the 30 year old Holobaugh use his skills to quickly pick up a few UFC wins. If the goal of this new series is truly to find top talent across the country then Bessette should receive a shot in the big show. If not, the MMA community is missing out on one of the most exciting fighters in the country due to an extremely unfortunate luck of the draw. On a full camp, in a different situation, this regional fan favorite makes serious waves in the UFC Featherweight Division, guaranteed.