7/11 Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series Report: Grocke’s review of debut episode of new UFC Fight Pass program

By Michael Grocke, MMATorch contributor

Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contenders Series
July 11, 2017
The Ultimate Fighter Gym in Las Vegas, Nevada
Aired on UFC Fight Pass

Pre-Fight Show

Megan Olivi welcomes viewers to the broadcast and immediately introduces Urijah Faber. Olivi and Faber discuss what’s on the line for the fighters. They then throw it to a pre-taped promo from Dana White who calls this the ultimate job interview. He discusses the intimate setting of the Ultimate Fighter Gym and what he expects to see from the fights. He also talks about wanting to see exciting fights and guys going for the finish.

A video package of the fighters in the main event is shown.

Olivi and Yves Edwards run down the card. Edwards is prepared and provides great background commentary on each of the fighters.

Another video package airs of Dana White talking about all the talent that’s out there and this is the opportunity of a lifetime for these fighters. A great video is shown of the fighters competing tonight with each of them narrating what this means to them and what White should expect from them.


Dan Hellie and Yves Edwards welcome viewers to the show. They bring in Snoop Dog and Urijah Faber in a split screen and Faber says you just never know what’s going to come out of their mouths.

Main Card 

I really like the stripped down rawness of the show. There’s a small, but lively crowd of family and friends cheering as the fighters enter the gym.

(1) Manny Vazquez (11-2) vs. Joby Sanchez (9-2) – Flyweight 125 lbs.

Result: Sanchez by unanimous decision 

Vazquez took the center as Sanchez circled around him to open the fight. Vazquez tried to take advantage of his reach advantage by staying on the outside. Sanchez was the busier fighter but when he tried to get inside Vazquez caught him with a combination flush that put Sanchez down. Vazquez did a great job taking the back and landing punches with Sanchez in a body lock. Not much happened until towards the end of the round, but clearly Vazquez’s round.

Sanchez came out in the second round and immediately took Vazquez down. Sanchez did an excellent job controlling Vazquez on the ground. He rode Vaquez’s back landing punches to the head for most of the round. The second round was dominated by Sanchez.

Vazquez turned the tables on Sanchez to start the third round by shooting in and getting the early take down. Sanchez was able to reverse position with 3 minutes to go and worked from top position while attempting submissions. Vazquez exploded up and they were back to center cage with 2 minutes to go. Sanchez did a nice job getting Vazquez down after running him to the fence. He did enough damage while riding out the final minute of the round.

Sanchez definitely earned the decision.

After the fight Laura Sanko interviewed Joby Sanchez. Sanchez talked about the fight and his win and thinks he deserves a contract with the UFC.

A video package aired featuring highlights of both fighters voiced over by Dan Hellie. If you have time to read about Jaime Pickett’s life, I encourage you to do so. It’s quite the story.

(2) Charles Byrd (7-4) vs. Jamie Pickett (7-2) – Middleweight 185 lbs.

Result: Byrd by submission (arm-triangle choke)

Both guys started the fight very active with kicks. Pickett scored the early take down but Byrd was able to get to his feet fairly easily. Pickett scored another take down with just under 3 minutes left in the round. Byrd was able to get back to his with 2 minutes left. The fight remained on the feet until Byrd took Pickett down with under a minute left and subbed Pickett with an arm triangle choke with just 5 seconds left. Pickett tried to fight it off but went to sleep and Big John called it off.

That was a fun fight while it lasted. Byrd definitely made an impression with that performance.

Laura Sanko interviewed Byrd after the fight. Byrd came across as very humble and respectful.

A commercial aired for next week’s show. Afterwards a video package was shown featuring Salmon and Turios talking about the opportunity and what winning would mean to them. Interesting note, Boston Salmon grew up with and played baseball as a kid with Max Holloway.

Brad Tavares is in the crowd cheering on Salmon.

(3) Ricky Turcios (8-0) vs. Boston Salmon (5-1) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.

Result: Salmon by unanimous decision 

Turcios came out active with kicks but didn’t land much. Salmon worked in a more relaxed pace while Turcio worked at a very frenetic pace. Salmon’s striking was on point landing some big power shots throughout the round. Turcio started to bleed from punches towards the end of the round. Turcio’s striking isn’t his strong suit, I was surprised he didn’t try for any take downs at any point in the first round. Salmon won the first round easily.

Turcio tried to establish distance with kicks to start the second round but Salmon blocked most if not all of them. Salmon continued to just walk Turcio down landing punches. With 3 minutes left Turcio finally shot for a double but Salmon stuffed it easily. The remainder of the round was fought on the feet where Salmon continued to pick Turcio apart. Turcio landed a few kicks but they did little, if any damage. Round two was another round for Salmon.

Salmon landed a big right hand that dropped Turcio momentarily in the beginning of the round but he recovered quickly. Salmon’s counters were ridiculously effective throughout the fight. He was very calm and calculated in his striking and was comfortable in the pocket. With 30 seconds left both fighters started swinging for the fences and Salmon did his best to finish Turcio but man, he can take a punch. It was all Boston Salmon in the fight.

Laura Sanko interviewed Salmon after the fight. Salmon was emotional as he states is dad is battling stage four cancer. He calls himself a Hawaiian Warrior and says his goal is the UFC title. Salmon seems to be a likable guy.

(4) Azunna Anyanwu (13-4) vs. Greg Rebello (22-7) – Heavyweight 260 lbs.

Result: Antanwu by KO

The fight got off to a slow start with both guys trying to feel each other out. Halfway through the round Rebello started to find his range and started landing some punches. Anyanwu came back with a big shot with a minute left. Rebello went for a kick with under a minute left but Anyanwu caught it and scored a late take down. It was a tough round to score but ultimately I thought Rebello landed the bigger punches.

Both guys came out swinging in the second round. Rebello kept backing into the fence and it was just a matter of time before Anyanwu caught him. Anyanwu landed a gig overhand right that dropped Rebello with three minutes left in the round. Anyanwu pounced and landed a few more punches to a downed Rebello and Big John stopped it.

This was your typical big man fight. They were both loading up for the big shot and fortunately for Anyanwu he landed it first.

Anyanwu calls himself the best heavyweight in the world in his interview with Laura Sanko.

Matt Bessette was diagnosed with leukemia as a kid. He now calls it a gift because it made him so much stronger both mentally and physically. I can relate.

(5) Matt Bessette (22-7) vs. Kurt Holobaugh (17-4) – Featherweight 145 lbs.

Result: Holobaugh by KO

Holobaugh had Bessette rocked a minute into the fight but Bessette recovered well. Holobaugh was able to do a ton of damage from distance. With 2 minutes left Holobaugh caught Bessette with a huge combination that dropped Bessette. It was a big right hook that ended it. Bessette landed some punches but Holobaugh just ate every one of them. This was a fantastic performance from Holobaugh.

A commercial aired for next week’s show while Dana White decided who was getting into the UFC.

Laura Sanko interviewed Dana White where White chose Boston Salmon and Kurt Holobaugh as the newest fighters to join the UFC.

That was a fun night of fights. I was happy to see Dana White choose both Holobaugh and Salmon as the contract winners. They both deserved it. While I enjoyed all of the fights, what I liked even more was hearing the fighter’s stories. Some of them were truly inspirational. The show had a nice flow to it and the commentating was very good. All in all it was I thought it was a fun way to spend two hours on a Tuesday night.

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