Team Alpha Male’s rich pipeline has produced yet another Ultimate Fighting Championship-caliber talent: Benito Lopez.
The 23-year-old prospect kept his perfect professional record intact with a split decision over Steven Peterson in a three-round bantamweight feature on Week 7 of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series at the UFC Training Center in Las Vegas. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them siding with Lopez (8-0). Afterward, he was one of two competitors to receive a UFC contract.
Peterson (15-6) did not enjoy the first five minutes of the encounter, as he retreated to his corner bleeding from his nose, mouth and a cut above his right eye. The former Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder turned the tide in the second round, where he struck for multiple takedowns, applied his ground-and-pound and kept a safe distance by pursuing an aggressive clinch. However, Lopez made the necessary adjustments down the stretch and leaned on a punishing jab, quick punching combinations and nimble footwork.
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The other contract went to Jackson-Wink MMA standout Joby Sanchez after he turned away J.P. Buys with punches in the second round of their encounter at 125 pounds. Sanchez (11-2) drew the curtain 2:28 into Round 2, as he put a fourth straight win in the books.
Buys (4-2) was effective for much of the first round, particularly with takedowns, but failed to maintain the momentum. Sanchez struck for a takedown of his own early in the second, advanced to mount and forced the South African to roll to his stomach. The finish soon became a formality, as Buys absorbed a series of unanswered punches and did not adequately defend himself.
Meanwhile, Ring of Combat and Resurrection Fighting Alliance veteran Mike Santiago disposed of Mark Cherico with first-round punches in a featherweight showcase. Cherico (11-2) succumbed to blows 2:59 into Round 1, his four-fight winning streak at an end.
Santiago (19-9) conceded an early takedown but soon returned to his feet and got down to business. He rattled Cherico with a standing elbow strike to the head and then backed him to the fence with punches. A crushing right uppercut from Santiago finished the job and gave the surging 28-year-old his eighth consecutive victory.
Elsewhere, Luttrell MMA rep Jordan Espinosa rendered Nick Urso unconscious with a brabo choke in the first round of their flyweight clash. Urso (10-4) bowed out 1:23 into Round 1.
Espinosa (11-5) denied an attempted takedown, uncorked a knee strike, pressed the Jackson-Wink MMA export to the mat and locked up the choke. Urso tried to free himself but could not muster an escape and instead lost consciousness, prompting referee Mark Smith to call for the stoppage.
The 27-year-old Espinosa has won three of his last four fights.
Finally, the promising but still green Kennedy Nzechukwu took a split decision from Anton Berzin in a three-round pairing at 205 pounds. Scores were 29-27 and 29-27 for Nzechukwu (3-0), 29-28 for Berzin (5-2).