Dana White's Tuesday Night Contenders Series isn't just proving to be a stepping stone into the Ultimate Fighting Championship rankings, it's a legitimate springboard.
Recent DWTNCS standout Mike Santiago will make his official UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 115 on Sept. 2 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, taking on once-beaten Russian Zabit Magomedsharipov in a featherweight contest. Magomedsharipov was scheduled to take on Germany's Nick Hein, who withdrew last week due to an undisclosed training injury.
Intriguingly, Santiago was not one of the two fighters granted a UFC contract at DWTNCS 7 on Aug. 22; despite a beautiful knockout of Mark Cherico in less than three minutes, the offers went to UFC veteran Joby Sanchez and undefeated Benito Lopez instead. Nonetheless, the 28-year-old Illinois native has now 11 consecutive bouts, his last loss coming to UFC veteran Frankie Perez at Ring of Combat 47 in January 2014.
Magomedsharipov, 26, has won eight bouts in a row, with seven coming by way of stoppage. The Dagfighter team representative won his way through Absolute Championship Berkut's featherweight championship tournament defeating Sheikh-Magomed Arapkhanov in the finals in March 2016 before making a successful title defense against Brazil's Valdines Silva last September. Magomedsharipov won via knockout in just 1:53 of the first round.
UFC Fight Night 115 takes place at Ahoy Rotterdam and is headlined by Dutch heavyweight Stefan Struve taking on former Bellator MMA and M-1 Global heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov.