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Nine of the 10 winners on Dana White’s Contender Series have been handed Ultimate Fighting Championship contracts during the last two episodes. The only fighter to win and not secure a contract was Kevin Syler, who failed to make weight for his contracted bout. Season 3, Episode 5 on Tuesday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas will see 10 more prospective fighters vying for a spot in the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization.
A closer look at the lineup:
A veteran of Season 2 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Quarantillo returns to the Octagon to fight for his chance to finally stamp his ticket to the UFC. The 30-year-old flaunts an 11-2 professional record and has won four straight contests. The former King of the Cage lightweight champion has professional boxing experience but has proven to be more than one-dimensional, with TKO and submission victories under his belt. The 30-year-old is a serviceable striker but not anything special in the department. His best strike is his counter overhand right, which packs some heat. He tends to throw single strikes instead of attacking with combinations. Quarantillo struggles when he is pressed on his back foot instead of moving forward. The Tampa, Florida, native is not the most athletic fighter but makes up for it with toughness and grit. He mixes in his takedown attempts with his standup attacks well. He is strong at chaining his moves together and is relentless with getting the fight to the canvas if he grabs a limb. While he is a solid wrestler, the Floridian needs to improve his takedown defense. Once on top, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt looks for submissions; he has four stoppage wins by that method. Quarantillo needs to work on his top control, as he constantly loses position because he is looking for a submission or simply not controlling his balance. The former lightweight loves to attack with submissions off his back instead of scrambling to his feet. While the reward is finding a submission, the risk is that he takes a lot of damage if he cannot catch the fight-ending hold.
Kirk is only 25 years old but has been training Brazilian jiu-jitsu since he was 4. Since turning to MMA, the Arizona native has compiled a 9-2 professional record. He is currently riding a three-fight winning streak, and it would have been seven if he had not lost a questionable decision to Anthony Baccum. The Siege MMA product has a 100 percent stoppage rate and has closed out eight of his opponents in the opening frame. “The Jawaiian” is a low-output striker who relies more on his kicks than his punches to win on the feet. He dispatches hard kicks to all areas of the body, with his teep being his best strike. While Kirk throws hard kicks, he does not bother to check them often. The Legacy Fighting Alliance veteran is a strong clinch fighter. He loves to lock on to his opponent’s neck and fire off pummeling knees to the body. If the opponent only focuses on the strikes, he quickly lands a trip from the position. Kirk times his takedowns well if his opponent presses too hard on the feet. While he is a strong offensive wrestler, his takedown defense is nothing short of terrible. He does not fight off takedown attempts hard because he feels comfortable if the fight gets to the ground. Once the fight hits the canvas, Kirk enters his world. While he likes to do damage with his ground-and-pound, his grappling is what worries most of his opponents. Kirk is a two-time world champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and his skills transition well to MMA. The black belt’s back takes are some of the slickest in the game, and he can find a submission from nearly every position. One of the biggest flaws in Kirk’s game is his cardio. He is so aggressive on the canvas that he tends to slow himself down as the fight goes on.
This is a fun fight. Quarantillo should have the advantage on the feet and could end it with a single punch. However, it seems more likely that Kirk uses the former King of the Cage champion’s constant forward movement against him and takes the fight to the canvas. Both fighters are accomplished grapplers, so expect to see some high-level scrambles. Kirk could find a late submission, but Quarantillo should show enough grit to reach the judges’ scorecards in a decision defeat. Unfortunately for Kirk, the effort likely fails to earn him a contract in the UFC.
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