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The latest season of Dana White’s Contender Series has provided weekly entertainment -- with bone-crushing knockouts, slick submissions and back-and-forth wars -- while supplying the Ultimate Fighting Championship with a new wave of talent. A total of 26 UFC contracts have been awarded across the first eight weeks.
The show returns for Episode 9 on Tuesday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, as 10 more prospective mixed martial artists seek their breakthrough. A closer look:
After a brief stint on Season 27 of “The Ultimate Fighter” saw him defeat Suman Mokhtarian before being removed from the competition due to injury, Steele finally returns to action. The undefeated professional has not competed since February 2016 because of his inability to stay healthy. He is a karate expert who picks apart his foes from distance. “The Karate Kid” is elusive, using tons of movement and stance switches to keep his opponents guessing. He has fast hands and works behind an active jab. His kicks are his strongest weapon, attacking all areas of the body with various techniques. The 31-year-old will occasionally mix in a takedown and is difficult to take down himself. Once on top, the Idaho native usually sits in his opponent’s guard and slices away with elbows. The Combat Fitness team member lacks fight-ending power and does not have a single stoppage victory on his 5-0 record.
Caracappa enters the Contender Series as one of the most promising prospects in MMA. The current Ring of Combat bantamweight champion has compiled a perfect 8-0 mark thus far and has defeated some talent fighters, like budding talent Tommy Espinosa and UFC veteran Louis Gaudinot. “The Hitman” is a cardio machine whose constant forward pressure is difficult for most fighters to overcome. The New Jersey native is not the most technical striker -- he has the tendency to drop his hands and throws punches from his hips -- but dispatches wild haymakers and is starting to develop his power. The Dante Rivera BJJ team member is a solid wrestler. He can get takedowns from outside entries or clinch trips and throws. Caracappa loves to get around the hips of his opponents before lifting them into the air and sending them crashing down with a slam. He is difficult to take down because he has excellent hip control and excels in scrambles. If he is taken down, he struggles to escape from the bottom if his shoulders are pinned against the canvas. His top game is his best skill set, as he smothers his opponents with top control and unleashes a high volume of ground strikes.
This is a strong fight to kick off the card. Both men are talented enough to reach the UFC at some point. Steele will need to keep moving and not allow Caracappa to cut off the cage and get in his desired fighting range. With Steele being out of action for so long, it is difficult to trust him enough to pick him to win. Expect Caracappa to secure several takedowns while following up with ground strikes. He wins a lopsided decision and earns a UFC contract.
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