There was only room for one.
Phil Rowe stood out on Season 3, Episode 9 of Dana White’s Contender Series, as he was the only competitor awarded an Ultimate Fighting Championship contract on Tuesday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. UFC President Dana White commended the efforts of the other four winners -- Jamal Pogues, , Mallory Martin and Ricky Steele -- but elected to pass on bringing them into the fold.
A Fusion X-Cel standout, Rowe overcame a difficult start to stop Leon Shahbazyan with punches in the third round of their welterweight clash. Shahbazyan (7-2) bowed out 16 seconds into Round 3, closing the book on his three-fight winning streak.
Rowe (7-2) hit the deck on the end of a right uppercut in the first round but withstood the Glendale Fighting Club rep’s subsequent advances, cleared the cobwebs and looked like a new man in the middle stanza. He trapped Shahbazyan along the fence, battered him with punches, eventually moved into top position and assaulted the 23-year-old with elbows and hammerfists in the waning seconds of Round 2. If not for the bell, Rowe likely would have finished it there. Nevertheless, the damage was done and the one-minute respite between rounds was not enough for Shahbazyan. Rowe pushed him back with right hands at the outset of the third round, melted him with punches and forced referee Herb Dean to intervene.
Rowe will carry a seven-fight winning streak into his UFC debut.
A California Cage Wars champion, Pogues leaned on takedowns, ground-and-pound and fast-twitch combination punching, as he laid claim to a unanimous decision over Parana Vale Tudo prospect Marcos Brigagao in a three-round light heavyweight tilt. Pogues (7-2) carried the scorecards with 30-27 marks across the board.
Brigagao (11-1) had no answer for the weapons his opponent brought to bear. Pogues powered the Brazilian to the floor over and over again, dodging the occasional submission attempt while piling up points with short punches. The Joe Stevenson protégé not only mauled Brigagao on the mat but flexed his superiority in the standup exchanges, smashing him with straight punches from both hands.
Still just 23 years old, Pogues has pieced together a three-fight winning streak since his June 2018 submission defeat to Jordan Young.
Repeated takedowns, positional control and adequate ground-and-pound carried Martin to a unanimous decision over Micol DiSegni in a three-round women’s strawweight confrontation. All three cageside judges scored it for Martin (5-2): 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
DiSegni (7-3) enjoyed some success in the standup exchanges but failed to main distance and too often found herself pinned to the canvas. Martin, 25, struck for takedowns in all three rounds and floated between side control and half guard while feeding the Jackson-Wink MMA representative a steady diet of punches and elbows.
An Invicta Fighting Championships veteran, Martin has rattled off four consecutive victories.
Jackson-Wink MMA’s Garcia put away Desmond Torres with punches and elbows in the first round of their bantamweight scrap. Torres (7-2) succumbed to blows 4:35 into Round 1, his five-fight winning streak having run its course.
Garcia (10-3), who missed weight for the match by 3.5 pounds, exploited his physical advantages against the much smaller Team Oyama export. He cracked Torres with a left uppercut, followed with a partially blocked knee strike and swarmed the 22-year-old, ultimately forcing him to the mat. From there, Garcia uncorked punches and elbows until the job was done.
Garcia has won three fights in a row, but his inability to make weight proved costly.
Finally, Steele (6-0) eked out a split decision -- 28-29, 29-28, 29-28 over Ring of Combat champion Phil Caracappa (7-1) in a three-round bantamweight affair.