Dana White’s Contender Series is back this week with a couple of in-season returnees as well as potentially the best fighter on the card, J.P. Buys, who lost on the show over 3 years ago.
He was still a kid then but the South African appears to be all man now.
We also have Sherrard Blackledge, a former training partner of mine at Syndicate MMA taking on Tucker Lutz. Both men were victorious earlier in the season but failed to make enough of an impression on the boss for him to sign either man to a contract.
I have spent countless hours on the mat with Sherrard and don’t think he is just an athletic specimen. This guy is also very cerebral. Don’t give him time.
See, that’s something I don’t mind either. If my opponent is still for a bit and gives me time to set something up, I’m going to take advantage of it. That was my strategy against Sherrard until I realized that it wasn’t helping my cause very much giving him time.
Well, that’s the difference between being a top contender or just getting by. Sherrard was pressured in his last fight and he needed his offensive wrestling to win him the fight against the aggressive Cameron Church.
Chelsea Hackett is another fighter to watch out for on the Contender Series.
She is a professional Muay Thai striker and, guys, let me be perfectly clear. Pro Muay Thai is another level. Yes, that sounds redundant but there are plenty of UFC fighters who are essentially bad strikers.
When they put time in with a legit pro Muay Thai fighter, there is a massive gap in skill. The most skillful and difficult fighters I’ve ever sparred against were mostly professional in Muay Thai.
This should be a very exciting card. The books have juiced some of the favorites I like kinda heavily. Let’s see if there is any value there on the straight picks and if not, we will pump up the pool and have a parlay party.
Chelsea Hackett (-230) vs Victoria Leonardo (+185)
Chelsea Hackett is the A-side here. There is no doubt about it. Victoria Leonardo is destined to be a journeywoman and Hackett has some serious Muay Thai skills as I previously over noted.
The only reason she is affordable is that this will be just her 5th professional mixed martial arts fight but you have to take into consideration what we just said about her pro Thai experience.
What I love most about Hackett as an MMA fighter isn’t her Muay Thai skills and that’s coming from a Muay Thai coach. It is her takedown defense that has continually improved throughout her young career that stands out to me.
I want to parlay Chelsea’s monkey and throw a flyer on her to win by TKO. There is a massive gap in skill level on the feet and she is going to need to keep it standing to get the win anyway. So, let’s put a half of a unit on Chelsea to win by TKO for (+350).
Pick: Hackett wins inside the distance
JP Buys (-360) vs Jacob Silva (+300)
JP Buys, the “Young Savage” fighting out of South Africa, is a force! He lost the first fight of his professional mixed martial arts career on the Contender Series back in August of 2017 to a tough fighter, Joby Sanchez.
This was when JP was 21, though, and now he is 24 and that is a big jump. I love him here and nothing against Jacob Silva. He is capable of winning the fight but I don’t see the Brazilian successfully defending the takedowns.
I’m a little torn on whether I think he will get the finish or not. I’m leaning the way of a ground and pound smeshing because this is the Contender Series and JP has been here before.
We are getting dead even money at (+100) for him to get the finish. This is the final episode of the season as well.
Buys has never seen the judges’ scorecards in 10 professional fights.
Pick: Buys wins inside the distance
Sherrard Blackledge (-190) vs Tucker Lutz (+165)
I know he didn’t put away Cameron Church in his first Contender Series fight a couple of months ago but Sherrard is a finisher. The guy is a knockout artist at heart and at his base. He trained Karate before Muay Thai and his lead leg high kick is quiiiiick.
He caught me with it once and I just looked at the coach who was watching closely like: Which one of y’all hit me?
Coach said: Don’t look at me. Look at him. And stop trying to be faster than him. It’s not gonna happen.
I appreciate those words but it still didn’t help me too much with Sherrard. He has added a decent takedown and top control game to his arsenal.
First, he was a KO guy. Then he, of course, had to focus on takedown defense because who wants to get knocked out, right? Now he has upped his volume and he isn’t only looking for the counter.
The wrestling came after that and that is what saved him against the aggressive and durable Church.
Tucker Lutz, on paper, is the worst matchup for a tall long guy like Sherrard who didn’t grow up wrestling. Tucker is a short stocky grinder that is going to be in on the thin legs of Blackledge early and often.
Sherrard has good takedowns for a quickly refined KO artist but I don’t see him taking the man with the much better center of gravity down. Believe me. I really want to pick Sherrard here but at (-190), I have to be honest and say that I think he should be around (-120) maybe.
This is pretty even. Sherrard hasn’t faced a bulldog like Tucker yet in his career. He has in the gym, though. I can promise you that. Blackledge has put in countless hours with many top UFC fighters.
He is well versed and I say let’s throw another flyer out there. If Tucker wins, it will probably be by decision. I don’t see him knocking Sherrard out or submitting him. I’m not saying Blackledge is indestructible but it will likely go to the judges.
The round total betting line is leaning hard that in that direction. Tucker Lutz is (+420) to win by decision. I say throw 1 unit on the moneyline at (+165) and another .5 on him to win by decision.
Pick: Lutz moneyline and Lutz by decision
Chelsea Hackett + JP Buys + Nick Maximov: +126
This is where I want you to put the most units, believe it or not. I know this is a 3-leg parlay and risky, especially on the Contender Series but these are the A-sides all the way.
The matchmakers gave them people they match up great against. Hackett and Maximov’s respective opponents are both physically strong and/or big so that is a concern but not a large one.
Pick: Hackett + Buys + Maximov
Bittersweet for me for a few reasons. I feel like a trader picking against a guy I have traded a lot of bones with who also won me 500 bucks in his first Contender Series fight.
Don’t think this is a sign to go hard on Lutz, though. Some colleagues of mine are on Blackledge all day but in the small cage against a guy who is 26, won 10 fights in a row and has a wrestling and center of gravity advantage…
And here is the kicker. He is at (+190). I digress.
This is the last chance to bet on the Contender Series for a little while. You don’t get a very long time to see the betting odds but it makes for a quick and fun early week race to beat the line moves.
The A-sides are usually pretty clear lately, so I have gone with the favorites mostly but I’m not the only one because the lines can jump pretty quickly in a short amount of time.
So, get those bets into online sportsbook BetOnline ASAP and enjoy the scraps.