September 12, 2023 10:10 pm ET
LAS VEGAS – MMA Junkie was at Tuesday’s Dana White’s Contender Series 62 event at the UFC Apex.
Dana White’s Contender Series cards see prospects fighting for the opportunity to sign a UFC deal, with UFC president Dana White on hand to make the decisions.
The sixth episode of Season 7 saw 10 fighters compete for their shots at UFC contracts. When the dust settled, UFC CEO White offered contracts to all five winners: bantamweight Jean Matsumoto, strawweight Julia Polastri, featherweight Steven Nguyen, heavyweight Jhonata Diniz, and lightweight James Llontop.
The action, particularly through the first three fights, had White and the matchmakers on their feet. White even entered the cage following the conclusion of the opening bout between JeaMatsumoto and Tanner, which was a three-round striking war.
Two losing fighters, Tanner and A.J. Cunningham, were paid their win bonuses for their efforts, according to White.
Full results of Dana White’s Contender Series 62 include:
James Llontop def. Malik Lewis via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
Jhonata Diniz def. Eduardo Neves via TKO (punch) – Round 1, 3:15
Steven Nguyen def. A.J. Cunningham via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:06
Julia Polastri def. Patricia Alujas via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 4:05
Jean Matsumoto def. Kasey Tanner via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Jean Matsumoto vs. Kasey Tanner
Round 1 – They start off exchanging. No time wasted. Matsumoto cranks a few leg kicks. He has an early target. Matsumoto gets aggressive, then circles away. Tanner lands a combination. Matsumoto returns with another low kick. Tanner’s left leg is already noticeably welted. Matsumoto is blasting Tanner’s lead leg. Tanner switches stances briefly but as soon as he returns to orthodox another leg kick lands. Matsumoto switches it up with some high kicks to perhaps keep Tanner honest. Tanner clinches Matsumoto and drives him into the fence. Matsumoto tries to reverse and Tanner tries a trip. Matsumoto remains standing and they separate. Tanner charges in and misses on some combinations. Tanner clinches Matsumoto against the fence and absorbed some Matsumoto punches. Referee Herb Dean warns Matsumoto about shots to the back of the head as the round ends. 10-9 Matsumoto.
Round 2 – Matsumoto catches a low kick from Tanner and shoves him backward. Matsumoto goes back to targeting the leg as Tanner lands some body punches. Matsumoto lands a punching combination and connects on another leg kick. They trade punches and leg kicks. Tanner initiates another clinch and Matsumoto reverses. They separate and Tanner rips the body. Tanner jumps in and Matsumoto rips a punching combination to the head. Matsumoto goes for a high kick. Tanner tries a stepping elbow. Tanner lands a multi-punch combination and follows it up with a head kick. This stretch is perhaps the most success Tanner has had in this fight. Matsumoto goes back to the leg kick. He lands multiple. Tanner shoots and lands a takedown. After a few moments on the ground, Matsumoto gets up against the fence. Tanner lands a hard combination as the round ends. 20-18 Matsumoto.
Round 3 – Matsumoto starts the round with multiple multi-punch combinations. Tanner breathes and stands his ground. They trade leg kicks. Tanner lands multiple body kicks. Those looked like they hurt. Tanner bounces around and moves forward, only to eat a Matsumoto combination. They clinch and break. Tanner shoots for a takedown but Matsumoto stuffs. Tanner lands a knee on the way up. Matsumoto cranks Tanner with a left hand. That got the biggest reaction out of Tanner this fight. Matsumoto increases his volume and Tanner shoots. Matsumoto again stuffs the attempt. Matsumoto lands a combination that’s topped off with a standing knee. Tanner is so tough, man. He’s absorbed so much and continues to move forward. Tanner shoots for a takedown and gets it. He’s in half guard. Matsumoto slides him into guard. Tanner is trying to land big ground-and-pound but Matsumoto ties up his arm. Tanner nearly moves into side control but Matsumoto scrambles up. The round ends as the two fighters trade. What a fight. UFC CEO Dana White is in the cage after the fight to congratulate both fighters. You don’t see that very often. MMA Junkie scores it 29-28 Matsumoto.
Result: Jean Matsumoto def. Kasey Tanner via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Records: Jean Matsumoto (14-0), Kasey Tanner (6-1)
Referee: Herb Dean
Patricia Alujas vs. Julia Polastri
Round 1 – The ladies are up next. Simultaneous jabs land from each fighter. Alujas connects with a slick one-two. Polastri’s hands are so low. It looks like a swagger/confidence thing, but that might end up proving unintelligent. Polastri lands a combination and backs Alujas up. Both women open up. Alujas lands a slick combination and Polastri fires back. Polastri lands a leg kick and runs forward on an attack. Alujas escapes and smiles but not before she eats some punches. Polastri connects with a high kick. Alujas lands two standing elbows. We love those around here. They separate. Polastri puts her hands down and cracks her neck before reengaging. Alujas connects. They clinch and break. A hard right connects for Polastri. Alujas lands a spinning backfist. Both fighters land flurries but Polastri seems to get the better of them before the round ends. These two have picked up where Matsumoto and Tanner left off. 10-9 Polastri.
Round 2 – Polastri pushes the pace early. She lands a big knee among a flurry of strikes, then plants Alujas to the canvas with a big takedown. Polastri uses strikes to swing to the back of Alujas on the mat. Alujas tries to stand up but is anchored down by Polastri, who lands big knees to the thigh. Alujas can’t get up. Polastri goes with hammerfists and punches as Alujas tries to crawl her way up. Polastri briefly threatens an arm-triangle choke but she’s more on the back. Polastri pounds away, then tries for a rear-naked choke. The arm appears to be under the chin – and there’s the tap. What a fantastic performance by Polastri. Both of the fights so far tonight have been fantastic! Dana White is up on his feet cheering.
Result: Julia Polastri def. Patricia Alujas via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 4:05
Records: Patricia Alujas (9-3), Julia Polastri (12-3)
Referee: Jacob Montalvo
A.J. Cunningham vs. Steven Nguyen
Round 1 – Cunningham (who is a “cousin” of Bryce Mitchell) comes out with a stepping side kick to the leg. He’s really aggressive. Cunningham lands a combination. Nguyen catches a Cunningham kick and Cunningham hits the deck. It almost looked like Nguyen landed a right hand that caused the knockdown, but it was a balance issue. They clinch and separate. Nguyen lands a counter combination and Cunningham returns. Nguyen seems to be wearing some damage under his right eye. Nguyen looks like the more polished striker of the two by a mile but Cunningham has landed the more damaging shots thus far. Cunningham rips to the body. Both fighters land to the other’s head. These guys are swinging and landing. Nguyen’s nose is bleeding. They’re brawling. Cunningham accidentally goes low and a timeout is called with about 10 seconds left. The action resumes and Nguyen absolutely demolishes Cunningham with a two-punch combination. Cunningham goes face down and Nguyen blasts him with two more, but the horn sounds. Referee Mark Smith didn’t stop the fight. So we’re moving to Round 2. Cunningham staggers to the corner. Wow. Madness! 10-9 Nguyen.
Round 2 – Cunningham appears to be back with it – sort of. He comes out a lot slower and more labored. His face is battered. Cunningham shoots for a single leg and Nguyen easily slides out. Nguyen looks a lot more confident as he lands a combination. Cunningham is still alive, though. He lands three consecutive combinations. Nguyen snaps his head around with a jab. A counter left by Nguyen lands. Cunningham marches through a combination. He’s a zombie right now, which is both good and bad. Cunningham shoots and Nguyen stuffs him. Cunningham stands directly upright and eats a combination. Nguyen is unloading but Cunningham won’t go down. In jumps referee Mark Smith to save him from further damage. Good stoppage. That was going on gnarly brain damage territory. Nasty beatdown by Nguyen.
Result: Steven Nguyen def. A.J. Cunningham via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:06
Records: A.J. Cunningham (10-3), Steven Nguyen (9-1)
Referee: Herb Dean
Eduardo Neves vs. Jhonata Diniz
Round 1 – Big boys up next. Will the excitement be amplified with a big finish o will the night come to screeching halt? Let’s find out. Neves comes out kicking, which seems surprising considering the kickboxing credentials of Diniz. Neves falls over on a spinning kick attempt. Diniz whiffs on a big punch. Neves taunts him signaling that wind went by his face. Diniz whiffs on a head kick. Neves gives the same reaction. Neves lands a combination and gets wild. He jumps right into the pocket and lands on Diniz. Confidence is not lacking on Neves’ end. Diniz leaps in with a big combination. Diniz lands and Neves is wobbled. Neves retreats and Diniz cranks him as his back hits the cage. Neves goes down and pops up. Diniz continues his rampage and one-punches Neves, who goes down like a starfish in the center of the cage. That’s it! A walk off KO!
Result: Jhonata Diniz def. Eduardo Neves via TKO (punch) – Round 1, 3:15
Records: Eduardo Neves (7-2), Jhonata Diniz (6-0)
Division: Women’s strawweight
Referee: Jacob Montalvo
Malik Lewis vs. James Llontop
Round 1 – They throw and miss. Lewis grabs hold of Llontop, who reverses him into the fence. They trade knees in the clinch. On the break, Llontop connects with an elbow. Lewis throws a kick and shoots for a takedown. He drags Llontop immediately to the canvas. As Llontop scrambles up, Lewis tries a guillotine choke. Llontop pops his head out and pushes Lewis into the fence again. They separate and Lewis sprints at him, winging punches. Lewis slips and Llontop dives into his guard. Llontop immediately moves to side control but Lewis scrambles and grabs hold of Llontop. As Llontop gets up Lewis takes him down. Llontop pops up. They grapple along the cage. Lewis lands a loud elbow and tries a takedown but Llontop denies. Lewis wildly wobbles after a Llontop punch but it seemed like an attempt to bait him in. Lewis cracks Llontop with a LOUD kick to the body. Ouch. As the 10 second clacker sounds, Llontop sends Lewis running backward with a big overhand right. That may have been the biggest strike of the round. I think that punch stole the round. 10-9 Llontop.
Round 2 – The pace has slowed significantly here in Round 2. There has been a fraction of the volume. Lewis lands a punch and tries for a single leg. Llontop remains standing as Lewis drives him into the fence. Llontop reverses him. On the break, Llontop tags Lewis with a combination to the head. As Lewis’ guard comes up, Llontop drills him with a kick to the body. Lewis almost goes down but hangs tough. Llontop lands more before they hit the canvas. Lewis is on the bottom, but this is not necessarily a bad thing for him. He’s going to get some time to recover. Well, at least in theory. Llontop is landing elbows, so many that referee Mark Smith gives Lewis a warning to move. Lewis moves and Llontop continues to land short shots. Smith warns Llontop about strikes to the back of the head. Lewis is doing just enough to hang in here. He pushes off the cage with his feet and Llontop takes his back. Lewis turns into Llontop and absorbs a knee to the body. Lewis gets to his feet just as the round ends. 20-17 Llontop.
Round 3 – Lewis looks somewhat fresh, surprisingly. They trade leg kicks. They’re flinging powerful hooks. None of those landed but if one did someone’s lights likely would’ve gone out. Llontop lands an elbow that sits Lewis down. Lewis threatens a triangle and gets up to his feet. They exchange on the break. Lewis runs at Llontop with a combination. Wild and sloppy. They trade. Llontop lands another standing elbow combination that sits Lewis down. Deja vu. Lewis tries his trick of pushing off the cage but this time it doesn’t work. Llontop lands short pitter-patter shots. Lewis shoots for a triangle again. Llontop passes and works to the back. Llontop briefly threatens a rear-naked choke. Lewis gets up and slings leather as the horn sounds. MMA Junkie scores it 30-26 Llontop.
Result: James Llontop def. Malik Lewis via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
Records: Malik Lewis (6-2), James Llontop (14-2)
Referee: Herb Dean
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