Contender Series 2023 Tidbits: Week 7

Shamil Gaziev (Bahrain) v Greg Velasco (USA) (Heavyweight)

In 2019, Shamil Gaziev remarkably obtained the IMMAF Asian, African, and European Open Amateur Heavyweight titles. Turning professional in 2020, Gaziev has since amassed a 10-0 professional record. In his most recent bout, Gaziev competed in the co-main event of BRAVE CF 69, defeating former UFC athlete Darko Stošić; Gaziev dropped Stošić with a devastating uppercut before securing the first-round TKO victory. Hailing from Dagestan, Gaziev represents Bahrain, training out of KHK Team Bahrain in the Bahraini-capital, Manama. From his ten professional bouts, Gaziev has only gone the distance once – in 2022 at ARES FC 7; Gaziev dominated Russian opponent Kirill Kornilov in the first round, but the bout was a much closer contest in the second and third rounds. Gaziev won the bout via split decision, with scorecards of 29-28, 28-29, & 29-27, and remains the only athlete to defeat Kornilov professionally.

On October 8th 2022, Greg Velasco secured the Heavyweight Championship of Cage Fury Fighting Championships in the main event of CFFC 113, following a dominant unanimous decision victory over Kevin Sears. Velasco successfully defended the championship in the co-main event of CFFC 117, following a second-round TKO of undefeated Ronald Coleman. Hailing from Union Beach in New Jersey, Velasco trains out of The Institute and Bayshore Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and currently holds a 6-0 professional record. Velasco boasts a decorated wrestling tenure from his time at Keyport High School, becoming both a 3 x District 22 Champion and 2 x Regional Champion; he also set the record for most victories in Keyport High School history. Subsequently earning a full scholarship to Rider University, Velasco would later return to Keyport High School as an assistant wrestling coach for three years.

JaCobi Jones (USA) v Daniel James Allen (USA) (Lightweight)

Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, JaCobi Jones moved to Colorado in 2014 to attend Colorado State University Pueblo. It was after defeating Contender Series 2023 Week 10 athlete Marquel Mederos in an amateur bout, however, that Jones would eventually train out of Factory X in Englewood, Colorado; Mederos invited Jones for sparring at Factory X after their bout, and Mederos remains one of Jones’ main training partners to this day. Jones made his professional debut in 2021 at LFA 103; the same card Contender Series 2023 Week 2 contract winner Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady competed his lone LFA bout. Currently holding a 6-1 professional record, Jones has fought his entire professional career with LFA, entirely against American opponents. In the main-event of LFA 158, his most recent bout, Jones became the seventh LFA Lightweight Champion, with victory over Jean-Paul Lebosnoyani.

On 18th March 2023, Daniel James Allen returned from an 855-day hiatus with a thoroughly dominant performance at Zhong Luo Cage Fighting Series 7, earning an unanimous decision victory over Luis Vargas with scorecards of 30-26, 30-27, & 30-26. Hailing from Bellflower, California, Allen trains out of American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose. Following a dominant professional debut at San Franciscan-promotion Dragon House in 2019, Allen competed in consecutive events for Mexican-promotion Ultimate Warrior Challenge in 2020. At UWC 23, Allen dominated Iván Maya in a bout he dedicated to his Father, who had tragically passed away due to COVID-19. At UWC 24, Allen knocked out professional debutant Ivan Burgos in just 17 seconds. Allen enters Contender Series 2023 holding a 4-0 professional record.

Stephanie Luciano (Brazil) v Talita Alencar (Brazil) (Strawweight)

After defeating Aline Oliveira on her Jungle Fight Championship debut at Jungle Fight 111, Stephanie Luciano was informed immediately after the bout that she would compete for the Strawweight Championship in her next bout; that was despite the fact Luciano missed weight for her promotional debut, weighing in at 52.9kg for the 52kg bout. Successfully making weight for her championship bout at Jungle Fight 112, “Rondinha” secured the Strawweight Championship after defeating then 5-0 Karina Aryadne via unanimous decision. Training out of Gordin Fight Team in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Luciano currently holds a 5-1 professional record. Luciano notably competed at LFA 111 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, LFA’s first international event; she shared that card with Contender Series 2023 Week 1 athlete Lucas Fernando, Week 6 athlete Eduardo Neves, and Week 9 athlete Rodolfo Bellato.

Replacing Stephanie Luciano’s original opponent Fabiola Pidroni, Talita Alencar will compete her fifth professional MMA bout on Contender Series. A six-time IBJJF World Champion, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt currently holds a 4-0 professional record that includes three submission victories with Floridian-promotion Titan FC. Hailing from Carutapera in the Brazilian state of Maranhão, Alencar currently trains out of MMA Masters in Hialeah, Florida. In her most recent bout, Alencar made her LFA debut at LFA 156 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Matching up with Kelsey Arnesen, Alencar went the distance for the first time in her professional MMA career, earning a dominant unanimous decision victory with scorecard of 30-26, 30-26, and 30-27.

Dylan Mantello (USA) v Kaynan Kruschewsky (Brazil) (Lightweight)

A member of the renowned Serra-Longo Fight Team for seven years, Dylan Mantello trains out of LAW MMA and Serra Brazilian Jiu Jitsu; it was only a move away from New York to study at Louisiana State University, however, that Mantello originally ventured into combat sports. Undefeated as an amateur, Mantello currently holds a 7-2 professional record that includes two instances of competing against the same opponent twice. Mantello twice fought John Ramirez for the Ring of Combat Lightweight Championship; after losing to Ramirez in 2021, Mantello would avenge the loss in 2022 to become Ring of Combat Lightweight Champion. Mantello also defeated Dennis Hughes at both Ring of Combat and Eagle FC. In his most recent bout, Mantello spectacularly earned a tremendous comeback victory on his Cage Fury Fighting Championships debut, against Charlie Alexander; after getting dropped earlier in the round, Mantello submitted Alexander via guillotine choke, with just one second to spare of the first round.

In the co-main event of Jungle Fight 113, Kaynan Kruschewsky survived early adversity against opponent John David to become the Lightweight Champion of Jungle Fight Championship, winning via fourth-round guillotine choke submission. In his most recent bout, Kruschewsky successfully defended the championship in the main event of Jungle Fight 115, defeating then 5-1 Thierry Lucas via fifth-round TKO. Originally from Salvador, Bahia, Kruschewsky trains out of Revira Black Team in São Paulo. Kruschewsky has competed once for LFA, earning a thunderous highlight knockout of Junior Luiz at LFA 112. Holding a 14-1 (1 NC) professional record, Kruschewsky is undefeated in Brazil; his lone professional loss was against then 9-0 Aleksi Mäntykivi in Helsinki, Finland. Kruschewsky competed for French-promotion ARES Fighting Championship in 2022, in the main-event of ARES FC 4 against Damien Lapilus; Kruschewsky lost the bout via unanimous decision, but the result was later overturned to a no contest due to a drug violation by both athletes.

Igor da Silva (Brazil) v Jhonata Silva (Brazil/Italy) (Flyweight)

In only nine months, Igor da Silva built a 4-0 promotional record with Brazilian-promotion Jungle Fight Championship that culminated with the Flyweight Championship; an achievement made more remarkable by the fact da Silva was just 19 years old at the time of his championship win. During his Jungle Fight Championship tenure, da Silva delivered Davi Souza his first professional defeat; Souza (then 5-0) was returning from a no contest bout with Contender Series 2023 athlete Felipe dos Santos. Hailing from Juruti, Pará, da Silva trains out of Chute Boxe João Emilio in Bauru, São Paulo. 20-year-old da Silva, who currently holds a 7-0 professional record, hasn’t competed since his aforementioned championship-winning bout with Jungle Fight Championship; his bout with Jhonata Silva will be his first in 388 days.

On March 24th 2023, Jhonata Silva returned for his first professional bout in over 3 years and 10 months at Cage Warriors 151: Unplugged in London, England. In an entertaining flyweight matchup with Stipe Brčić, Silva claimed a third-round knockout with a vicious knee; Silva notably weighed in at 122.7lbs for the bout – 3lbs lighter than his opponent. A former sparring partner of José Aldo, Silva has trained out of Nova União in Rio de Janeiro. However, as announced by his current gym on Instagram in September 2022, the Carioca relocated to Italy, and now trains out of American Top Team Italy. Holding an 8-1 professional record, Silva avenged his lone professional loss to Yan Teixeira less than a year later, in a rematch that served as a championship bout for Brazilian-promotion Shooto Brasil.

(Image courtesy of @AlexBehunin on X)

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