Dana White’s Contender Series 40 Odds & Picks

Dana Whites' Contender Series - MMA Cage - Hand Holding Money

This week’s DWCS has five fights and four undefeated fighters. The headliner is between Dobson and Arkhaga, a match that promises two power punches trading shots center ring.

I’m looking forward to the first appearance of Michael Morales. Even if he doesn’t win the contract the first time through expect this young man to get a second shot at a UFC contract.

We’re seeing fighters from Jungle Fights, Caged Fury, LFA, and more gather for their chance to compete for a UFC contract against up-and-coming fighters from New Jersey to Kazakhstan. I’ve been hitting three of six and three of five fights called for the last two DWCS events. After some intense fight tape study, I’m confident this is our best betting analysis on DWCS yet!

Let’s get started with the main event and work back to the first fight on the card.

Middleweight – Hashem Arkhagha vs AJ Dobson

Hashem Arkhagha

AJ Dobson





2 submission, 4 TKO
1 submissions, 3 TKO

The very first thing to note is that the majority of AJ Dobson’s fights have been at welterweight. AJ has the right height for a middleweight, and his last bout was in November of 2020 in the middleweight division. His last fight at welterweight was a decision win over Montrel James in what looked like a weight cut gone wrong for AJ.

AJ is fighting out of famed lifting gym Westside Barbell and is the only MMA fighter claiming the affiliation.

Hashem has also been inactive since defeating Yuri Fraga, a 13-12 fighter out of the UAE. There is some disparity in talent between the fighters put away by AJ Dobson and Hashem. Here are the current records and fight teams of their last three bouts side by side.

Hashem Arkhagha
AJ Dobson

13-12, Trator
4-2, Blackhouse

9-6, Gorilla Warfare
11-18, American Top Team

5-8, no team
2-5, No Team

You can see they’ve both fought inconsistent fighters, but Dobson has put away a Blackhouse kickboxing representative with a TKO, that’s no easy task.

In Hashem’s last fight, he showed good jab and rear leg kick mechanics. He landed some seven jabs in the first two minutes of the bout with Fraga. He also showed some impatience. When Hashem smelled blood, he swung for the fences, winging punches clear over the head of Fraga.

He regained his composure, stalked Fraga down, throwing no attacks for almost a full minute, then landed a beautiful double-jab, right cross combination that slept Fraga. It was a convincing display of power and the presence of mind to calm down mid-competition.

AJ Dobson is nothing less than a powerhouse. He switched stances to land a rear left hook that knocked out Khallin Hill in thirty-five seconds, a one-sided bout that had Hill landing zero significant strikes while Dobson landed close to a dozen.

Dobson’s style:

His style is patient, straight hands and leg kicks out in mid-ring, and flurries of knees and hooks whenever an opponent circles the cage. It’s straightforward, but his accuracy and power are undeniable.

In his submission win over Wesley Golden, he finished the fight in 24 seconds with a choke. I can’t find video for the bout, but despite the losing record Wesley has decent BJJ and several submission wins.

Prop bets for the bout include over/under 1½ rounds at -130/-115. This is a tough call because they’re easily the most talented opponent either fighter has faced. They could choke and finish early or come with a longer fight strategy.

I’d be concerned betting this or the fight does/doesn’t go to decision of +280/-400. It’s clear that the oddsmakers see a finish. The fighters only have a single decision between them.

I pick AJ Dobson.

If it’s a battle of power, it will just come down to the better chin. Dobson has better striking mechanics and seems more athletic overall. I’ll be anxious to see how their grappling matches up or if Hashem is more privy to the ground game than expected.

Lightweight – Michael Morales vs Nikolay Veretennikov

Michael Morales

Nikolay Veretennikov





1 submissions, 9 TKO
0 submissions, 7 TKO

Nikolay is a 31-year-old from Kazakhstan and none of the major fight stats sites know his age or fight team. His Instagram shows he’s training at King’s MMA in Huntington Beach, California. He’s competed primarily in Fury FC and LFA.

Nikolay is a wushu/sanda stylist. Meaning that he’s looking mostly to strike. He throws many unorthodox techniques, such as the toe jab, a teep leading with the toes pointed into the ribs, and spinning heel kicks.

Nikolay has been active, fighting twice this year already in March and May against quality opponents. His three-round fight with Steven Jones in March 2021 showed that his defensive wrestling leaves something to be desired. Jones was rocked once in the fight but controlled the majority of the time. I feel Jones won that fight 2 rounds to 1.

Michael Morales is yet another import from the growing Central American fight scene. He’s finished ten of his eleven fights against a slightly lower quality of opponent and has only fought once this year.

Michael is patient.

He knocked out an October 2020 opponent with an uppercut from range after four minutes of not much more than distance management. He took only one strike in the 4:15 bout. Morales has serious head movement and understanding of range fighting. His 6’3″ frame puts him on the end of punches and kicks that come up short at welterweight.

At lightweight, I think he could be a force. He’ll have to deal with much better grapplers than he’s faced in Central America, but Nikolay will not be that opponent.

Prop bets for the bout include over/under 1½ rounds at -155/+125. I’m tempted to bet the over due to the patient style both men display. Yet they both have sub-two-minute TKO’s in the last three fights. Veretennikov wins by decision is a prop at +310, so with his favorite status, we can assume they’re fairly sure of a finish.

I pick Michael Morales at +195.

Nikolay has faced better fighters, but I don’t think he fared that well against them. If not for his TKO of Anthony Ivy, I’m not even sure Nikolay Veretennikov would stand a chance. Unless one of these men has a grappling game I don’t know about, Morales will outpoint Nikolay.

Featherweight – Steven Nguyen vs Theo Rlayang

Steven Nguyen

Theo Rlayang





3 submissions, 3 TKO
1 submissions, 3 TKO

Steven Nguyen is getting a second chance with DWCS after being knocked out with a flying knee in Season 3, Episode six by Aalon Cruz. Nguyen was a -160 favorite against Cruz and a -400 favorite in his last win over Jorge Juarez in LFA.

Nguyen has fought varying levels of fighters. His submission wins are all chokes, none of those wins are over submission specialists by any means, with all three submissions coming over fighters who’ve been submitted multiple times.

Nguyen’s three knockout victories have come over the last five fights, putting away fighters with even 1-1 and 4-4 records. Theo is his toughest test since Aalon Cruz, but arguably not a more difficult opponent.

Theo Rlayand is fighting out of Greensboro Judo in North Carolina, but this is a bit of sleight of hand. He’s been training at AKA with Khabib’s team for several months and hasn’t reported the fact to any major sports stat sites.

Theo has only fought fighters with losing records but has three finishes in under two minutes.

Theo has some serious heart. His five-round amateur title bout had him knocked down three times before coming back to win the fight by TKO in the fifth. A stunning performance. Rlayang’s most interesting bout was the decision win over Dave Morgan. Theo shows composure, but his overhand right from outside the pocket gets him taken down several times. He wins the bout by decision, dominating the third with ground strikes and top control.

Steven Nyugen’s striking has become something of a spectacle. His cross is sharp, and his defensive boxing is lightyears past Rylang’s.

He also seems to have a significant reach advantage. I feel that unless the AKA camp has vastly improved the takedowns of Theo, there isn’t much of a chance against Steven Nguyen.

Prop bets for the bout include over/under 1½ rounds at -155/+125. With so many first-round finishes the under is tempting. We have to remember that Theo has a serious chin, and Nguyen is the better striker. I do see Theo coming out with intensity, having seen the Aalon Cruz performance.

I pick Steven Nguyen at -190.

The $0.53 per dollar wagered payout is worth this up-and-comer. Theo is untested and needed a couple more quality opponents before a jump to the big show. Nguyen looked like he improved after the Aalon loss, and I expect big things at featherweight, and possibly bantamweight from this small but scrappy sprawl and brawl style fighter

Flyweight – Kleydson Rodrigues vs Santo Curatolo

Kleydson Rodrigues

Santo Curatolo





1 submissions, 4 TKO
1 submissions, 5 TKO

Santo Curatolo is a slight underdog, being knocked out by 5-2 Albert Trujillo at the end of the second round on October 30th, 2020. That setback was quickly remedied in his July 3rd, 2021 knockout win.

All of Santo’s fights have been for CFFC, and the promotion hasn’t made it easy on him. He fought tough flyweights like James Mancini and 2-1 knockout artist Elgun Khanoghlanli. The trouble with flyweights is that there aren’t very many of them in the sport, so they’re all talented and fight one another two early in their careers.

Please Note:

Kleydson Rodrigues is from Nogueira Team. The Brazilian has spent his last two bouts in Jungle Fight, a promotion that has put him up against 7-1 Eduardo Silva. Silva has finished every opponent except for his loss against Kleydson.

Kleydson hasn’t shied away from competition, either. He lost his second pro fight by split decision to Ervani Melonio who is now 19-4. Some of Kleydson’s wins are pure padding, like his win over the 0-9 Dyllan Nascimento, but most are quality fighters.

Kleydson’s last performance against Silva showed him utilizing advanced ground and pound tactics, grabbing both ankles and passing them for the strike, baiting the armbar to land short elbows, and using the head to create hand separation for the strike. These are the kind of tools pros in later career stages struggle with. His stand-up is aggressive, and he landed a spinning elbow that knocked Silva down. In the end, the rear-naked choke came mostly from exhaustion from Silva.

Santo Curatolo is clever as well. He landed a head kick knockout similar to the Yves Edwards head kick of Josh Thompson, starting with back control and freeing the opponent to set the strike.

In many bouts, Santo displays his high-quality wrestling. He wrestled in high school and has taken down the majority of his opponents at least once. I do believe that Santo has the advantage in power. It will be interesting to see what Kleydon can do against a fighter with some wrestling pedigree, as most Brazilian athletes come from Judo or BJJ.

Prop bets for the bout include over/under 1½ rounds at -130/+100 and Fight does/doesn’t go to decision at +160/-210. This implies that the MMA betting sites see a late finish, an oddly specific claim on their part.

I pick the Under at +100.

It isn’t clear to me who will win the bout. The $1 per dollar wagered turn is nice, especially considering all but one of Santo’s fights and all but three of Klydson’s fights fall into the under category. That’s 71.5% of all fights going to the under prop between the two fighters.

Lightweights – Jacob Rosales vs Victor Martinez

Jacob Rosales

Victor Martinez





2 submissions, 5 TKO
0 submissions, 8 TKO

Jacob Rosales was knocked out in his first DWCS appearance vs Jonathon Pearce and has since gone 2-1. His last bout was a decision win over Jose Martinez in January.

In DWCS, Jacob held a 50% striking accuracy against Pierce but was caught clean in the third round. His loss to the LFA’s Bryce Logan is no shame. Logan has lost three bouts in Bellator but has been on a tear in the LFA and smaller organizations.

Logan was repeatedly taken down by Bryce and showed upper body grappling and muscular endurance as a real weakness. Jacob hasn’t been TKO’s outside of DWCS, and Victor doesn’t show much in the way of grappling talent.

Victor Martinez has been submitted twice by mid-level opponents and finished half of all his fights by knockout. He’s on a six-fight win streak, knocking out three opponents of his last four within two rounds.

Victor’s last loss was in 2016 against 14-5 Erick Gonzales of Fight Science. Victor was also submitted by DWCS alum Jose Flores. Flores has been submitted twice by the same choke in two DWCS appearances. I’m not confident in Victor’s BJJ defense, and I think he’s been lucky to not fight more wrestlers. His last opponent, Luna, had four submission victories on record. However, Luna couldn’t take Victor to the ground and proceeded to stand and trade shots with the knock out specialist.

Victor has a stalking striking style, wading into the clench to deal short shots to the jaw. In most of his bouts, it isn’t wild hooks that do his work. It isn’t sharp, technical boxing either. It’s a strange kind of power that comes from short, accurate hands from fighters that move into range for him.

In the Niko Echeverry fight, Victor fell due to a kick and reversed it by baiting a guillotine choke. Later in the fight, Niko had a near RNC from back mount.

Jacob Rosales is a forward-moving pressure fighter, which on some level will play right into the hands of Victor Martinez. Victor has the tendency to knock out talent that refuses to respect his power. Jacob’s ground game is excellent from bottom, but he hasn’t shown a willingness to go after submissions from top position aggressively.

I’d like to see Jacob’s coaches working on a game plan to finish Martinez from the ground, and I think his team at Erik Paulson’s CSW is smart enough to figure that out.

Prop bets include over/under 1½ rounds at -115/-115. I’d have to agree, it could go either way. Martinez wins inside the distance is +250, which is a great bet if all Jacob wants to do is stand and trade.

I pick Jacob Rosales at -160.

The $0.63 per dollar wagered payout is decent for a fighter that really should take this match with relative ease. That said, I know Jacob’s a bit of a wild card. If his coaches can’t convince him to work the ground game offensively it’ll be a long night.

That’s it for DWCS Season 5, Week 4! Tell us what you think about this preview. Is it going to be the first week I break 60% prediction on DWCS?

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Author: Anita Thomas