Dana White's Contender Series 13: Grading the winners, including Maycee Barber and Austin Vanderford

Dana White’s Contender Series 13 took place Tuesday in Las Vegas, and we’re grading the winners from the five-fight card, which streamed on UFC Fight Pass from The Ultimate Fighter Gym in Las Vegas.

With a refreshing but digestible format that has fans of the sport responding, this series has shown to have legs beyond its summer seasons while serving as a crockpot for contenders whom the UFC matchmakers can use for future events. With that trend in mind, I’ve decided to take a look at the winning fighters regardless of whether or not they won a UFC contract while grading their performances in regards to their probability of returning to a UFC stage.

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Edmen Shahbazyan

Weight class: Middleweight

Result: Edmen Shahbazyan def. Antonio Jones by first-round TKO

Grade: A

Summary: Once again, with the format of this series seemingly rewarding fast finishes, I find it hard to give Edmen Shahbazyan anything short of an A.

Performing in the pressure cooker of The Ultimate Fighter Gym in front of Dana White and UFC matchmakers is a task in its own, and it is hard to hate on Shahbazyan for storming out of the gates to finish an equally hungry fighter in Antonio Jones. Coming from a base in both grappling and Shotokan karate, Shahbazyan – the Edmond Taverdyan-trained fighter – showed to make his money with his hands, slinging hooks and uppercuts once finding his range.

Jones immediately went into survival mode, swinging back wildly at his opponent, but Shahbazyan proved to be too much for the 34-year-old fighter who is also a full-time member of the U.S. military. Shahbazyan, perhaps because of the trends on past shows, seemed to remain high on most people’s power rankings, but if you’ve been following my fight analysis, then you know that I usually tend to temper the excitement for a fighter that ultimately provides little in sample size.

Shahbazyan – though appearing well-rounded with a decent skills ceiling and athletic upside – is still just 20 and has barely been past the three-minute mark of the first round in his pro career (which comes against the strength of opponents with a combined record of 21-45 prior to tonight). Shahbazyan’s camp, Glendale Fighting Club, has experience when it comes to producing young talent, but it also has felt the effects of rushing a product to market.

With that said, I was one of the few who was somewhat surprised to see Shahbazyan rewarded a contract, which will now thrust him into a UFC middleweight stable that seems to get deeper by the month.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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