Make it an even 30 new fighters for the UFC this summer. Season 3 of Dana White's Contender Series concluded on Tuesday night in Las Vegas with three more prospects earning contracts and another walking away with the evening's most effusive praise.
The UFC deals went to unbeaten middleweight Dusko Todorovic, lightweight Peter Barrett and featherweight TJ Brown. But it was Impa Kasanganay, a 25-year-old middleweight from Charlotte, North Carolina, who began training just last year and turned pro in 2019, that made the most eye-opening impression on the UFC president.
As the biggest underdog on the card, Kasanganay (6-0) took it to Kailan Hill from start to finish on the way to a clear unanimous decision.
The UFC's return to China features a strawweight division championship fight, one that fans in Shenzhen have been anticipating for several months.
Zhang Weili, who is 19-1 and fights out of Beijing, will look to take the title from Jessica Andrade in Saturday's main event.
UFC Fight Night: Andrade vs. Zhang
• Saturday, Shenzhen, China
• Prelims: ESPN, 3 a.m. ET
• Main card: ESPN+, 6 a.m. ET
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Kasanganay's inexperience did not show much in the fight, as he kept things basic while Hill was trying to throw flashy techniques at him in an attempt to score the highlight reel finish. Impressive performance aside, in White's view, Kasanganay is too young in the game to bring him into the UFC.
"This kid is the future," said White. "I believe that this kid is going to be top five and possibly a world champ someday. He just needs more experience.
"I just think that right now, for him, he wants to fight five times this year -- I can't do that for him," he continued. "But he can do that in smaller shows."
Impa Kasanganay absorbs a kick from Kailan Hill and takes him down to the canvas in Round 1. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc
Among the contract winners, it was another middleweight, Todorovic (9-0), who had the most dominant performance. The 25-year-old out of Belgrade, Serbia, did not please White with his clinch-heavy game, but he had Teddy Ash pressed against the cage for so much of their bout that the Canadian might have a chain-link impression on his back.
It was the first time going the distance for Todorovic, who came in off of three straight first-round finishes and was fighting without his typical team in his corner due to visa issues. He controlled Ash, a veteran of 19 pro fights, for much of the 15 minutes.
"Every fight, I try to take what my opponent is giving me, but Teddy is just a beast, a warrior," Todorovic said. "He didn't give me nothing but a good fight."
The evening opened with Brown (14-6) persevering through a difficult start, which included a point deduction due to an illegal knee, to take over his featherweight fight with Dylan Lockard and eventually get a third-round arm triangle choke.
"I'm not a quitter," said Brown. "The reason I've had this success is perseverance and never quitting. I've seen a lot of rocky times."
Brown, who fights out of Arkansas, was dropped in the opening seconds by a big right hand from Lockard and appeared wobbled for the rest of the first round.
"TJ got clipped early, recovered immediately, dominated the rest of the fight," said White.Peter Barrett earned his UFC contract and hopes to be part of the upcoming UFC card in Boston in October. Jeff Bottari/DWCS LLC/Zuffa LLC
Handing out the third contract put a smile on the UFC president's face. After watching Barrett get beaten to the punch -- and kick -- for the entire first round, then turn things around against South Korean striker Sang Hoon Yoo and win a unanimous decision, White could not deny the 33-year-old from Plymouth, Massachusetts.
"I have a feeling that if I don't pick Peter Barrett there's gonna be a hit out on me in Boston and I can never go back again," said White.
The night's other fight was a short one. Heavyweights Ben Sosoli and Dustin Joyson were just 2 minutes, 8 seconds into Round 1 when Sosoli poked Joyson in the left eye with his thumb, leaving the Canadian unable to see out of the eye. The accidental foul left the referee no choice but to declare the bout a no contest. White mentioned that he would consider giving Sosoli another shot at a future episode of Lookin' For A Fight.