Contender Series: Short notice isn’t an issue for Natan Levy, one of three fighters to earn a UFC contract


The UFC added three new athletes to its active roster on Tuesday, including an undefeated Israeli featherweight who accepted a fight this week on just five days’ notice.

UFC president Dana White signed featherweight Natan Levy, lightweight Nikolas Motta, and strawweight Luana Pinheiro to exclusive contracts on Tuesday, during Dana White’s Contender Series at the Apex facility in Las Vegas. With the addition of those three contracts, the UFC has signed 33 athletes during this season of the Contender Series — the most in a single season of the series’ history.

Levy (6-0) was particularly impressive, in that he accepted a 160-pound catchweight bout on extremely short notice. The Las Vegas resident usually competes at 145 pounds, but was willing to face a much bigger opponent in Shaheen Santana for the opportunity at a UFC contract. Levy dominated the bout en route to an arm-triangle submission at the 55-second mark of the third round.

“Natan Levy has our lawyers and our Hollywood agents going crazy right now. These guys have been waiting for a guy from Israel who is really good,” White said. “He dominated a guy up in weight class on only five days’ notice, subbed a guy who is 6-0 with five submissions. I look forward to seeing his standup in the UFC.”

Pinheiro (8-1), a 26-year-old prospect from Brazil, also stood out on Tuesday, as she finished Stephanie Frausto via TKO at 2:48 of the opening round. The 115-pound contest got off to a measured start, as neither strawweight looked eager to rush in on the other. When Pinheiro did choose to blitz, however, it proved to be overwhelming, as she floored Frausto with a slick combination.

“Power,” White said. “[To be] 115 pounds, with that kind of power? And what sucks is I didn’t even get to see her judo, but I look forward to seeing it in the UFC.”

Motta (12-3), who was also born in Brazil, rounded out Tuesday’s signings — barely. He and opponent Joseph Lowry went back and forth for three rounds, and Motta had Lowry hurt multiple times. It was a clash of styles, as Lowry looked to move in and out of range with kicks and quick combinations, while Motta sat down on heavy counter shots.

Motta busted up Lowry’s nose with a devastating round of strikes in the second round, but couldn’t secure a finish. That nearly cost him a contract, as White admitted he wondered about Motta’s killer instinct — but ultimately the 27-year-old left the Apex with an invitation to the UFC.

Bantamweight Danny Sabatello (8-1) and middleweight Mario Sousa (11-1) were the two winners from Tuesday who were not offered contracts. A former collegiate wrestler, Sabatello was dominant in a decision win against Taylor Moore — collecting judges’ scores of 30-24, 30-25 and 30-26 — but never came close to a finish. Sousa had a hard-fought decision win over Mariusz Ksiazkiewicz, which White said he actually scored the other way.

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