By Caoilte de Barra
The 2022 season of Dana White’s Contender Series got underway on July 26 and IMMAF alum Anton Turkalj made his long-awaited appearance on the show. The Swede was scheduled to compete on the show last year. However, visa issues put a halt to his plans.
One year on, Turkalj made the trip to Las Vegas to end over a year of inactivity by taking on Brazil’s Acácio dos Santos in a light heavyweight contest. His last outing, in April of last year, saw him record a thirteen-second spinning back fist KO at BRAVE CF 50.
The four-time IMMAF medalist was training with UFC contenders Alexander Gustafsson and Khamzat Chimaev in preparation for the match-up.
Heading into his Contender Series bout, Turkalj was the favourite, having not lost in his pro career to date. As an amateur, the GBG MMA representative enjoyed plenty of success too. He medalled in each competition he entered, including a European gold medal in 2017.
Despite impressing in the grappling department, it was not the outing Turkalj would have hoped for. “The Pleasure Man” had finished all of his opponents in his previous seven bouts but was made dig deep and ended up going all three rounds with dos Santos.
The 26-year-old had some success in the striking department and attempted some flashy shots, but his grappling gave him the edge. Over three rounds, he landed nine takedowns and utilised the dominant position by threatening with submission attempts and mixed in some strikes on multiple occasions.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to impress UFC boss Dana White, who awarded Joseph Pyfer the only contract of the show. However, it was a welcome return for Turkalj, having sat on the sidelines for almost fourteen months, patiently waiting for his opportunity.
Although he didn’t get a UFC contract, we could still see Turkalj in the promotion soon if an opportunity arises. A contract would see him join the host of former IMMAF talent currently making waves in the UFC. The next IMMAF alum scheduled to compete in the Contender Series is Viktoriya Dudakova, another undefeated European gold medalist. She will take on Maria Silva on the August 30 episode of the show.