Raul Rosas Jr made UFC history last night on Dana White’s Contenders Series by becoming the youngest fighter to be signed in the promotion’s history at only 17 years old.
There were plenty of questions about Rosas Jr heading into his DWCS fight since he’s so young and relatively early into his pro MMA career. However, he answered those questions rather quickly with a dominant 30-27 unanimous decision win over Mando Gutierrez to improve to 6-0.
While Gutierrez put on a respectable performance and showed his toughness making it the distance, this fight never really felt like it was particularly close after the opening minutes.
Per ESPN stats from the fight, Rosas Jr landed 3/5 takedown attempts and racked up an impressive 11:55 worth of control time against an opponent who has shown to be pretty competent on the ground himself throughout his career. Rosas Jr also more than doubled the striking output of Gutierrez, and out landed him 91 to 50 in total strikes.
Still at such a young age, Rosas Jr showed some flashes of the unique potential he possesses last night with some very solid moments, including a flying knee level change and threatening to lock up a Suloev stretch early in the fight.
Rosas Jr has a non-stop motor and constantly works when he’s in control on the ground, whether he’s looking for a submission, trying to improve his positioning, or just throwing strikes to open up his opponent for a finish. He also showed impressive poise escaping a couple of guillotine attempts and repeatedly retook control whenever it was lost temporarily.
One of the most impressive things about Rosas Jr might not even necessarily have to do with any one of his particular skills that he displayed inside the octagon, but more so with the incredible aura and presence with which he seems to carry himself at such a young age. He’s extremely confident and was stayed composed during the fight, and clearly didn’t allow the magnitude of the moment affect him at all.
He made an ambitious statement after being signed, saying that he plans on becoming the youngest UFC champion in history. Considering the head start that he currently has to chase that goal, I’m not sure it would be wise to rule it out (Jon Jones holds the current record when he became champion at 23).
Per Aaron Bronsteter on his Twitter account, Rosas Jr was 333 days younger than Chase Hooper when Hooper appeared on DWCS and became the youngest fighter to be signed in UFC history prior to Rosas Jr.
As of now, Rosas Jr will be the youngest fighter in the bantamweight division by 5+ years (Brady Hiestand is 23), and only the 3rd fighter in the division younger than 25 years old (75 total bantamweights listed).
He will be the youngest overall fighter on the roster by 2+ years (Iasmin Lucindo is 20), and the youngest male fighter on the roster by 4+ years (Tatsuro Taira is 22).
Rosas Jr will turn 18 on October 8th, which means he has roughly five years to climb the bantamweight ranks and accomplish his goal of becoming the youngest champion in promotion history. He’s only been a pro since October 2021, so there’s a tremendous amount of potential for even more growth and learning during that time as well.
Now that Rosas Jr passed his first test on DWCS and earned his UFC contract, how should the promotion proceed with him moving forward?
Considering his young age, they could potentially hold off on booking his UFC debut for a bit and let him develop more. However, I don’t think that’s very likely after hearing Dana White’s praise for Rosas Jr after the show last night.
“He is absolutely, positively talented. He’s special. He’s different. At 17 years old you just don’t see kids handling themselves like that,” according to Dana White after Rosas Jr’s victory.
I think they’ll try to get him booked for his UFC debut sometime relatively soon, potentially before the end of the year or very early 2023 at the latest. I would also be surprised if they don’t try to find him a somewhat “favorable” first matchup as they have with other highly touted and younger prospects in the past.
While Dana White’s Contenders Series has been more popular than ever this season in general, Raul Rosas Jr is a massive reason why the show was trending #4 overall worldwide on Twitter last night.
He has the attitude, persona, and skillset to potentially go a very long way in his MMA career and I could definitely see his following from the fanbase continue to grow.
Raul Rojas Jr showed the world last night that the future of MMA is brighter than ever moving forward, and I’m excited to see what he has in store down the road in his UFC career.
Update: Raul Rojas Jr will make his UFC debut at UFC 282 on December 10th in Las Vegas against Jay Perrin.
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