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UFC 282 - New Blood: Youngest UFC fighter ever, a weathered veteran and more

Dana White’s Contender Series: Rosas v Gutierrez Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Seven fight cancelations have left UFC 282, which takes place tomorrow night (Sat., Dec. 10, 2022) inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, in a weird place; however, the vacancies opened the door for some enterprising newbies. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series that is either a fun diversion or a nightmare for me depending on how many newbies get the call, we check out five fighters with just five losses between them.

LIVE! Watch UFC 283 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

UFC’s 2023 PPV DEBUT! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) kicks off its New Year pay-per-view (PPV) campaign on Sat., Jan. 21, 2023, with a battle for the vacant Light Heavyweight crown between former champion and No. 2-ranked contender, Glover Teixeira, looking to stop the momentum of surging No. 7-seeded up-and-comer, Jamahal Hill. In the co-main event of UFC 283, which will take place inside Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, one of the greatest rivalries in promotional history resumes as Flyweight kingpin, Deiveson Figueiredo, battles interim belt keeper, Brandon Moreno, for a fourth (and likely final) time.

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Raul “El Nino Problema” Rosas Jr.

Weight Class: Bantamweight
Age: 18
Record: 6-0 (1 KO, 4 SUB)
Notable Victories: Mando Gutierrez

Rosas turned professional at 17 after a pair of first-round finishes as an amateur and continued his efficient ways by stopping his first five opponents in less than two rounds apiece. He needed to get the judges involved in his Contender Series win over Mando Gutierrez, but still impressed enough to become UFC’s youngest fighter.

With all due respect to Chase Hooper, I can safely say that Rosas is not another Chase Hooper. There are certainly some similarities: he’s also a swarming, almost frantic grappler with great guard passing, but a tendency to get ahead of himself and lose position. The difference is that Rosas can actually wrestle. Indeed, he has an excellent double-leg takedown — fast, powerful and technically sound. Even if he does end up falling over the top a lot when he takes the back or rushing his submission attempts, he’s more than capable of dragging things right back into his world.

That said, he could definitely serve to slow things down a bit. More than once he’s tried to posture up for ground-and-pound and left enough room for his opponent to squirm free, and he’s not great at staying on the back unless he can wrap up a body triangle. He’s a good enough scrambler to work out of bad positions, but it’s always better to avoid those positions in the first place.

As far as defensive wrestling, Gutierrez did manage to hit a trip on him, so it’s unclear whether he can impose his will on higher-level grapplers.

He’s much more green on the feet. Leading up to that fight with Gutierrez, he was largely content to just pump his lead right hand as a distraction for his double-leg, but he did engage a bit his last time out with low kicks and one-two combinations. While he showed a seemingly inadvisable fondness for some wilder techniques — including a jumping spinning back kick that nearly caught Gutierrez flush — he seemingly used them as set ups more than anything. He immediately latched onto Gutierrez’s leg for a takedown after slipping on that kick and used a flying knee feint to set up an easy double-leg.

It’ll do against guys he can consistently take down, but he’ll need to sharpen his hands into a genuine threat. Also, he needs to move his head much more — Gutierrez caught him with some nasty right hooks and might have had Rosas in some trouble had the former not decided to take him down instead.

I’d rate Rosas as right at the threshold for “UFC-ready.” His wrestling-based approach means he likely won’t take as much damage as Hooper as he develops, so letting him try his hand against some lower-tier 135ers in the Octagon seems safe enough. Still, the Bantamweight division is a shark tank, so they’ll want to slow-walk him until his physical maturation and striking can catch up.

His debut foe, Jay Perrin, is a very stiff test. While he’s winless (0-2) in the Octagon, he’s got great cardio, good striking and a strong wrestling game of his own. I favor Perrin in this one, though Rosas is improving quickly enough to still be a threat.

Tape: Some of his recent UWC bouts are on Fight Pass.


Erik “King” Silva

Weight Class: Featherweight
Age: 35
Record: 9-1 (3 KO, 4 SUB)
Notable Victories: Anvar Boynazarov, Edgar Garcia Cabello

Silva — who hasn’t tasted defeat since his second professional fight — tore through Lux Fight League with four first-round submission wins en route to claiming its Featherweight title. He was similarly dominant on Contender Series, where he stopped Anvar Boynazarov via ground-and-pound in just 92 seconds.

There’s only so much analysis I can do on a man who hasn’t seen the second round since 2018, but I’ll give it a shot. The announcer in one of his recent fights called Silva a kenpo karate fighter, and you can definitely see the influence in his standup. He likes to circle from a fairly square stance, picking away with heavy calf kicks, the occasional front kick, or a quick straight from either hand. He’s generally composed and effective, though he can get a bit sloppy if he’s got his man hurt.

That’s largely just a set up for the real star of his game: his grappling. He’s got strong wrestling fundamentals, completing shots well and driving through for the finish if the initial level change doesn’t do the trick. As Laura Sanko said on Contender Series, his strategy on the ground is to stay heavy and chip away with hard punches and elbows until opponents give up their backs trying to escape, usually after wedging them against the fence. He can deal some seriously impressive damage with his elbows. For example, he had Edgar Garcia Cabello bleeding violently from both sides of his head in a matter of minutes.

His recent wins were too dominant to make any clear assessment of his weaknesses outside of that bloodlust I mentioned, but I do think he lacks an X-factor that could make him a contender in his mid-30s. Core competence and middle-of-the-road athleticism aren’t enough for a fast-track to the belt. He’ll beat people he can out-wrestle, at the very least, and that should include debut foe T.J. Brown. “Downtown” is a massive underachiever with serious durability issues, so while he has the skills to potentially out-class Silva, I don’t see him surviving long enough to do so.

Tape: His Lux Fight League bouts are on Fight Pass.


Vinicius “Fenomeno” Salvador

Weight Class: Flyweight
Age: 26
Record: 14-4 (13 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Shannon Ross, Tarcizio Gomes

“Fenomeno” bounced back from a 1-3 skid to score three consecutive knockouts, earning himself a spot on Contender Series. There, he put on one of the show’s best-ever fights with Shannon Ross, ultimately knocking out the Aussie late in the second stanza.

The bite-sized description of Salvador is, “improv artist with bricks for fists.” He’s ultra-loose on the feet, keeping his hands low and his chin high as he throws whatever technique comes to mind. He seems committed to throwing at least one rabona leg kick per fight and is equally willing to throw out Saenchai-style cartwheel kicks or flying knees.

Where he’s truly dangerous, though, is when he lets his hands go. Besides the remarkably sharp straight left that he should use more and add a jab to, he swings big, nasty hooks from the hip with little regard for his well-being. Slow though they are at times, they pack enormous power, and he also does a good job of mixing in body shots.

The issue is, predictably, defense. He’s got solid reflexes and doesn’t get hit as often as it seems like he should when he’s trading in the pocket, but his head can stop moving when he lets his hands go and he brings those hands back at his waist. Ross hit him with most of the right hands he threw, both as counters and when forcing Salvador to retreat in a straight line. Salvador still got him out of there after backing himself to the fence, which he’ll do as a taunt, but this just isn’t sustainable.

His last two losses came on the ground, and while those were more than three years ago, it’s worth mentioning. Rafael Costa took him down fairly easily and ultimately finished Salvador with a d’arce. Before that, Salvador managed to spin to his feet once, but failed to do so a second time. With how aggressive he is, going for his hips seems like a good plan.

Salvador’s raw horsepower could make him a problem at 125 pounds, though he’ll need to make some real defensive adjustments if he wants to be a player. He’s still got time to do so, but he might not even need it in his debut. As talented as Daniel da Silva is, he just keeps finding ways to lose and I expect much the same here. Salvador should be able to weather his best shots and short-circuit him like he did Ross.

Tape:


Cameron “MSP” Saaiman

Weight Class: Bantamweight
Age: 21
Record: 6-0 (4 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: Josh Wang-Kim, Sindile Manengela

After putting together a perfect (5-0) amateur career that kicked off at just 14 years old, Saaiman jumped right into South Africa’s venerable EFC promotion, ultimately claiming its Bantamweight title with a June 2022 decision over Sindile Manengela. Less than three months later, he claimed a UFC contract by viciously knocking out Josh Wang-Kim on Contender Series.

Saaiman is Dricus Du Plessis’s understudy and it’s not hard to see the influence. He stalks forward in a square stance, shifting whenever the fancy strikes him, and spends his time on the outside ripping powerful low kicks with either leg or firing assorted spinning nonsense. When he commits to punching, he puts everything behind them, though he shares “Stillknocks’” bizarre ability to go 100 percent without ever getting tired. He’s not just good on the front foot, either, boasting good timing with his counters.

He also shares several issues with Du Plessis, though. Besides throwing low kicks from punching range and being super open to body kicks because of his stance, he really telegraphs his attacks, either with step-ins or big, dramatic stance switches before throwing. This, combined with the amount of forward momentum he generates, means any counter sent his way will both connect and hurt like hell.

That said, he did seem to tighten up a bit as the fight with Wang-Kim progressed. He showed more of a jab and some better combination work inside, which ultimately earned him that gnarly knockout. I’m not saying he needs to lose the wildness, but he’s clearly more effective when he girds it with sound fundamentals.

I’m unfortunately short on tape to properly analyze his grappling, as EFC declined to make his title fight with Manengela easily accessible. He apparently struggled early with Manengela’s wrestling before taking over late, which tracks with what footage I did see. He did manage to use the fence to stand when Wang-Kim tripped him down and showed off impressive elbows from the top against Roevan De Beer two fights back, so he clearly knows what he’s doing on the mat, but it’s unclear whether he can stand up to UFC-caliber ground artists.

He’s definitely got a lot of potential and should produce some excellent slugfests during his Octagon tenure. I’d say he’s fortunate that original debut foe, Ronnie Lawrence, pulled out, though, as Lawrence’s relentless takedown attack would have given him fits. While I can’t say much about Steven Koslow because of lack of tape, he’s a lot less experienced than Lawrence and tends to end fights early, so I’d favor Saaiman to survive some early ground troubles to take over down the stretch.

Tape:


Steven “Obi Won Shinobi/The Pillow” Koslow

Weight Class: Bantamweight
Age: 25
Record: 6-0 (6 SUB)
Notable Victories: None

Koslow bounced back from defeat in his first amateur by winning 10 in a row. He’s been similarly effective in the professional ranks, stopping each of his opponents in the first round.

He steps in for the aforementioned Lawrence on little more than one week’s notice.

Full disclosure: I can’t find any mixed martial arts (MMA) footage of Koslow more recent than his second professional fight in July 2019 that isn’t behind a $24.99/event paywall. Combat Night tends to post a good chunk of its fight videos on YouTube, but either declined to do so with Koslow or deleted them for some reason.

Also, I genuinely do not know whether he’s got two nicknames or one extremely ungainly one.

What I have been able to determine is that he’s a 10th Planet brown belt and very adept on the mat. Though it took him a couple tries to get Jonathan Ortiz down in that one publicly available fight, he did some solid damage with punches and elbows while working his way through Ortiz’s guard. His transition from side control to mount to triangle choke, which earned the tap late in the first, was buttery-smooth.

He’s got a lot of amateur experience and a strong grappling base, so as long as his takedowns are up to snuff, he could do well for himself at Bantamweight. I just don’t have enough data to make a definitive prognosis, and I do think Saaiman’s pace and power could be more than Koslow can handle.

Tape:


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 282 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard (on ESPN2/ESPN+) at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 282: “Blachowicz vs. Ankalaev” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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