Dana White’s Contender Series began back in 2017. Since then, the Contender Series has produced some big-name upcoming stars like Dan Ige, Sean O’Malley, Geoff Neal, Maycee Barber, and Edmen Shahbazyan. In short, it has been a huge success.
A Contender Series fight is one that has stakes like none other, where fighters must showcase their skills to impress the UFC president enough for a contract with the promotional giant. Holding the Contender Series with a smaller cage inside the UFC Apex venue makes for a tense atmosphere, and with only close friends and family of the competing fighters in attendance as spectators. Emotions always run high, as a limited amount of contracts can be given out on any given night, and many fighters can potentially have their dreams snubbed out solely because of bad luck.
In rare cases, however, a fighter gets a second look. This series will examine those.
For this week, the first week back for the Redemption Series of 2021, we will be looking at a recent The Ultimate Fighter participant that is getting his “second chance” on the Contender Series.
Mitch Raposo (5-0 MMA)
Age: 22 years old
Weight Class: Flyweight (125lbs.)
First DW’s Contender Series Fight TUF Fight: 2021, TUF Season 29 Old DW’s Contender Series TUF Opponent: Liudvik Sholinian (9-2-1) Second DW’s Contender Series Fight: 2021 (Week 7)
New Opponent: Jake Hadley (7-0 MMA)
First DWCS TUF Fight
Mitch Raposo didn’t have a first fight on the Contender Series, instead, his first shot trying to get on the UFC roster came in the form of competing on The Ultimate Fighter Season 29. Mitch Raposo impressed both coaches Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega with ‘Coach’ Volkanovski using his very first pick to select Raposo.
Raposo entered the show looking like the next generation of fighters. Sporting a perfect 5-0 pro MMA record and a 6-0 amateur record with two titles, Mitch was one of the most well-known prospects entering the show.
Raposo didn’t have to wait long to fight on the show, with his bout taking place on just the second episode of TUF Season 29. Raposo got a tough draw as he fought a much larger man, but during the first round of the bout he was able to stay on the outside and pick apart his opponent. Raposo has excellent footwork/technique and blinding speed so he was able to utilize these to stick n’ move for essentially the entire first round.
Unfortunately for Mitch, the second round would not go as smoothly for him and his game plan as the first. After about half the round with everything going to plan, Mitch’s opponent finally succeeded in walking him down and securing a takedown. Even though Mitch’s opponent didn’t land many strikes, Raposo was absolutely smothered on the ground and outclassed in the grappling department. Mitch’s opponent was able to maintain top control and even got his back at one point.
After it was determined that the fight would be going to a third round (TUF fights are only two rounds, and if judges rule a draw then a third round takes place), Raposo was able to stop a shot in the open but was eventually taken down against the cage. And though Mitch fought hard, ultimately, his scrambles were in vain the end of the bout saw his opponent holding top control to get the unanimous decision victory.
In his fight on The Ultimate Fighter Season 29 Mitch Raposo took on ‘Coach’ Brian Ortega’s third pick, Liudvik Sholinian. Coach Ortega was the one to pick this match-up which is an important factor to note. Liudvik is a nightmare match-up for anyone on the smaller side at bantamweight, especially while applying steady pressure with his 5’10” height and 71″ reach. In fact, Sholinian has fought professionally at as high as 155lbs although he mostly competes at bantamweight.
Liudvik won the national championships in wrestling in Ukraine and entered the TUF Season 29 tournament with a pro MMA record of 9-1-1.
Liudvik went on to lose a unanimous decision to the eventual bantamweight winner of TUF 29, Ricky Turcios, in the semifinals of the show.
After TUF 29 Liudvik got a shot in the UFC in September when he took on 14-0 Jack Shore, losing a unanimous decision.
Gameplan/ New Opponent
For Mitch’s fight on the Contender Series he will be facing Jake Hadley. Jake Hadley, much like Mitch, has ample MMA experience, as he enters the bout 7-0 as a pro and 6-2 as and amateur. Jake, much like Mitch’s TUF opponent, Liudvik Sholinian, is the bigger man and huge for the flyweight division at 5’7″ with a 68″ reach — and actually missed weight for the bout, coming in at 127lbs.
Hadley has had all of his pro MMA fights at 125lbs, while this will be Mitch’s first pro MMA fight at 125lbs. He has competed at a 130lb catchweight in the past.
Realistically, looking at Mitch on paper and most of his film, he is one of the most polished fighters (considering his age and fight history) and looks really solid in all areas of his game. Mitch had a great game plan against his TUF opponent, he just was unable to execute against a larger man that was a wrestling specialist.
Hadley isn’t near that level of wrestling spcialist, but that is the best part of his game along with his submissions. The key for Mitch will be to use his speed and technique to outpace Hadley, piece him up, and avoid being walked down for the big shot or takedown.
For more on DWCS 2021 Week 7, check out our Breakdown & Predictions piece here.