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 number 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 2023, we will be looking at Paulo Renato Jr.
Paulo Renato Jr. (12-2 MMA)
Age: 29 years old
Height: 6’0″ / Reach: 73″
Weight Class: Light Heavyweight (205lbs.)**
First DW’s Contender Series Fight: 2022 (Week 3)
Old DW’s Contender Series Opponent: Jamal Pogues (10-4)
Second DW’s Contender Series Fight: 2023 (Week 2)
New Opponent: Ibo Aslan (11-1)
First Contender Series Fight
Paulo Renato Jr. had his first fight on the Contender Series on Week 3 of the 2022 season. Prior to the bout, Renato was riding a nine-fight winning streak dating back to just his third pro fight in 2016.
Renato had logged three dominating stoppages over the course of three months and was struggling to find competition on the regional scene before he got the call to be on the Contender Series.
Paulo had a good showing in his first Contender Series fight, showing off his striking in what was a back-and-forth stand-up battle between heavyweights.
However, the entire story of the fight was Jamal Pogues’ jab being too fast for Paulo and his head movement, as he consistently ate the strike throughout the fight.
Paulo was able to land powerful inside leg kicks at will, which is what kept him in the fight and won him round 2 in 2/3rds of the judge’s eyes.
Jamal’s jabs opened up combinations which he was able to take full advantage of with his hand speed in order to pull away from Paulo Renato Jr. on the judges’ scorecards. Paulo also began to fade in the cardio department as the fight progressed losing a unanimous decision 30-27, 29-28 x2.
First Contender Series Opponent
In Paulo’s first appearance on the Contender Series, he fought Jamal Pouges who was 8-3 at the time. Pogues, a fellow redemption alum, was competing for the second time on the Contender Series himself after winning in 2019 but failing to impress the boss with his grappling heavy approach.
Pouges is also a fighter that has had multiple bouts at light heavyweight before settling into the heavyweight weight class.
Pouges has gone 1-1 in the UFC, winning his first bout with the promotion against then 15-5 Josh Parisian, via unanimous decision back in February. He went on to drop his most recent fight against the undefeated, then 6-0 Mick Parkin, at the end of July in another unanimous decision.
Pogues is a loss that has aged okay for Renato Jr. as though he is 1-1 he lost to another young high-level prospect via decision. Pogues is also 6’3″ tall with a 77″ reach as opposed to Paulo’s 6’0″, 73″ frame who has also competed at 170lbs.
The Road Back
Since losing to Pouges just over two years ago, Renato has gone 3-0 in pro combat sports including two wins in pro MMA.
A couple of months after his loss on the Contender Series Renato fought at Revolution MMA 8 in a kickboxing bout against Augusto Cassol. Renato Jr. finished his opponent in two minutes of the first round.
In December of 2022 Paulo scored yet another relatively quick finish when he stopped journeyman fighter, then 20-25, Ricardo Silva just before the end of the opening round.
And earlier this year in March, Renato dispatched then 6-5 fighter, Juecir Neuman in 4:02 of the first round to once again land himself on the UFC’s radar.
Gameplan/ New Opponent
Paulo Renato Jr.’s new opponent for his second appearance on the Contender Series will be 11-1 Ibo Aslan. Aslan stands at 6’3″ tall and has competed at 205lbs for the majority of his professional bouts although he has fought at heavyweight, it has not been nearly as frequently as his upcoming opponent.
The combined record for the opponents Ibo has faced at the time of fighting them was: 47-60.
Since making his professional debut in 2016, Ibo has never heard the final bell, as none of his fights have gone the distance with only two of his fights even making it out of the first round.
This time around, Paulo will be competing at 205lbs instead of heavyweight so that could potentially help him out in the cardio department. This fight will have a blistering and dangerous pace as both fighters are finish artists and it will be important for Paulo to land the leg kick and build off of it.
Much like his opponent, just three of Paulo’s pro fights have gone the distance so expect fireworks.