Raul “El Nino Problema” Rosas Jr, who might have the longest name and nickname combination in the UFC, is an 18-year-old bantamweight making his second walk to the octagon. Rosas made history as the youngest fighter on the UFC roster when he made his debut following a unanimous decision win on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2022. He won his debut via neck crank in the 1st round.
Christian “CeeRod” Rodriguez also won a unanimous decision on DWCS but was not awarded a contract. Instead, he fought once more at NAFC, where he got a first-round submission. Then, Rodriguez made his UFC debut in 2022 where he lost a unanimous decision to the surging JSP. He rebounded back with another first-round submission in October of last year.
Rosas Jr opened just south of a 2:1 favorite but has steadily grown throughout the week.
Rosas Jr is a polarizing figure in the UFC. He is talented, dangerous, and has the physical attributes coupled with a high level of skill that make him a prospect who should shoot up the rankings. However, he is an 18-year-old kid, he is arrogant – he said recently that he could beat Aljo and Yan today – and his hyper-aggressive ground game can put him in dangerous positions at times. His youth, vocal personality, and skills put him as the main card opener in only his second UFC fight.
But, his opponent in this fight is no slouch and Rosas Jr will need to mind his Ps and Qs if he hopes to keep his perfect record. Typically, Rosas Jr looks to wrestle immediately in a fight. His size, 5-foot-9, and length provide him a safe range when he’s forced to strike on the feet but his striking is limited beyond a long reach.
He times takedowns well, often coming off of his own feint or as a counter shot after slipping or dipping off of an opponent’s strike. His wrestling is polished, his physicality is apparent, and his ability to get the fight down versus just against the cage is a significant advantage.
Once on the mat, Rosas Jr personifies the teachings at his gym: 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu. 10th Planet regularly turns out hyper-aggressive BJJ fighters who hunt relentlessly for submission wins. They’re willing to take risks on the mat, sacrifice position for submission, and often find the finish. Rosas Jr embodies that strategy and applies it in his fights. What makes him such an impressive prospect, aside from his age, is that he is a rare fighter who has the wrestling to get an opponent down where he can use that dangerous jiu-jitsu to end a fight quickly.
Rodriguez is aggressive himself. He has a pressure-focused striking attack with a solid right hand. He’s willing to throw wide hooks and heavy overhand strikes, looking for the knockdown or knockout, because, if he overextends, he’ll happily follow his momentum forward to clinch or secure a takedown. Similarly, if an opponent is able to time his wild striking and take Rodriguez down, he’s happy playing off of his back. He has good sweeps and an ability to stay calm against top heavy wrestlers while he looks to reverse position.
Against Pearce, an impressive wrestler who is also a dangerous finisher on the mat, Rodriguez showed poise and patience while he tried to work from his back. Although, in that fight, Rodriguez was unable to find an opening and he was controlled for 11 of the 15 minutes of the fight. Conversely, in his last fight, Rodriguez was taken down again but was able to find an opening, reverse position, and secure his own submission finish. Comfort from his back is a blessing and a curse. Against a lesser grappler, Rodriguez can find success even from poor position. But, against a superior grappler, Rodriguez can be stuck for long periods of the bout.
Prediction and Betting Guide
Because of his arrogance and bold predictions, Rosas Jr is a controversial fighter: some fans love him and others can’t wait for him to lose. So, many in the MMA community are planting their flag on the dog in this fight. I suspect that comes from the angle that Rodriguez is the first real test for Rosas Jr and that Rosas Jr is easy to root against.
While I expect to fade him in the future, I don’t think this is the spot.
Yes, Rosas Jr is green, yes he can make mistakes in the cage, and yes Rodriguez is a step up in competition. But, Rosas Jr is the much better wrestler, the more slick submission ace, and Rodriguez is not much more experienced than Rosas Jr.
Because both Rosas Jr and Rodriguez are both aggressive fighters, I lean Rosas Jr ITD or under 2.5 rounds. However, Rosas Jr has shown a willingness to win minutes in fights where his opponent is tough and Rodriguez has never been finished. So, I prefer Rosas Jr in parlays as a primary bet since the method is less predictive in this fight.
Best Bets: Rosas Jr to win (-225) in parlays and Rosas Jr to win inside the distance (+120)