Best Bets for Contender Series Week 9: How to Bet This 17-year-old UFC Hopeful
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC. MMA bantamweight Raul Rosas Jr.
- Dana White's Contender Series returns on Tuesday night with the Week 9 event.
- In the co-main event, 17-year-old Raul Rosas Jr. looks to impress and secure a UFC contract.
- Liam Heslin breaks down that fight and his other best bets for the ESPN+ fight card.
After several seasons and so many iterations of the show, it's hard to imagine many “firsts” that have yet to take place on Dana White's Contender Series.
One such first will be had on this week’s edition when 17-year-old professional fighter Raul Rosas Jr. gets his opportunity to secure a UFC contract. “El Nino Problema” will look to bring his own problem-child ethos into a stacked bantamweight division.
It's one of five fights on the Tuesday-night card (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+), so let's break down some of my favorite betting angles beginning with the first fight of the night.
(And don't forget that you can track your DWCS bets in the Action App.)
Flyweights: Roybert Echeverria vs. Jafel Filho
Getting us started in the flyweight division are two hungry 20-something up-and-comers looking to establish themselves in the ranks of the UFC’s most wide-open male division.
Roybert Echeverria is a Venezuelan representative from Goat Shed MMA in Las Vegas. He comes highly touted by his coaches, other professional fighters, and the Titan FC organization, which has been grooming him for a leap-up in competition.
Jafel Filho, on the other hand, has much less of a star quality about him, but his technique and skill are undeniable, and he posses more than double the professional experience (13-2 vs. 7-0) and a TKO win over talented prospect Vinicius Salvador, who punched his ticket to the UFC by stopping Shannon Ross earlier this season via strikes.
For Echeverria, the competition has been quite meager overall, but past fight commentators often stated that finding people willing to compete against him was not easy.
This is a matchup that pits two proven finishers against one another; 17 of their 20 combined pro wins have come by stoppage. Echevarria trains with good grapplers, but he prefers to stand, strike and unleash big power and chopping low kicks. He has four wins by knockout and one win via submission while Filho has eight wins by sub and four KOs.
I expect this to be a closely fought bout that could go either way, but I understand why Filho is favored. However, Filho looked more sucked out from his weigh-in and a bit uncomfortable on the scales, so I will be taking a flier on the underdog to win by finish.
Prediction: Roybert Echeverria def. Jalel Filho via TKO – Round 2
Bet: Roybert Echeverria Inside the Distance (+300)
Bantamweights: Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Mando Gutierrez
The co-main event of the evening features the aforementioned 17-year-old phenom, Raul Rosas Jr.
He's tasked with taking on Murcielago MMA prospect Mando Gutierrez, a staple of the well-regarded LFA promotion who competed tooth and nail with another Contender Series winner (not signed) in Mo Miller.
Miller was able to hurt Gutierrez early, survive some submission scares, and eventually secure his own rear-naked choke from the back. Rosas Jr.'s tape shows he is very active in pursuing his takedowns, passing the guard, looking for dominant positions, and searching for the finish. Occasionally he has to scramble or defend a submission from his opponents in guard, but to this point, he's looked confident and competent doing so despite his age.
I believe that Rosas Jr. – while still developing and clearly imperfect – does show talent beyond his years and a poise that will be necessary for him to defeat grown men at his current station in life.
I expect this fight to be a scramble-fest while it lasts, and we may see multiple deep submission attempts from both athletes. If that is the case, I can’t ignore one of my favorite prop markets, “fight to end via submission.” When you have two athletes who will both grapple willingly and extensively, the chance for a submission becomes exponentially higher.
In fact, sportsbooks are placing a premium on the Rosas submission line, offering only short plus money between +135 and +175. However, if you target the fight ends by submission prop, you sacrifice only 35 to 75 cents, and you cover yourself in the instance that Rosas Jr. gets tapped in an errant leg-lock exchange.
Prediction: Raul Rosas Jr. def. Mando Gutierrez via submission – Round 1
Bets: Raul Rosas Jr. wins Inside the Distance (+120) | Fight Ends by Submission (+100)
Middleweight: Leon Aliu vs. Brunno Ferreira
That brings us to the main event of the evening, where we will see a European hopeful with Albanian and Italian roots, Leon Aliu, take on the latest undefeated prospect out of Brazil, Bruno “The Hulk” Ferreira.
Neither athlete has challenged himself against a particularly exemplary field of competition, but both have proven to be capable finishers with all 18 of their combined victories coming inside the distance.
Aliu secured a big knockout victory over James Webb in the first round of Cage Warriors 138 in May, affording him this opportunity on Contender Series despite being just 2-1 in his last three bouts (he dropped a decision to 8-2 Chad Hanekom in Brave FC).
As for Ferreira, it is obvious why he was wanted for a Contender Series fight card this season. He has six wins via first-round stoppage, and no fight has seen the third round.
Ferreira is the justified favorite in this spot because of his dynamism, his clear power, his Brazilian jiu-jitsu credentials, and his status as an undefeated fighter. However, with a +200 comeback on his opponent, who has demonstrated an ability to fight all 15 minutes, I will be very cautious approaching a steep chalk moneyline in the main event when anything can happen with Tuesday-night Contender Series MMA.
Ferriera’s style is a bit kill-or-be-killed, and while he hasn’t been caught yet inside the cage, past results are not always indicative of future performance. I consider this a dog, prop, or pass situation at current numbers. I was also tempted by the over 1.5 rounds offering (+125) but ultimately passed.
Prediction: Leon Aliu def. Bruno Ferriera via TKO – Round 2
Lean: Small bet on Leon Aliu (+220) or pass