MMA Junkie’s 2022 Newcomer of the Year: Raul Rosas Jr.

Raul Rosas Jr.’s entire professional MMA career pretty much unfolded in just one calendar year.

“El Niño Problema” made his pro debut in November 2021, but following that, everything that Rosas Jr. (7-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) built in MMA came under the cover of 2022.

From accumulating a 5-0 record in the regional scene, to earning a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series, then making a successful UFC debut – the grand majority of Rosas Jr.’s career went down in 2022.

It’s a wild reality, and one that’s made even more extraordinary by the fact that all of his work was done as a teenager, still three years away from being able to legally buy a beer.

It’s unknown how intentional or planned was this rise, but what’s undeniable, is that Rosas Jr. was in a hurry to get to success, charging head on to stardom.

Rosas Jr.’s first order of action in 2022 came towards the end of March. He competed in his second professional MMA fight, quickly submitting Joel Peña in just 54 seconds.

And from there, it was all gas, no breaks. The Mexican-American fought every month until the UFC came calling. Rosas Jr. competed in April, May and June, submitting all of the opponents put in front of him at Ultimate Warrior Challenge in Mexico.

After putting together a record of 5-0 with all finishes, Rosas Jr. got the call to fight for a UFC contract at Dana White’s Contender Series in September. The Nevada Athletic Commission was hesitant to regulate a fight with a 17-year-old, but after some consideration, Rosas Jr. got the green light to fight.

That night at the UFC Apex, Rosas Jr. made sure the NAC didn’t regret its exemption. He dominated 25-year-old Nando Gutierrez en route to a unanimous decision win. And with that, Rosas Jr. was in the UFC at just 17, making him the youngest fighter to sign with the promotion.

Rosas Jr. would go on to turn 18 in October, and two months later in December, he was making the walk to the octagon. Wearing a sombrero and slapping the hands of the fans while “El Mariachi Loco” played inside the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Rosas Jr. entered his UFC debut with all the confidence in the world.

And as promised, Rosas Jr. did what he knows best. He took down his opponent Jay Perrin, got the back, and submitted him with a rear-naked choke – making history once again, but this time as the youngest fighter to win inside the UFC. It was a phenomenal scene.

It’s impossible to look back at the most remarkable and historic moments of MMA in 2022 and not mention the arrival Rosas Jr.. This talented prospect took the MMA world by storm and quickly established himself as a known name in the minds of MMA fans, and one that could be in many future headlines. There hasn’t been anything quite like Rosas Jr.’s story, and that’s why he’s MMA Junkie’s 2022 Newcomer of the Year.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie