Travis Lizotte "Full Contact Writer"
The Ultimate Fighter made it's highly anticipated return to airwaves last Tuesday night on ESPN+ and as I explained last week; this year's cast is highlighted by two well known New England warriors. In episode one coaches Brian Ortega and UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski held auditions for 8 Bantamweights and 8 Middleweights before a coin toss decided which coach would either pick the first fighter, or the first fight. When the coin came to rest Champion Alexander Volkanovski's side pointed to the rafters of the UFC Apex, and without hesitation Volk selected the first fighter....and his selection; 22 year old Fall River, Massachusetts native; "Killa" Mitch Raposo (5-0, Regiment Training Center).
The other New England MMA representative; fellow Commonwealth resident; Kemran Lachinov (10-3, Team Link) would hear 14 more names called before he was selected with the final pick for opposing team; Team Brian Ortega. The Season's first fight was then in the hands of Brian Ortega, who sent his first Middleweight selection; Andre Petroski (5-1) to the cage against Aaron Phillips (5-1) as Team Ortega looked to take control of the competition early. Petroski ended up making quick work of the self taught Alaskan Phillips, wrapping him up in the first round with a vicious Mounted Guillotine and claiming victory for team Ortega.
With control now in the corner of Team Ortega, Coach Brian Ortega went straight for the jugular, heeding the request of team member Liudvik Sholinian (9-1-1), who according to Raposo's interview had requested to be matched up with the Team Volkanovski first pick based on his size. As fate would have it Brian Ortega called on Team Volk's 5'5" first overall pick, Mitch Raposo for one half of the seasons first Bantamweight quarterfinal fight, lining him up with the "be careful what you ask for;" Liudvik Shalinian when episode two hits airwaves tomorrow night at 9 pm on ESPN+.
Raposo described Sholinian's game as grinding. As his record would indicate, seven of Sholinian's 11 professional fights have come down to the judges decision, while the Ukrainian totes with him three submissions and one knockout on his pro resume. Sholinian should have a pretty big size advantage in this contest as he has spent most of his career north of the 136 pound Bantamweight threshold and will have a five inch height advantage on New England's top Flyweight prospect.
Size, however, is something Raposo has learned to overcome while training on a regular basis with UFC Bantamweight and Featherweight; Rob Font and Calvin Kattar respectfully as part of the New England Cartel team. What Raposo will give up in size he will make up for in speed and naturally gifted ability, out of the eight Bantamweights to spend the summer in the Vegas desert for Season 29, none have a higher ceiling than the uber talented Raposo, who seems to just be scratching the surface of his potential in the MMA game at 22 years old. Tomorrow night Raposo will finally get to show the World what New England MMA and East Coast MMA fans have been experiencing over the last four years during Raposo's 11-0 reign of domination over New England Bantamweights.
Raposo looks to launch his prospect status into another stratosphere tomorrow night on ESPN+ as episode two of Season 29: The Return of the Ultimate Fighter is broadcast to your favorite smart device starting at 9 pm Eastern.