LAS VEGAS — A stiff left hand thudded into Mitch Ramirez’s jaw. The impact pushed his skull down, and caused him to helplessly drop to the floor.
It was all that was needed for novice MMA fighter Carlos Prates to wrap up his win after throwing an array of strikes with such finesse that it impressed Dana White enough to reward the up-and-coming Brazilian with a full-time UFC contract.
From the opening bell, Prates landed kicks to the head, knee strikes to the body that made me grimace on press row, and straight lefts that got closer to closing the show.
Though the final shot earned him a knockout win in the second round of the final fight at a five-bout card Tuesday inside the Apex in Las Vegas, Prates didn’t over-celebrate.
He walked off like a knockout victory was a foregone conclusion, then hit the griddy and mimicked a jump shot.
White enjoyed watching Prates fight so much he compared him to one of MMA’s greatest combatants — Anderson Silva.
The Sporting Tribune asked White backstage to elaborate on the likeness, and the UFC boss listed his movement, calmness, and combinations.
“Just everything about his whole swagger tonight was very old-school Anderson Silva,” White told us.
The former UFC middleweight champion Silva holds the record for longest title reign in UFC history, and ran a gauntlet of tough guys at 185-pounds including Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin, Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, and Stephen Bonnar.
Boxing and MMA promoters are well-versed in hyperbole but White stopped short of saying Prates could fill Silva’s shoes. Prates, White believes, will walk his own path, in his own shoes.
“If you watched the fight tonight, anything is an easy sell with that guy,” White told us.
“He was smooth, slick, violent. Almost everything he threw landed. None of it was wild … f—— smooth is the only thing that comes to mind.
“[It was] absolute pure and smooth violence,” White added. “That man was beautiful, man. Beautiful.”
Prates excelled on the Contender Series show
Just a few miles southwest of the famed Las Vegas strip — the Fight Capital of the World — lies a huge plot of land filled with UFC-owned buildings.
Inside one, at UFC headquarters, is the “War Room” in which fights get made.
On a wall there is a list of fighters on the roster, and color-coded stickers to show where each athlete came from.
“Red is The Ultimate Fighter,” White told The Sporting Tribune and other reporters. “Blue is the Contender Series. And yellow is Looking For a Fight.”
Pretty much the entire wall is a wave of blue, according to White — a testament to just how much of a tear Dana White’s Contender Series has been on, of late.
In 2022, it propelled the careers of key UFC prospects Cameron Saaiman, Raul Rosas Jr., and Bo Nickal — a blue chip American wrestler who is determined to fight Russian rival Khamzat Chimaev at the Allegiant Stadium in the coming years.
The goal for the Contender Series remains the same in 2023 — to funnel talent into the UFC; to keep that wall blue.
This week, White handed out three UFC deals to body-punching expert Bolaji Oki, to heavyweight fighter Thomas Peterson, and to Prates.
Though it remains unclear who will be 2023’s Bo Nickal, Prates wanted everyone to know that it may well be him.
“The new welterweight star is right here,” Prates told The Sporting Tribune and other reporters backstage, in between sips of Howler Head whiskey.
That stiff left hand of his already seems like a reliable weapon to prompt calls of “it is all over.”
But for Prates, his career looks like it’s only just beginning.