The Best Prospect in Every UFC Division
Some of these you’ll know, some you might not. And while I definitely understand that there are probably a few fighters here and there on this list that could have been replaced by others, for me, these are some of the prospects that I’m most looking forward to seeing return to the cage.
So let’s get into it!
It’s been over two years since we’ve seen the fighter dubbed by some as the ‘female Khabib’ in action - and though her inactivity over the last two years has given her ascent a certain Nurmagomedov-esque quality, I do still see this excellent strawweight prospect as a real threat to the belt in the future. Through a perfect five UFC victories she has managed to find three finishes - one over the current number 3 contender Carla Esparza and for my money, is clearly one of the five best 115lb fighters on the roster, even with her long, drawn out absence from the octagon in mind.
Is it fair to give the flyweight vote to a fighter who just lost her last outing? Well, as far as Miranda Maverick is concerned, her controversial recent loss to Maycee Barber - though it certainly showed us some of her limitations - it wasn’t enough to turn me off the idea that she’s the best prospect at 125lbs right now. She’s already established herself as a competent finisher - and given that she’s just 24 years old, time is well and truly on her side as she looks to mount an attack on Valentina Shevchenko’s seemingly unconquerable crown.
When it comes to singling out a contender who might be able to trouble Amanda Nunes at the top of the division - if the passage of time doesn’t get her first, I’d imagine it’ll have to be a power puncher finding their mark that will do the trick. And when it comes to her namesake, Josiane Nunes - who is riding a 5 fight streak of TKO or KO finishes - that pure athleticism makes me think that she’ll find her way into title contention sooner rather than later. Seriously, check out that knockout of Bea Malecki she scored in her debut. Vicious!
Manel Kape cop
Sometimes you just gotta have faith in these young guys and their ability to improve - and though the 27-year-old Manel Kape came into the UFC with considerable hype after an electric run in RIZIN, I found his opening pair of fights, fights he lost, to be highly frustrating affairs. He just looked a bit flat - clearly capable of turning up the heat and offering more, but just bringing very little substance to the table. His third matchup obviously saw him score an incredible first round flying knee against Ode Osbourne, but I dunno, for me, I think there’s enough of a base to work with this guy that his explosiveness could well turn him into a very interesting and dangerous addition to the flyweight top-5.
Respect to the Suga show but after all this talk and hype, I’m just not prepared to call him a prospect any more. He technically is, of course, but I like his fellow unranked up and comer Song Yadong as the safest bet and the best proven prospect amongst the bantamweight crop. Yadong, who switched over to Team Alpha Male a few years back - just looks to be a very well rounded fighter - already besting guys like Marlon Vera, Casey Kenney, and Alejandro Perez. And sure, he fell short against Kyler Phillips - a fight that saw him forced to rely on his chin on more than occasion. But the guy is 23, he’s one helluva lot of fun, and he’s already this established within the stacked bantamweight top-20 or so, the question is, how good can he get.
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He’s got incredible athleticism, a strong BJJ base beneath him, and he just knocked out Ryan Hall with one of the most brutal answers to a unique and tricky style you’re ever likely to see. Ilia Topuria looks like he has all of the tools needed to be a contender within this stacked division within the next year. He’s only 24 but his polished submission game and one-shot knockout power already make him one of the most well-rounded fighters at 145lbs right now. That win over Hall was a big one - don’t be fooled by its somewhat odd nature. Up until that point, no one had really even come close to beating the jiu jitsu innovator inside the octagon, Ilia Topuria is for real folks.
As part of the evergrowing wave of excellent talents to emerge from New Zealand in recent years, Brad Riddell has been making waves at 155lbs right now - singling himself out as the real fighter’s fighter among the current crop of prospects. He’s a brawler - a gutsy, determined striker who packs power in both hands - and while I would have given the nod to Rafael Fiziev - who coincidentally is Riddell’s next opponent, even though I do see Fiziev’s potential as probably a bit higher, Brad Riddell’s fighting style is just way too up my street to ignore. As for who wins that fight, the odds are probably going to favour Fiziev, but for my money, that’s one of the year’s most intriguing bangers.
Out of all of the fighters named on this list, I don’t think there’s a single one that has a ceiling quite as high as Shavkat Rakhmonov. Ever since he debuted with a first-round guillotine of Alex Oliveira, I’ve watched as the hype levels behind this guy have steadily increased. Taking on the always game, and ferociously athletic Cowboy in your debut is no easy feat - and for him to follow that up with a clinic against Michel Prazeres, a guy who had gone 8 and 2 in his ten fights before - yea, Shavkat is being tested. And judging by his performances in those tests, I see him as a future champion.
I would have gone with Makhmud Muradov (Makmood Moor-ah-dof) for the middleweight pick, but after seeing Andre Muniz tear up Ronaldo Jacare Souza’s arm after promising him that he was the better grappler of the two, yea, that kind of did it for me. And Muniz came into the UFC an established submission threat - so they weren’t idle words. He took the fight against a BJJ legend, vowed he would prove himself to be better, and then tapped in the first round. And yea, I know that there are probably prospects with better overall potential within the 185lb mix, but I’m on team Muniz here, without question.
Seriously, Jamahal Hill’s name was very nearly replaced by the guy who just beat him Paul Craig - just because of how much I love Craig’s all-or-nothing submission-heavy style. But even with his brutal defeat in mind, I still think that Jamahal Hill is going to be the next unheralded rising talent who breaks into the upper echelons of the 205lb weight-class in the next 12 months. Indeed, that loss was a shocking one, but this guy has all of the necessary attributes to be a major hit - and he brings a level of violence to the table that makes him incredibly fun to watch.
Look up the word ‘heavyweight’ in the dictionary and you’ll likely see a picture of Alexander Romanov. Well, maybe not just yet - but as this guy continues to ascend through the heavyweight ranks, there are many who feel as though he will eventually find himself in and around the divisional throne. With a wealth of wrestling experience behind him and a pair of bricks for fists, this unbeaten Moldovan standout possesses a level of physicality that’s rare - even among heavyweights, and looks to be a collision course with the top-15.
But what do you make of my picks?
And who are your own top three prospects in the UFC right now - under whatever prospect criteria you adhere to?
Do let us know your opinions in the comments section below, we always love to hear from you guys.