With a new year ahead, it’s time to take a look at potential fighters for 2022 in the UFC. To keep things simple, I figured I’d narrow it down to one fighter per weight class – the women’s featherweight division doesn’t count – plus a few criteria I wouldn’t let myself budge on, even when I really did. wanted to.
The criterion: the fighter must have made his UFC debut in 2020 or later or have three fights or less in the organization in addition to not having cracked the official UFC rankings at any time. Not that I attach much importance to the UFC ranking, but it is a simple criterion, understood and easy to meet. The point of this is less to give a detailed description of each of the fighters, but to give an idea of who might be worth watching when there are so many names on the list to choose from and to open the comments for discussion. because I’ll be the first to admit that there are a lot of names that aren’t on this list. Here we are!
Heavy weights: There is only one reasonable choice here by my standards. Considering that Chris Daukaus and Tom Aspinall have already jumped into the top ten of the official UFC rankings, that leaves only Alexander Romanov. Aside from his disappointing performance against Juan Espino, Romanov swept aside the three other opponents the UFC placed ahead of him with pure physique. He’ll need to show patience and common sense, but his latest win over Jared Vanderaa indicates he’s learned something from his blah against Espino. I don’t think he’ll ever develop the strike to be a legitimate title contender, but his bullish fight and pure physics should allow him to appear in the top ten at the earliest for several years.
Light heavyweight: For some reason I thought Guillaume Chevalier was already in the official rankings after his win over Alonzo Menifield so I was delighted when I realized he wasn’t, as this made it easier to determine who might be eligible to enter the rankings . Although Knight does not have a traditional light and heavy frame, as he sits on the short end of the stick at just 5’10 “, his combination of power and athleticism is among the deadliest in the division. The only reason he hasn’t entered the leaderboard yet is that he’s still raw, only going pro in 2018. This limited experience could lead to rapid growth in a short period of time.
Average weight: UFC will give Alex Pereira every opportunity to have a breakout year and I can’t blame them. Possessing a knockout victory over defending middleweight champion Israel Adesanya in the kickboxing arena, Pereira showed he was able to transfer his MMA kickboxing skills to a high level when he knocked out Andreas Michailidis with a flying knee. Considering the lack of cover wrestlers in the division – Pereira’s obvious Achilles heel – the likelihood of Pereira rising through the ranks is extremely high. I considered going with Chris Curtis, but given that the UFC is looking to do everything in its power to push Pereira, he’s the fighter most likely to break through during the year at to come.
welterweight: I start picking Shavkat Rakhmonov. The Kazakhstan native suffered from his lack of activity compared to Khaos Williams. It also doesn’t have the hype that Ian Garry has. But you all know the guy you need to worry about is the silencer in the corner as opposed to the asshole demanding attention? Rakhmonov is the quiet guy in the corner. With one of the most impressive physical frameworks in the division, he’s impossible to intimidate and has an impressive killer instinct, with none of his pro contests reaching the final bell yet, owning so much submissions like KO. Rakhmonov may be less explosive than Williams or Garry, but he’s more complete and doesn’t appear to be near his prime.
Lightweight: Mateusz Gamrot has been the obvious choice, but he made his way into the leaderboards after the last event of 2021. So using the same logic I used with Pereira at middleweight to pick someone the UFC has an interest in pushing Paddy pimblett is the only realistic choice left. Considering how deep the division is, I find it hard to believe Pimblett made it to the official standings in the year, but the Englishman knows how to sell himself and has fighters with a better quality of wins under their belt who seek to find a place. him. Given that Pimblett was willing to wait until he felt he was ready to make the jump to the UFC rather than making it at the first opportunity, it’s unwise to believe he doesn’t have a clue. precise direction of his career. After all, his reputation is that of a specialist in the field and it is on the force of his strike he won his UFC debut.
Lightweight: I was tempted to bypass the rules I set for myself and drag Ilia Topuria here as he is currently not in the official ranking, but he was there earlier in the year and is not fallen due to defeat. So even though I don’t see any title conflict in the future of Pat Sabatini, I see the grapple expert using his guts and cunning to keep moving up the featherweight ranks with a great chance of breaking through the rankings before the end of the year. While Sabatini’s strike is competent, it will be his groundwork that will lift him as high as possible. At 31, Sabatini may be at the peak of his physical and mental abilities, so now is the time for him to take action.
Bantam-weight: Considering the ridiculous amount of talent at 135, I shouldn’t be as confident as I am in the selection. Adrien yanez be the breakout fighter in the division. But the nuances of Yanez striking is more than impressive, not just for someone who isn’t battling the best of the best in the division … at least not yet. Add to that that Yanez has yet to be knocked out in his UFC run and wrestling is meant to be his main weakness and it’s clear Yanez hasn’t just honed his impressive strike. That’s not to say he’s played with an astonishing amount of flare, getting a performance bonus in every one of his UFC appearances so far. Yes, there’s a reason I’m sure to pick Yanez as my breakout bantamweight this year.
Fly weight: I thought I was going to flounder in this division cause I had in mind that Jeff Molina entered the rankings after his win in October, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Molina has proven to be a constant source of entertainment not only in her two UFC fights, but also in her appearance on DWCS. While Molina doesn’t appear to have a plethora of physical skills that make analysts salivate, he is a technical attacker with exceptional tenacity and the ability to push at a pace that even other flyweights wither. Under the continued tutelage of James Krause, I only expect Molina to continue to improve.
Bantamweight women: The shallowest of all the divisions in the UFC – I’m not counting the female featherweight – there are only five candidates to choose from based on the criteria I’ve set: Bea Malecki, Stephanie Egger, Shanna Young , Joselyne Edwards and Josiane Nunes. None of them really seem like a prime candidate, but if I have to pick someone, I’ll go with Nunes. The former Muay Thai practitioner is fearless and hits like a mack truck. Her 5’2 “frame creates obvious limitations, but her height isn’t as awkward as it would be in a deeper division.
Flyweight women: How? ‘Or’ What Erin Blanchfield was not high in the standings after her dominant victory over another prospect, Miranda Maverick, overtakes me. I would say she is the most likely unranked member of the UFC roster who is likely to become a future champion. At 22, she is still exceptionally young, but she is behaving well beyond her years. Maybe the fact that she failed to complete one of her first two UFC wins keeps her off the radar of some fans, but I’d say dominating these two pillar-to-post opponents for 30 minutes in all aspects is even more impressive than a flash finish. Keep in mind that Maverick is supposed to be a skilled wrestler herself and she was not competitive with Blanchfield at least.
Women’s Straw weight: I hesitated between Tabatha Ricci and Cheyanne Vlismas, but went with Vlismas as she seems to have more attention on her from the organization than Ricci. Vlismas’ stock took a hit when she lost to Montserrat Ruiz due to her inability to stop a head and shoulder throw, but she rebounded with strength in her next two fights, showing exactly what was exciting everyone when they debut. She did not give up any withdrawals in any of these fights and obtained a Brutal knockout also. With the right coaching – and she seems to have gotten it – Vlismas could be something special.