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UFC Prospects

(Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

The Best UFC Prospect In Every Division

UFC Prospects
(Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

The Best UFC Prospect In Every Division

The UFC has a new era of prospects that are showing they can become the future of their division. Let’s take a look at the best prospect in each UFC division.

Before we get started, let’s get some logistics out of the way. When looking at prospects, I am going to focus on unranked fighters that are not booked to fight a ranked opponent. Once a fighter begins fighting ranked competition they graduate from prospect status. This means fighters like Sean O’Malley, Casey O’Neill, Jailton Almeida, and several others will not be mentioned.

Flyweight- Muhammed Mokaev

At 21 years old, Muhammed Mokaev has established himself as the crown jewel prospect for the 125-pound division. Mokaev is 6-0 professionally, but he has a wealth of amateur experience. On the amateur scene, Mokaev recorded a 22-0 record. This makes Mokaev one of the most experienced 21-year-olds of all time. In his one and only UFC bout, it took him less than a minute to crack Cody Durden with a flying knee before finishing him with a guillotine choke.

Mokeav has a well-rounded skill set that should propel him into the top-15 at flyweight. Mokaev is not done improving either. It is going to be interesting to see how much he can grow as he reaches his athletic prime. This combination of youth and skill made Mokaev the undeniable top prospect at flyweight.

Honorable mentions: Jeff Molina, Ode Osbourne, and Allan Nascimento

Bantamweight- Umar Nurmagomedov

Bantamweight has three of the best prospects in the UFC. Umar Nurmagomedov, Said Nurmagomedov, and Adrian Yanez all look tremendous. While I think all three guys will eventually be ranked fighters, Umar Nurmagomedov looks to have the highest ceiling.

Umar Nurmagomedov is the cousin of UFC Hall of Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov. Most people look to bill the younger Nurmagomedov as a grappler but he is far more than that. Not to say he is a bad grappler; in fact, Umar is an incredible grappler. His collection of takedowns and submissions makes him tough to grapple with. With that being said, his striking is incredibly undervalued. Umar has great kicks and he can throw them from multiple angles while attacking both the head and body. In the pocket, he has solid hooks too. Overall, Nurmagomedov should be able to find success in any area a fight goes.

At 26 years old, Nurmagomedov has already made a mark in the UFC. Most notably, he was able to finish UFC veteran Brian Kelleher in round one with a rear-naked choke. Being a part AKA, one of the best gyms in the world, should help his development too.

Honorable mentions: Said Nurmagomedov and Adrian Yanez

Featherweight- Lerone Murphy

Most of the top prospects at featherweight have graduated to the rankings. The brightest prospect that has yet to see ranked competition is Lerone Murphy. Murphy has been a top prospect for a minute but he has been inactive for a variety of reasons. That does not lessen his stock though. In his performances, Murphy has looked good. In his last fight, he knocked out Makwan Amirkhani with a flying knee.

At 30 years old, Murphy is older than the average UFC prospect. However, Murphy only has 16 total fights in his professional and amateur career. That means he does not have too much wear and tear which should help him have a long run in the UFC. Despite already being at his athletic peak, Murphy still has a high ceiling as has shown a lot of good tools early.

Honorable mentions: Pat Sabatini and David Onama

Lightweight- Terrance McKinney

After dropping his last fight to Drew Dober, Terrance McKinney’s stock has dropped a bit but I will not hold that against him. Not only was Dober a massive step up in competition for McKinney but he took the fight on short notice. Even though he lost, McKinney displayed tremendous power as he was the first fighter to land a knockdown against Dober.

The trend he continues as McKinney is another well-rounded prospect. That is one of the important aspects of being the best prospect in a division. McKinney is an established wrestler and displayed those skills against Fares Ziam. Pair that with his power and he becomes a tough guy to beat.

The biggest issue with McKinney is that he needs better fight IQ and more experience. He cannot gas in fights or get caught in a firefight. At the same time, good coaches can help that. The most important thing with McKinney is that he has all the physical tools needed to be an elite lightweight.

Honorable mentions: Damir Ismagulov, Mark Madsen, Paddy Pimblett, Hayishaer Maheshate, Ottman Azaitar, and Mason Jones

Welterweight- Jack Della Maddalena

Jack Della Maddalena has established himself as an elite UFC prospect. Della Maddalena is a tremendous striker. Not only can he strike moving forward but he can counterstrike going backward. These skills will make him a tough matchup for anyone on the feet. At UFC 275, Della Maddalena had a tough stylistic matchup against Ramazan Emeev that forced him to display defensive grappling. He did exactly that. Della Maddalena is never going to be an outstanding grappler but he can be good enough to keep fights standing.

Della Maddalena has a bright future. At 25 years old, he will be looking at a step up in competition soon. He looked good against Emeev and Pete Rodriguez and he certainly will be fighting someone closer to rankings before the end of 2022.

Honorable mentions: Ian Garry, Michael Morales, Bryan Battle, and Rinat Fakhretdinov

Middleweight- Caio Borralho

There is no clear choice for the top UFC prospect at middleweight. A couple of weeks ago Dricus Du Plessis would have been the answer but he is currently booked to fight No. 12 Brad Tavares. That leaves Caio Borralho.

Borralho is a solid fighter that has one win in UFC against Gadzhi Omargadzhiev. Borralho does have a lot of potential, hence his inclusion. He already has a solid ground game that he can use to win rounds. On the feet, he is not a tremendous striker but he has good power.

Overall, Borralho is not the best prospect that we have discussed up to this point but there are many reasons to like him. At the end of the day, should be in the UFC for a long time he just may have a more difficult time reaching championship level in comparison to other top prospects.

Honorable mentions: Armen Petrosyan, Joaquin Buckley, and Chidi Njokuani

Light Heavyweight- Azamat Murzakanov

Azamat Murzakanov put himself on the map when he knocked out Tafon Nchukwi with a flying knee earlier this year. Murzakonov has that power to make him a threat at light heavyweight. His striking is not the most technical but he has power that can not be taught. He also has solid takedowns and he throws massive ground-and-pound shots that are devastating.

To reach the upper echelon of the light heavyweight division, Murzakanov will have to round out his game and develop his striking more. He is far from a perfect prospect but he has a high ceiling that makes him a good choice for this selection.

Honorable mention: Da Un Jung, Nicolae Negumereanu

Heavyweight- Martin Buday

The UFC Heavyweight division is another division that has seen its prospects rise to ranked competition. Martin Buday is the best choice out of all of the unranked prospects.

Buday has some skills that will bode well in the heavyweight division. First off, he has strong clinch work. This allows him to hold his opponent up against the fence while he looks to take a breath (classic heavyweight move). When he does elect to attack in the clinch he has strong knees and elbows that do damage. Buday also has good grappling, not great but good. He also has quite the chin for a heavyweight.

Honorable mention: Rodrigo Nascimento

Women’s Strawweight- Tabatha Ricci

With a 7-1 at the age of 27, Tabatha Ricci has proved that she has a bright future in the UFC. Ricci has three UFC fights where she has gone 2-1. The two wins are against Polyana Viana and Maria Oliveira while the loss is to Manon Fiorot but that fight was at flyweight. There is no shame in that loss.

Ricci has a solid grappling base. She has good wrestling and can strike from the top. Against Viana, she displayed some good submission defense as Viana is a high-level Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. Ricci is not known for her striking but she does have good hands. When she strikes she does so in combos and ends combinations by entering the clinch. She is a quality UFC prospect that could be successful soon.

Honorable mention: Luana Pinheiro, and Piera Rodriguez

Women’s Flyweight- Karine Silva

Karine Silva’s 15-4 record does not jump off the page but she is a quality fighter. Silva has not lost since 2019 and is currently on a six-fight win streak. Silva’s claim as a top prospect comes off the back of her tremendous submission skills. Silva has won her last four fights by submission. Most notable was her D’Arce choke victory in her last fight. Silva is a good striker as well. On the regional scene, she had 9 knockout finishes. She has not displayed this power in the UFC but she has looked good on the feet.

Silva has some flaws. She has questionable cardio to say the least. However, at 26 years old she could overcome this issue. If she does she will be a tough fighter to beat.

Honorable mention: Natalia Silva and Molly McCann

Women’s Bantamweight- Josiane Nunes

The UFC women’s bantamweight division is not exactly crawling with prospects. According to the UFC website, the division only has 29 fighters and 15 of them are ranked. That does not leave many options for prospects. However, the one fighter that does stand out is Josiane Nunes.

Even though Nunes did not have much competition for this spot she is still a promising UFC prospect and she likely would have gotten the nod even if there were other suitors. Nunes’ biggest asset is her power. There is no doubt that she is already one of the most powerful strikes in the division. From a technicality standpoint, she tends to throw wild hooks at times but she can be a technical Muay Thai striker.

Honorable mention: None

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