These Are 10 Future UFC Champions. They Eliminate One Opponent After Another And Climb The Rankings With The Speed Of Light
How far are they from winning the belt, who can they face next and why are they so special?
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Holding the championship belt in the world's most prestigious MMA league, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), is the dream of all fighters. However, not everyone has what it takes, be it regarding the physical prerequisites or the mental attitude. Because only the most ambitious, hardworking and brave can reach the top.
And as for the fighting style, it is only the most complex ones, those who know how to adapt, and therefore have no problem finishing the opponent either standing or on the ground. The fighters on the list below are skyrocketing in the UFC ranks (you'll find them in the top ten or fifteen in their weight class, or they're just one step away from joining the elite) and they have all the prerequisites to get the title soon.
They are not afraid of anyone and they never think about losing. They want to go down in history and become the biggest and also the richest stars in the world of combat sports. How far are they from winning the belt, who can they face next and why are they so special? We will answer all of that in our article.
1. Alex Pereira (middleweight)
If there's anyone current middleweight king Israel Adesanya fears (even if he won't admit it), it's this man. The stone-faced Brazilian has already managed to defeat Adesanya twice. The first time on points, followed by a hard knockout. However, it is important to mention that none of the matches were under the rules of MMA, but of kickboxing.
Nicknamed Poatan (Stone Hand), Pereira first shone in the prestigious kickboxing organisation Glory, like Adesanya, and became the WGP Kickboxing Middleweight Champion. He is now ready for the title in the UFC. He switched to mixed martial arts in 2015 and made his debut in the biggest MMA league in 2021. He finished Andreas Michailidis with a spectacular jumping knee.
Subsequently, after another win over Bruno Silva, he skyrocketed among the best in the division and got a match with the muzzled American Sean Strickland. He sent him to the ground in the first round.
Adesanya welcomes this, but says that this time their clash will turn out differently and he will shut Pereira out. However, it is the Brazilian wrestler who has the best chance of defeating "Izzy" (until now, only Jan Błachowicz from Poland managed to do it in MMA, when Adesanya tried to win the title in light heavyweight as well).
2. Tai Tuivasa (heavyweight)
The likeable 29-year-old showman from Australia became famous for his bizarre celebration of wins. He always jumps on the cage, grabs any shoe, drinks beer directly from it and then throws it away. At press conferences, he is full of wit, at home he is a caring father, but in the cage he is a merciless executioner.
Since joining the UFC in 2017, Tai Tuivasa has shown that he can demolish even former champions. Although he does not have an athletic figure, the power in his hands literally "blows the fuses" out of his opponents. He was able to defeat, for example, Andrei Arlovski, and later Greg Hardy and Augusto Sakai became his victims.
His last and biggest scalp was title challenger Derrick Lewis. Tuivasa seemingly miraculously survived his biggest bombs, which ended much bigger legends, and sent him to the ground with an elbow. The Australian currently shines in third place in the division, so it is possible that he is only one win away from a chance at the title. In front of him in the rankings is the experienced trio of Stipe Miocic, Cyril Gane and Francis Ngannou.
3. Sean O’Malley (bantamweight)
Every time he appears in the cage, the audience has something to look forward to. Six bonuses from eight fights in the UFC says it all. Sean O'Malley has eleven stylish knockouts out of fifteen MMA wins. During his matches, you are guaranteed to see some kicks or elbows from a spin, devastating direct kicks and demonstration jiu-jitsu. The 27-year-old bantamweight star destroys anyone who gets in his way.
His only defeat so far was Marlon Vera in a slightly controversial match, as O'Malley injured his leg during the fight. However, of course, Vera took advantage of that and finished him on the ground with a hard ground and pound. His last duel with Pedro Munhoz, the highest-ranked wrestler in the bantam division rankings, also had an unfortunate end.
After O'Malley's unwanted poke in the eye, he could not continue, so the match was declared a no contest. It didn't have a winner. Nevertheless, the American has already clearly shown to everyone that he can compete with the strongest and has the potential to win the belt, perhaps as early as next year. He even challenged former Russian champion Petr Yan.
4. Shavkat Rakhmonov (welterweight)
He doesn't say much, he prefers to act. He is not interested in "trash talk" and "staredowns" before the game. He doesn't act arrogant and doesn't have any star manners. At the same time, he is undefeated in MMA. He has no problem with fighting on the ground or while standing, he feels at home everywhere.
Shavkat Rakhmonov is a silent killer with an amazing record of sixteen wins, zero losses. The wrestler from Uzbekistan is currently in tenth place in the well-packed welterweight rankings, after he crushed the chances of the extremely high-quality Neil Magny.
He finished him by submission in the second round and proved to everyone that he cannot be overlooked. It will certainly be a problem for the likes of Vicente Luque, Gilbert Burns, Belal Muhammad or Colby Covington. It is with someone from this four that he could soon meet and thus get closer to the title. Even the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov predicted that he will reach the top.
5. Magomed Ankalaev (light heavyweight)
When he joined the UFC in 2018, Paul Craig gave him a rough welcome with a third-round submission. Until then, Ankalaev did not know a conqueror, and since this loss, there was no one who could break him again. He currently has seventeen wins to his credit, while he defeated the dangerous "Hulk" Ion Cuțelaba (twice) and sharpshooter Nikita Krylov. Even Volkan Oezdemir and Thiago Santos, the names on the highest ranks, could not find a recipe for winning with him.
6. Paddy Pimblett (lightweight)
A typical British guy who is considered by many to be the "new Conor McGregor". Agree with it or not, Paddy Pimblett kicked down the door to the UFC with almost as much force as the confident Irishman. The former Cage Warriors champion is the only one on this list not yet in the top 15 of the best wrestlers in his weight division, but it is almost certain that he will appear there very soon. And if he was to meet McGregor in the cage, I guess it would be the fight of the century. It's not completely out of the question since they're in the same weight category.
While in the UFC, he makes fans laugh and outrages the haters by consuming the most unhealthy things after every fight, including fatty hamburgers and sweets. He can gain tens of kilos in a very short time. Subsequently, he always faces a cruel and unpleasant weight loss before the match, process of which sometimes includes having to lose over 20 kilograms.
7. Tom Aspinall (heavyweight)
Another sharp Brit who came to the UFC from Cage Warriors. But fifty kilograms heavier. Heavyweight Aspinall is a rising star who has wowed all MMA fans with his lightning fast finishes. He has never seen past the third round. However, it is difficult for fans to bet on his matches, because you never know how he will end his opponents.
He is one of the most complex wrestlers in the heavyweight division, so he can force his opponents to tap and give up or send them to the ground with unexpected standing attacks. In the cage, he turns into a rabid animal thirsting for blood, which wants to destroy and tear apart the opponent. It is this ferocity and ambition that sets him apart from the rest of the division.
8. Kai Kara France (flyweight)
The tiny, only 163-centimeter-tall New Zealander is Israel Adesanya's teammate, and since 2018 he has fought his way up to second place in the lowest flyweight. France is hungry for the title gold, because he has not even come close to it yet. His right hand with an extremely accurate forehand has already been able to beat elite "standers" such as Tyson Nam and Cody Garbrandt or first-class grappler, submission master Askar Askarov.
9. Khamzat Chimaev (welterweight)
He has only five fights in the UFC, but after the first two, he impressed the head of the organisation, Dana White. The Chechen Wolf (as he calls himself) has no problem fighting in different weight categories every week, and if he could, he would fight several wrestlers in one night at the same tournament.
He wouldn't even mind the 120-kilogram Brock Lesnar. Many are worried about his self-confidence, but his results stand firmly behind him. Chimaev has eleven wins in a row and no one has beaten him yet. The only one who came close was former interim champion Gilbert Burns. However, even he could not finish the Russian in the end and lost on points.
Chimaev has already impressed the current title holder Kamaru Usman, who, understandably, has a lot of respect for him and recognised his qualities. “He's doing great... I love all the hype around him (...) he's doing a phenomenal job. Hats off to him,” said the champion. Wolf will next compete with the legendary Nato Diaz.
10. Islam Makhachev (lightweight)
He is considered a follower of Khabib Nurmagomedov and it is him, who is his main trainer and mentor. Thirty-year-old Makhachev is the only one from this list to have a title fight announced. So he is the closest to it of all. He undoubtedly deserves it. The fighter from Dagestan is on a streak of ten wins in a row (so it's quite surprising that he hasn't had a chance to fight for the belt yet).
During his rich career, he lost only once, while he managed to win 22 times. Of these, ten are submissions. It is on the ground that he is the most dangerous. As soon as he gets opponents there, he can almost immediately put leverage on them from any position. His brilliant jiu-jitsu has already been tasted by Drew Dober, Dan Hooker and Bobby Green.
However, at UFC 280 on October 22 in Abu Dhabi, he will face the toughest opponent he has ever faced. The holder of the belt in the lightweight division is the Brazilian Charles Oliveira. He holds two valuable records in the UFC - the most submissions (16) and the most terminations (19). As of May, Oliveira is also ranked fourth in the rankings of the best wrestlers across all divisions. So Makhachev will not have it easy. But that's all the better for us viewers.
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