2019 has so far been a landmark year for rising talent within the MMA world and for once.. It’s not just the UFC who are hoarding all the talent. Other promotions such as Bellator, PFL and Cage Warriors all have a plethora of exciting talent tearing up their respected divisions! Combine this with the fighters who the UFC have swept up and promoted what a future the sport has!
In this article, I will list ten prospects that you may or may not have already seen in action and give some brief detail of their current career paths. It goes without saying, this list is in no particular order and there are of course hundreds of names we could include, so make sure you comment below with any other fighters we missed!
1. Aaron Pico (4-2)
What a name to start of the list. Bellator’s highly touted blue chip prospect, 22 year old Aaron Pico has made light work of making a name for himself by consistently giving fans exactly what they want.. excitement! Starting at lightweight before dropping down to Featherweight after an unfortunate start for the young mixed martial artist, as he was submitted in his professional debut within 30 seconds of the first round. Since then however Pico has impressed time and time again finishing his next four consecutive fights via TKO in the first round, including highly rated Leandro Higo. Despite a most recent loss, albeit a very unfortunate loss to Henry Corales, in which Pico dominated and nearly finished the fight before getting clipped by Corales finishing the fight by KO. We’re yet to hear of who’s next for Aaron Pico but one thing is for sure, the fans cannot wait to see his aggressive and dominating style back in the cage. You can see below a short video of Pico’s knockouts from Bellator’s YouTube channel below:
2. Nathaniel Wood (16-3)
”The Prospect” nickname associates perfectly, as that is exactly what 25 year old Nathaniel Wood is, one of (if not) the hottest prospects within the bantamweight division of the UFC and the world currently. The former Cage Warriors bantamweight champion has done nothing but impress since his debut back at UFC Fight Night: Rivera vs Moraes, in which he scored a Brabo Choke submission over Johnny Eduardo earning him a Performance Of The Night bonus. Since then, he has fought a further two times defeating both opponents (Andre Ewell and Jose Quinonez) by Rear Naked Choke, the latter most recently at UFC London. You can guarantee his next fight in the UFC will be against a ranked opponent, meaning we could hopefully see Wood in title contention by early next year.
3. Johnny Walker (17-3)
The Craziest Light Heavyweight (or man) alive Johnny Walker has captivated fans with not only his brutal knockout capabilities but even more with his lovable, unique personality. We were first blessed with Johnny Walker on Dana Whites Tuesday Night Contender Series, where he defeated Henrique Da Silva via unanimous decision, earning him a contract to fight on the big stages with the promotion. His official debut was a massive success, dominating Khalil Rountree Jr. before finishing him with a crushing elbow in the first round. His second fight lasted only 15 seconds as he scored the TKO victory over Justin Ledet, before most recently on short notice, defeating Misha Cirkunov at UFC 235 in just 36 seconds of the first round! Walker has accumulated a mere 2 minutes and 48 seconds total time in the octagon since his debut and has received a Performance Of The Night bonus for all three of his UFC fights. Walker is currently recovering from a dislocated shoulder he received during his most recent post fight celebration, but have no fear he will be back soon enough and I personally, cannot wait!
4. Kayla Harrison (3-0)
Double Olympic Gold medallist at the Rio and London games, judo ace Kayla Harrison has already established a nations support, and has brought that following over into her venture of mixed martial arts. Debuting professionally at 155lbs for PFL (Professional Fighters League) on their second show in Chicago, Harrison made an immediate impact, submitting Brittney Elkin by armbar in the first round. She then went on to fight a further two times before 2018’s close, defeating Jozette Cotton and Moriel Charneski via TKO at PFL 6 and 11. We will next see Kayla Harrison compete on PFL Season 2, as she takes on seven other 155lbers for the inaugral PFL Lightweight title and the $1 million prize. You can check out the latest PFL Season 2 Roster for all divisions here.
5. Fabian Edwards (6-0)
Europe’s hottest middleweight and younger brother of UFC welterweight Leon Edwards has been on a warpath since his debut. Finishing 5 of his 6 fights in the first round (2 TKO and 3 Submissions) and most recently, giving arguably the most impressive performance of the night at Bellator: Newcastle, Edwards is not a man to be taken lightly. His well rounded style causes problem after problem for opponents, another prospect who made his debut within Bellator and has made an impression on the big stage. Edwards has recently been in the limelight of the media following the recent backstage altercation at UFC London. With an announcement surely pending, we can expect to see Fabian Edwards back in the cage soon!
6. Jack Shore (10-0)
Cage Warriors 135lb champion Jack ”Tank” Shore is a name that everyone will know by the end of the year, that is if he continues impressing the way he has, a major promotion will definitely come calling soon. Undefeated Welshman Shore has finished 9 of his 10 fights, 5 by submission and 4 by KO/TKO, proving he is a dangerous competitor in all aspects of mixed martial arts. After an impressive title defence most recently against Mike Ekundayo, Shore is next scheduled to defend his title against Scott Malone, in what will be one of his last remaining fights on his contract.. will he renew or is this the sign for the UFC to potentially to sign a star?
7. AJ Mckee (13-0)
23 year old son of mixed martial artist Antonio Mckee, AJ Mckee is as respected and highly regarded as some of the top athletes within Bellator’s featherweight division. Once again making his debut with Bellator, AJ has accumulated 13 straight wins in just 3 years competing at a professional level, which is a company record. His next bout scheduled for Bellator 221 is one that could shoot him straight into the title contention picture, as he faces two time Bellator featherweight champion Pat Curran in what is certainly set to be AJ Mckee’s biggest test to date. If he gets through Curran, I would really like to see AJ vs Daniel Strauss, will we ever get that James Gallagher fight?
8. Maycee Barber (6-0)
Undefeated women’s strawweight Maycee Barber has finished all but one of her fights, but has showcased a high level skill set which keeps opponents weary. After defeating Jamie Colleen on Dana Whites Tuesday Night Contender Series, Barber was awarded a contract with the promotion and faced Hannah Cifers in her promotional debut at UFC Fight Night 139, a fight she won via ground and pound in the second round and man was it bloody. She is fighting tonight on the Wonderboy vs Pettis ESPN+ 6 card tonight against JJ Aldrich, whom is another highly regarded talent in the UFC. With a win tonight she could definitely find herself competing against a top 10 opponent soon.
9. Yadong Song (13-3)
China’s top ranked bantamweight, Yadong Song debuted at UFC Shanghai on short notice to face the UFC’s first ever Indian competitor Bharat Kandare. Song excelled in the fight showcasing his outstanding stand up ability, counter punching fluently and showing his vast skill set, mixing high and low kicks to his flurries of punches. After a sloppy takedown attempt, Song was able to capitalise and secure the submission victory. He then went on to win a Performance Of The Night bonus against Felipe Arantas, and most recently defeated Vince Morales by Unanimous decision back in November of last year. Song was scheduled to face Frankie Saenz at UFC 235 but he withdrew due to undisclosed reasons. We’ll need to see Song back soon if hes to keep up his current streak and have any chance of imposing himself on the UFC rankings.
10. Gregor Gillespie (13-0)
The final name on our list is probably one of the most exciting fighters within the lightweight division. Undefeated New Jersey native Gregor Gillespie is a highly technical Division I wrestler and has dominated all of his opponents, finishing all but two. Gillespie has won a Fight Of The Night bonus and two Performance Of The Night bonuses in just 6 fights in the UFC, in this time he has won 3 by KO/TKO and 2 by Arm Triangle submission. He will literally take you down and its a matter of be smashed or tap, in a style executed so well it’s hard not too compare his dominating ground displays to that of Khabib. I would love to see Gillespie face Charles Oliviera or even Paul Felder next and break into the top ten rankings of which he is knocking on the door off, ranked at number 11.
SO. That concludes my list of prospects from all over, to keep an eye on and how they progress through the rankings of their divisions. Thank you for taking the time out for reading this top 10. See below for some notable mentions, all of which could’ve made the list:
Notable mentions: Luke Sanders, Nasrat Haqparast, Manny Bermudez, Sidney Outlaw, Patrick Mix, Ryan hall, Ryan Scope, Kairat Akhmetov, Mairbek Taisumov, Weili Zhang
Again, thank you for reading and please comment with any other fighters you feel we’ve missed!