With so many different countries and promotions participating in MMA around the world it can be hard for fans and even experts to track upcoming MMA prospects.
In a sport like football, it’s much different. We not only have College football on TV, but we even have High School football on TV as well as sports networks like ESPN and FOX tracking the best future talent.
In MMA, it’s not like that at all. Luckily with online streaming services like UFC Fight Pass and FloCombat we’re able to see a lot of these smaller promotions, but even then some the fights are going on in all different time-zones.
Luckily we have a lot of experts going around and tracking top prospects and we did our best to put a list together of the top 40 up-and-coming fighters for 2017.
*Note that the list only contains fighters who have fought for less then 5 years as well as talent that have been in the UFC for over a year although we made a few exceptions to the rule.
If you think we missed any prospects, leave a comment below and we’ll check it out.
Style: MMA | Promotion: Various | EXP: 2 years
Uhhh…where have we heard this story before.
Alex “Leko” Coelho is a 20 year old prospect fighting out of Brazil who has amassed an 18-0 record (although some say he’s possibly 22-0.) Immediately when you see that, it brings back memories of when Bellator signed undefeated 20 year old prospect Julio Cesar Neves who was 31-0 before losing one fight and getting cut from the promotion.
He fights out of the growing Astra Fight Team in Brazil in which is home to fellow prospects Darren Till and Steven Newell. Last year Coelho signed with BRAVE in which is broadcasted on UFC Fight Pass. A few wins there against better competition and we could see a bigger promotion like the UFC take a chance on him.
Age: 30 | Country: Canada | Affiliation: Ryan’s MMA
Style: Wrestling | Promotion: Various | EXP: 2 years
Age: 22 | Country: Brazil | Affiliation: Chute Boxe Diego Lima
Style: MMA | Promotion: Varies | EXP: 3 years
Gustavo Gabriel is one of the best prospects out of Brazil training at Chute Box Diego Lima.
Gabriel began training in Muay Thai at age 13 and eventually took up Jui-Jitsu. After turning pro at 19 in late 2012, Gabriel has amassed a 12-0 record finishing 10 of his opponents He has exploded on Brazil’s regional scene winning two Flyweight championships.
Gabriel was signed by Titan FC last year and we could eventually see him matched up with fellow prospect Jose Torres. That would certainly be a big fight.
Age: 23 | Country: England/Congo | Affiliation: Various
Style: MMA | Promotion: UFC | EXP: 2.5 years
The “Bonecrusher” turned professional in 2013. After building a 9-0 record on the regional circuit, he signed with the UFC. Marc won his debut by TKO against Poland’s Lukasz Sajewski. He followed it up with a win against Frankie Perez.
While the Perez fight was disappointing, those are still two quality wins.
Diakiese bounces around from Atherton Submission Wrestling to All-Stars MMA, both camps in which feature a lot of UFC talent.
Diakiese is a really good athlete with big power and sort of an awkward approach that gives opponents a lot of trouble. He’s the former BAMMA Lightweight champion and signed with the UFC last year.
Age: 22 | Country: England | Affiliation: Next Gen Liverpool
Style: BJJ | Promotion: Cage Warriors | EXP: 4 years
A lot of people started to make comparisons with Paddy Pimblett and Conor McGregor after Pimblett won the Cage Warriors featherweight championship. Those same people also smashed bottles over their heads after Pimblett got a questionable decision victory over Julian Erosa.
But it’d be pretty foolish to jump off the train just because of one poor performance. The McGregor comparisons were more for his cocky personality than his fighting style anyways. Pimblett is still a really good young prospect who is going to be in the UFC eventually.
He just needs time to develop and gradually fight better competition. There’s no doubt he’s got a personality that will draw a lot of people to watch him fight, he just needs to perform to his abilities.
Age: 27 | Country: USA | Affiliation: Blackzilians
Style: MMA | Promotion: WSOF | EXP: 3 Year*
Last year Phil Hawes might have been considered a 5-star prospect, but after a few losses expectations may have been a bit high.
A lot of hype was raised a few years ago when word spread that a kid from New Jersey drove all the way to Albaquirque and had gym wars with some of the biggest names at Jackson-Winklejohn’s. That kid was Hawes. He drove all the way there with just $200 in his pocket and immediatedly impressed a lot of people there.
Top fighters like Jon Jones, Donald Cerrone, and Brandon Gibson were comparing him to Cain Velasquez and Chris Weidman.
Unfortunately Hawes has had a couple of tough fights in which he lost last year. He was invited to the Ultimate Fighter Season 23 for a chance to enter the house and lost to eventual TUF 23 winner Andrew Sanchez.
Hawes then joined WSOF and went 1-1 losing to tough veteran Louis Taylor.
The athleticism is there, the wrestling is there, but he just hasn’t developed much else. We’re not completely jumping off the bandwagon though, he’s still a big prospect.
Age: 21 | Country: USA | Affiliation: Glory MMA
Style: MMA | Promotion: Various | EXP: 2 year
Grant Dawson is a big-rangey Featherweight fighting out of Nebraska. In just 2 years as a pro he has picked up 11 victories, finishing all 11 opponents.
Dawson is a pretty damn good wrestler, and he really takes advantage of his length with his jiu-jitsu submitting 8 opponents. While he’s a great grappler, his striking skills just aren’t there yet. They’re honestly really far away.
Mateusz Gamrot is the current KSW Lightweight champion. He upset Mansour Barnaoui last year and has since defended the title twice.
The KSW is the biggest MMA promotion in Poland and arguably the best MMA promotion in Europe.
Gamrot was a 3-time National wrestling champion in his native Poland and was a 2-time amateur MMA champion in Europe.
With wins over Marif Paraev, UFC veteran Andre Winner, and Barnaoui a lot of people expect the 26 year old to rise through the ranks in 2017 and possibly come overseas at some point.
Age: 20 | Country: USA | Affiliation: Various
Style: Karate | Promotion: UFC | EXP: 3 years
At just 19, Sage Northcutt was picked up by the UFC after being personally scouted by Dana White. Ever since, he has been one of MMA’s most controversial fighters.
Coming from a karate background, Northcutt transitioned to MMA dominating foes on the regional circuit. He has a ridiculous physique and is very athletic. As soon as he signed with the UFC the comparisons began to Stephen Thompson and Lyoto Machida.
Unfortunately Northcutt just hasn’t fully developed yet and is too green for the UFC. He’s 3-2 in the UFC and both of his losses exploited his grappling woes.
For any other 20 year old fighter, that’s not a big deal. But because Northcutt has been paid high salaries and gotten the primetime slots and promotion, a lot feel the hype behind him is undeserved.
Putting that aside, Sage is 20 years old, a really technical and a gifted striker. He just needs time to develop.
Age: 21 | Country: Brazil | Affiliation: Ed Lutas Team
Style: MMA | Promotion: UFC | EXP: 4.5 years