All around the world there are fighters most people have never heard of that are quietly climbing the ranks waiting for the call-up to a bigger league. Brazilian-based promotion like Jungle Fights, Shooto Brasil, Nitrix Championship Fight, Circuito Talent MMA and Coliseau Extreme Fight have produced some of the most talented fighters in Brazil. So, here are some Fighters to Watch that are currently making a name for themselves over there. (Note: If a fighter has fought exclusively outside of Brazil for more than 12 months as of writing, they are not eligible for this list.)
- (FW/BW) Luis “Japa” Rafael Laurentino | 23 years old | 31-0 w/ 9 (T)KO, 19 Submissions, 3 Decisions.
Amassing 31 wins at 23 years old is not an easy task, but ‘Japa’ has done just that. He had 3 wins per year in 2012 (debut year) and 2015 so far, 4 wins in 2014 and an amazing 21 wins in 2013. A current staple of Aspera FC, some criticize the 23 year old due to the lack of real competition. For reference, his last five opponents have a combined record of 38-29 (1NC). This really is not bad at all for a kid his age fighting on the regional circuits in Brazil. We have seen far worse. the Astra Fight Team prospect has plenty of time.
- Rafael vs. Claudir Dutkevis at JVY Championship 5 on October 19, 2013
- Rafael vs. Sidmar Carlos at SMASH Fight 3: Rising Stars on December 7, 2013
- Rafael vs. Gabriel ‘Atleticano’ at NFC 19 on February 8, 2014
- (FlyW) Gustavo Gabriel | 21 years old | 9-0 w/ 4 (T)KO, 4 Submissions, 1 Decision.
With a perfect record at 21 years old, this product of Diego Lima’s Chute Boxe is one of the brightest unsung prospects at 125 pounds right now. Gabriel has only went the distance in one fight, his MMA debut in 2012. Since then he has finished eight straight. After going 3-0 to start off his career in Maceio FC he was granted a shot at the vacant flyweight title. He won the title and made a defense a defense vs. Wallyson Rossini, both in 2014. Since then he has not fought exclusively for any promotion, having competed in MMA Super Heroes and Thunder Fight among others.
- Gabriel vs. Wellington Luis in Maceio FC on May 18, 2013
- Gabriel vs. Alex Bassani at MMA Super Heroes 8 on December 7, 2014
- (FW/BW) Jonas “Speed” Bilharinho | 25 years old | 6-0-1 w/ 4 (T)KO, 1 Submissions, 1 Decision.
Fighting out of Team Nogueira, Jonas ‘Speed’ Bilharinho is one of the best young strikers at featherweight in Brazil. He was notably brought in to help UFC featherweight champion Jose Also prepare for his bout with Conor McGregor prior to their expected title fight at UFC 189. Bilharinho has won both the featherweight and bantamweight titles in Jungle fight and is current preparing to face Amaury Junior for the vacant 1st Round Combat featherweight title on December 6.
- Jonas Bilharinho Highlight 2014
- Bilharinho vs. Fabiano Fernandes at Jungle Fight 76 on April 11, 2015
- Bilharinho vs. Junior Para at Jungle Fight 44 on October 27, 2012
- Bilharinho vs. Allan Miguel at Jungle Fight 51 on April 26, 2013
- (BW) Luciano Benicio | 23 years old | 9-1 w/ 3 (T)KO, 5 Submissions, 1 Decision.
As a 5’11 young bantamweight training out of one of Brazil’s greatest camps, Nova Uniao, the future looks very bright for the 23 year old Luciano Benicio. Benicio is coming off a submission win at Shooto Brasil 53 in April of 2015. Before this, he beat Cleiton Araujo to win the 16-man Imperium MMA Pro Grand-Prix. The Grand-Prix took place over four months, Benicio defeated four other rising bantamweights to win. The semi-finals and finals took place on the same night.
- Benicio vs. Caique Costa at Imperium MMA Pro 6 on September 14, 2013
- Benicio vs. Valto Ribeiro at Imperium MMA Pro 11 on December 14, 2014
- Benicio vs. Cleiton Araujo at Imperium MMA Pro 11 on December 14, 2014
- (MW) Andre Lobato | 30 years old | 24-6(-1 NC), w/ 5 (T)KO, 17 Submissions, 2 Decisions.
Lobato has some association with both Lobato Fight Team and Marajo Brothers Team. He has won 10-straight including a 40 second Jungle Fight middleweight title win vs. Alexandre Hoffmann in his most recent outing this past August.
- Lobato vs. Tiago Varejao II at Iron Man Fight 17 on November 23, 2013
- Lobato vs. Tyago Moreira at Jungle Fight 75 on December 18, 2014
- Lobato vs. Martin Ottaviano at Jungle Fight 77 on May 9, 2015
- Lobato vs. Alexandre Hoffman at Jungle fight 80 on August 22, 2015
- (FlyW) Bruno “The Talent” Menezes | 30 years old | 16-5 w/ 4 (T)KO, 4 Submissions, 8 Decisions.
Menezes trains out of Champion Team and is the current Jungle Fight flyweight champion, winning the title in May and defending it in August. He is known for his relatively crisp striking technique, deceptive power and smothering top-game. Of his 5 losses, he has been defeated by the likes of Wilson Reis and Pedro Nobre. Menezes is one of the best flyweights to come out of Brazil, and he has a belt in one of their major promotions to prove it. He won the JF title by defeating Nildo Nascimento, a prospect who was getting lots of attention as well.
- Menezes vs. Nildo Nascimento at Jungle Fight 77 on May 9, 2015
- Bruno “The Talent” Menezes – Highlights
- (BW) Josenaldo “Naldo” Silva | 29 years old | 22-4 w/ 14 (T)KO, 4 Submissions, 4 Decisions.
‘Naldo’ is affiliated with the CM System and OCS Jiu-Jitsu camps and has won 14-straight fights, 11 via finish. Josenaldo is (technically) the current Face the Danger bantamweight champion who signed a deal with Legacy FC a few months back. Though he reportedly has inked a deal with Legacy, he competed at Mr. Cage 19 in September of this year, defeating Lisrael “Miojo” via TKO in the first round.
- (LW) Leandro “Naja” Rodrigues | 27 years old | 25-8-1 w/ 4 (T)KO, 17 Submissions, 3 Decisions, 1 DQ.
The 27 year old grappling specialist is in good hands with his association to both the Dragon Fight and Nova Uniao teams. Known for his overall submission game, ‘Naja’ is truly a specialist in strangling his opposition, with 10 wins via choke submission. Rodrigues is the current Limo Fight lightweight champion and is coming off a win in Russia over prospect Zurab Betergaraev at Akhmat Fight Show 9 on October 4.
- (LW) Alcides “Gari” Nunes | 6-0 w/ 4 (T)KO, 1 Submission, 1 Decision.
Though he has some association with the Laerte Barcelos Team, ‘Gari’ is really a Nova Uniao fighter, and it becomes quite obvious whenever he begins to fight. With non-stop pressure, Nunes has managed to maintain a perfect record through six professional bouts. He is currently competing in Shooto Brasil, and just won yesterday when he stopped Paulo Jiboia in the second round. Sadly, it’s not his fighting that put him in the news in 2015, he was in the news when it was revealed that he was the one who was training with UFC champion Jose Also when he got injured this past June.
- Nunes vs. Claudio Prates at Upper Fight 3 on December 7, 2013
- Nunes vs. Rildery Silva at Upper Fight 2 on June 15, 2013
- Nunes vs. Junior Goncalves at Shooto Brasil 53 on April 19, 2015
- (BW/FW) Maike Linhares | 9-0 w/ 4 (T)KO, 5 Submissions.
Linhares is the current Jungle Fight bantamweight champion, beating Rodrigo Praia for the vacant title last month. He is associated with the Constrictor Team with the likes of Rani Yahya, Francisco Trinaldo and Gilberto Dias. Among his nine wins, he holds victories over Praia, Victor Hugo and Nathan Batista, among others. It is rumored that he will fight for Rizin FF in December as part of their co-promotion with Jungle Fight.
- Linhares vs. Nathan Batista at Jungle Fight 78 on June 20, 2015
- Linhares vs. Rodrigo Praia at Jungle Fight 81 on September 12, 2015
- (SW) Amanda Ribas | 22 years old | 5-0 w/ 2 (T)KO, 2 Submissions, 2 Decisions.
A product of Marcelo Ribas Fight Team, Amanda Ribas is known for her constant pressure, both on the feet and on the mat. When on the mat she is constantly looking to advance position or lock in a submission, and when on the feet she is not afraid to get in close and exchange punches. She is the current Jungle Fight women’s strawweight champion and won the IMMAF World Championship in 2014. She is currently 2-0 in Jungle Fight, beating Aline Sattelmayer and winning the vacant title by submitting Tania Pereda in July.
- Ribas vs. Aline Sattelmayer at Jungle Fight 76 on April 11, 2015
- Ribas vs. Tania Pereda at Jungle Fight 79 on July 4, 2015
- Ribas vs. Ariane Souza at Pentagon Combate 20 on September 27, 2014
This is just a hand full of the amazing talent currently coming up in Brazil. Coming soon; Fighters to Watch: Japan.