Fantasy Matchmaking

20 UFC Fights to Make for Rising Talents in 2022

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Say hello to 2022.

The UFC had its share of breakout stars over the 2021 calendar year with a wide array of talent from athletes young and old all around the globe.

Whether it be from Michael Chandler’s thunderous knockout of Dan Hooker from the first pay-per-view of the year, to Paddy Pimblett’s eye-catching interview following his win of Luigi Vendramini, to Terrance McKinney’s seven-second debut stoppage over Matt Frevola. These are the performances we vividly remember when summarizing the previous year.

Some fighters on the rise, however, did not get their chance to perform in 2021. Injuries, the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions, and personal toll have all played major factors in effect keeping some of the blooming best sidelined now waiting eagerly to make their UFC return.

There are fights to be made for the promotion’s mixed martial artists that will have an important roll in the upcoming year. Who should fight who?

The order of this list comes by division sorted from the lightest weight class (strawweight) to the heaviest weight class (heavyweight). Women’s featherweight was omitted from the list due to its slim number of fighters on the roster. Between one to three fights were included for each weight class. This list does not include fights for fighters that already have a scheduled bout as of January 3.

Let us look at 20 random UFC fights to make for rising talents in 2022.

WOMEN’S DIVISIONS

Amanda Lemos vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Strawweight (115 pounds)

Belem, Brazil’s Amanda Lemos has looked nothing short of prefect since her drop to the strawweight division. Five straight wins have come since her lone professional defeat to Leslie Smith in mid-2017 with three of her wins in 2021 alone. Despite taking the debatable decision over Angela Hill in her last bout, a jump in competition looks to be next, and why not make it a steep one against former divisional champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk? A change in pace is needed for both, and the two could definitely put on a show.

Erin Blanchfield vs. Maycee Barber
Flyweight (125 pounds)

22-year-old Erin Blanchfield has emerged as a serious contender in such a little amount of time. The former Eddie Bravo Invitational standout transitioned to MMA in early 2018 having since won eight of her nine fights; a lone defeat to Tracy Cortez. For her next fight, reschedule her against Maycee Barber, another one of the division’s young and rising talents. The two were anticipated to fight last month at UFC 269 before Barber withdrew. It would make sense to give this arrangement another go.

Melissa Gatto vs. Montana De La Rosa
Flyweight (125 pounds)

Another quickly-rising flyweight comes in Melissa Gatto with two stoppages over Victoria Leonardo and Sijara Eubanks in the last five months. The impressive run looks better for the undefeated Brazilian due to the pair of victories coming after a near three-year hiatus due to a string of unfortunate injuries. Gatto versus Montana De La Rosa would be a fun scrap to see next, De La Rosa most recently finishing former KSW champion Ariane Lipski last June.

Tatiana Suarez vs. Jessica Andrade
Flyweight (125 pounds)

It has been over five years since The Ultimate Fighter 23 concluded with Tatiana Suarez taking the strawweight tournament title. The California native remains undefeated all this time later, yet has only competed in the octagon four additional times since. A September injury forced Suarez out of her return fight making her last UFC appearance as her June 2019 decision win of Nina Nunes. Time can be made up with a return this year, and a perfect matchup is against Jessica Andrade who sits at 2-3 in her last five outings.

Josiane Nunes vs. Julija Stoliarenko/Alexis Davis winner
Bantamweight (135 pounds)

Josiane Nunes only showed us her capabilities in one UFC fight in 2021, and wow, was it impressive. A vicious overhand right finished Bea Malecki at UFC Vegas 34 adding to her active string of seven straight wins and six of those by knockout. Although shorter for the division at five feet and two inches, Nunes still shows the ability to negate any effect from a taller opponent. Alexis Davis and Julija Stoliarenko are set for battle in less than a month, and if Nunes is able to wait just a little longer, the winner could be next.

MEN’S DIVISIONS

David Dvorak vs. Matheus Nicolau
Flyweight (125 pounds)

The Czech Republic continues to pour out rising prospects left and right. David Dvorak is one of the best, at the moment, riding a 16-fight win streak dating back to October of 2012. All three fights he has had in the octagon have gone in his favor, most recently defeating short-notice newcomer Juancamilo Ronderos last May. Give Dvorak his biggest test to date in a fight against Matheus Nicolau who currently sits 2-0 in what is his second promotional tenure. A win for either man would propel one fast up the 125-pound mountain with new blood needed at the divisional peak.

Manel Kape vs. Alex Perez/Matt Schnell winner
Flyweight (125 pounds)

Manel Kape continues to make his home country proud as the only Angolan ever to fight in the UFC. His talent was evident during his nine-fight run in RIZIN with knockout wins over combat veterans Ian McCall, Takeya Mizugaki, and Kai Asakura. The heavy-hitter snapped a recent two-fight skid with two more knockouts of his own, both coming inside the first round. The promotion should pair Kape up with the winner of Alex Perez and Matt Schnell, the two set to rebound next month at UFC 271. A fun battle it would surely be!

Sean O’Malley vs. Cory Sandhagen
Bantamweight (135 pounds)

Love him or hate him, Sean O’Malley has done his part in gathering eyes for each and every performance. 2021 began and ended for “Sugar” on high notes, securing three-straight performances each by way of knockout; a December finish of Raulian Paiva his most recent. Now is the time to see what O’Malley is made of against the division’s best, so let us pair him against prior interim title challenger Cory Sandhagen. This would be an excellent main event seeing five potential rounds for O’Malley to prove the doubters wrong or for Sandhagen to get back in the win column.

Adrian Yanez vs. Pedro Munhoz
Bantamweight (135 pounds)

Four-straight post-fight bonuses in one’s first four UFC fights is as impressive as it gets. Dana White Contender Series standout Adrian Yanez has done just that, still undefeated in his promotional run holding victories over the likes of Randy Costa and Davey Grant. It might be a big leap, but Pedro Munhoz needs a reset with losses in four of his last five fights. Yanez has an opportunity to show what he is truly capable of, while Munhoz can show he can halt the process of a rapid-moving contender.

Arnold Allen vs. Chan Sung Jung
Featherweight (145 pounds)

If things keep working out for Arnold Allen, it will not be long before a title shot is in his grasp. The well-rounded Englishman continues to improve but has neared a year since his last fight in the cage where he defeated Sodiq Yusuff by decision last April. A main event against someone like Chan Sung Jung would be a fan-favorite in the MMA community. Allen is still viewed as an underrated threat in the division, so why not test him against the “Korean Zombie” himself?

Lerone Murphy vs. Cub Swanson
Featherweight (145 pounds)

United Kingdom’s Lerone Murphy has quietly ascended the featherweight ranks. Two major wins in 2021 over Douglas Silva de Andrade and Makwan Amirkhani have the dynamic talent still undefeated at eleven hand raises. His striking would pair up well against another skillful standup fighter in Cub Swanson, long-time WEC and UFC veteran. A fight and potential win for Murphy over someone as seasoned and technical as Swanson would be just the ticket he needs to crack into the top fifteen at 145 pounds.

Rafael Fiziev vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Lightweight (155 pounds)

There has yet to be a single Rafael Fiziev fight worthy of skipping out on. Crafted in all aspects of the game training amongst the world’s best at Sanford MMA, he has found his hand raised in five straight UFC appearances, losing only his 2019 promotional debut fight to Magomed Mustafaev. Former title holder Rafael dos Anjos made his return to the division in November of 2020 where he took a five-round, split decision over Paul Felder. This just feels like the right duo to dance when the time is right for each man.

Mateusz Gamrot vs. Michael Chandler
Lightweight (155 pounds)

Mateusz Gamrot made his voice heard as a 2021 “Fighter of the Year” candidate with incredible stoppages over Scott Holtzman, Jeremy Stephens, and Carlos Diego Ferreira. The former KSW featherweight and lightweight champion has no signs of slowing as the dexterous athlete has won all but one of his 21 professional outings. A sensational pairing would be with Michael Chandler, the former three-time Bellator king looking to recover after two defeats to now-champion Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje. How could a fight between these two recent breakouts not be a barnburner for the ages?

Sean Brady vs. Vicente Luque
Welterweight (170 pounds)

Fifteen wins in-a-row for Sean Brady has not gone unnoticed, now ranked ninth in the UFC’s welterweight rankings. The Philadelphian is no stranger to pressure having been the former Cage Fury FC champion and now already recorded with four promotional victories. Wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu can be visualized in a fight with Brazil’s Vicente Luque who has finished off all four of his last opponents. The two both defeated The Ultimate Fighter 15 winner Michael Chiesa in their last meetings and are inches from a possible title eliminator bout.

Khamzat Chimaev vs. Colby Covington
Welterweight (170 pounds)

Arguably the hottest prospect to watch, Khamzat Chimaev has done everything right. From his trash talk, to his charisma, to his ability to perform inside the cage. There is nothing holding back the undefeated 27-year-old having dominated every second of every fight he has been in. Words have been traded between he and former interim champion Colby Covington who is ready to bounce back after his November title defeat to Kamaru Usman. There is no need to build up Chimaev any more, and a fight with another fascinating character in Covington would be electric.

Chris Curtis vs. Darren Till
Middleweight (185 pounds)

Once counted out, now taking advantage of every opportunity. Chris Curtis has proved naysayers wrong ever since missing a contract despite his win on Dana White Contender Series in 2018. “The Action Man” has won seven straight with unbelievably six last year alone. Curtis won both of his UFC matchups against Phil Hawes in November and Brendan Allen in December despite being a fair underdog. What a fight it could be if he was partnered with Darren Till, another talented striker, who needs a readjustment with losses in four of his last five fights.

Dricus du Plessis vs. Andre Muniz
Middleweight (185 pounds)

Two-for-one talents can be found in this suggestion. Andre Muniz and Dricus du Plessis were scheduled to meet at UFC 269, but a November injury forced du Plessis out of the anticipated contest. Grappling phenom Muniz rides an eight fight win streak including three-straight armbars in the UFC, one of those being an incredible finish of Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Ronaldo Souza. Former KSW welterweight champion du Plessis has finished his last four opponents with his latest at UFC 264 over Trevin Giles. This pairing would be an excellent one as the two sit on the verge of cracking into the top ten at 185 pounds.

Nassourdine Imavov vs. Marvin Vettori
Middleweight (185 pounds)

The MMA Factory in Paris has a growing competitor in their hands with Nassourdine Imavov. The youthful 25-year-old closed out the second half of 2021 with two second-round knockouts of Ian Heinisch and Edmen Shahbazyan. The pair of victories came after his lone octagon defeat to Phil Hawes last February where the fight began to sway his direction late. Why not see what a jump in competition can do and pair Imavov with Marvin Vettori? The Italian last fought and won at light heavyweight against Paulo Costa but will return to the 185-pound division in his next scheduling.

Jiri Prochazka vs. Glover Teixeira
Light Heavyweight (205 pounds)

No fighter at 205 pounds has made a bigger statement than Jiri Prochazka. The Czech fighter currently holds a twelve-fight win streak and a finishing rate of 96% through 32 professional bouts. Prochazka comes as the lone entry of this 20-fight suggestion list that should and probably will fight for UFC gold due to his incredibly-fast rise to stardom. His opponent, when it happens, will be 42-year-old Glover Teixeira who took the light heavyweight title in October at UFC 267 with his upset-submission over Jan Blachowicz.

Alexander Romanov vs. Marcin Tybura
Heavyweight (265 pounds)

The UFC’s heavyweight division has been in need of more breakout stars, and Alexander Romanov fits the bill as one of them. The former freestyle wrestler out of Moldova sits undefeated through fifteen professional outings with four underneath the UFC banner. 2021 victories over The Ultimate Fighter 28 winner Juan Espino and former Extreme Fighting Championship title holder Jared Vanderaa added to Romanov’s resume as he now sits a fraction outside the top fifteen. How about a fight against Poland’s Marcin Tybura, who’s win streak of five was snapped in October to Alexander Volkov? This would be a true test to see where Romanov lines up.

Rising UFC talents not scheduled OR with a fight scheduled not mentioned to watch in 2021: Manon Fiorot, Casey O’Neill, Tracy Cortez, Karol Rosa, Jeff Molina, Nate Maness, Umar Nurmagomedov, Ilia Topuria, Bryce Mitchell, Damir Ismagulov, Terrance McKinney, Ottman Azaitar, Paddy Pimblett, Khaos Williams, Shavkat Rakhmonov, Albert Duraev, Alex Pereira, Bruno Silva, Da Un Jung, Tom Aspinall

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Wesley Riddle is a 25-year-old writer out of Harrisonburg, Virginia and a recent graduate from Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, having obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Health and Physical Education. Watching the draw between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard from 2011 sparked his interest in the sport of mixed martial arts. He created "All That MMA" on Twitter, which came to birth in December of 2013. He would join with MMASucka in the later quarter of 2016. Some of Riddle's hobbies include music, playing golf, watching horror movies, and working with non-profit organizations throughout his community. You can follow him on Twitter at @AllThatMMA or @WesleyRiddleMMA, and on Instagram @WesleyRiddle.

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