2021 saw a large influx of rising stars who bursted onto the scene for the UFC. The most notable ones that come to mind are Sean Brady, who vaulted himself into the top ten in the welterweight division; Giga Chikdaze, who prior to losing to Calvin Kattar, was tearing through the featherweight division and earning himself a top 10 ranking; and Rafael Fiziev who put on back to back great performances in 2021 and will face his toughest test to date, in Rafael dos Anjos in February.
Five Male UFC Prospects to Watch in 2022
Listed here are the five male UFC prospects you can expect to take that big leap in 2021.
1. Shavkat Rakhmonov
I’ve personally been keeping an eye on Shavkat Rakhmonov for quite some time and am very excited to see him make his return to the octagon on February 5 (UFC Fight Night: Hermansson vs. Strickland). Rakhmonov is currently sporting a record of 14-0, with his most recent win coming against Michel Prazeres via submission. Rakhmonov made his UFC debut in 2020 versus Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira, who he also finished via submission. Rakhmonov has finished all 14 of his pro fights and I see 2022 being his breakout year where he establishes himself among the elite welterweights in the UFC. I might be the only one matchmaking for 2023, but do not be surprised if we see an eventual collision course between Rakhmonov and Khamzat Chimaev.
2. Muhammad Mokaev
If you haven’t heard of Muhammad Mokaev, I highly suggest looking up his amateur career, where he sports an unprecedented 23-0 record, followed by a 5-0 professional record. The highly touted prospect is set to make his UFC debut at UFC London on March 19 versus Cody Durden. With Mokaev fighting at flyweight, he could easily be three to four fights away from a potential title fight and with the flyweight division seeing a major resurgence, the Dagestani-born Brit has all the tools to break Jon Jones‘ record as the youngest champion in UFC history. If you haven’t, I highly suggest checking out his interview on Ariel Helwani‘s MMA Hour
3. Dricus du Plessis
Dricus du Plessis isn’t the newest comer in the UFC, having made his UFC debut in October 2020 at Fight Island, but he is certainly a prospect everyone should keep a look out for. du Plessis is currently 2-0 in the UFC, having finished both of his fights via KO. His most recent KO came against Trevin Giles at UFC 264, in which he absolutely flatlined Giles with an incredible right hook, followed by vicious ground and pound. The South African-native is scheduled to fight fan-favorite Chris Curtis at UFC 273. Circle this one on your calendar, folks. It’s going to be a banger.
4. Alexandr Romanov
At UFC 270, we saw two heavyweights in Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane throw down. Both heavyweights legitimately look like they were sculpted by the MMA gods. I can confirm that Alexandr Romanov looks like neither of these fighters, but he is a prospect who’s been tearing through UFC heavyweights, currently rocking a 4-0 record in the UFC and a 15-0 record overall. I expect to see a ranking next to Romanov’s name if he beats Ilir Latifi on February 19 at UFC Fight Night: Dariush vs. Makhachev.
5. Alex Pereira
Ah, Alex Pereira. The former Glory kickboxer had a late start to his MMA career, but he’s a prospect many folks have been eyeing for a little while now. Pereira is currently 1-0 in the UFC, with his debut coming against Andreas Michailidis at UFC 268. Pereira unloaded a devastating flying knee, which sent Michailidis into another dimension. Although he’s only had 5 MMA fights, Pereira is a decorated kickboxer with two of his most notable wins coming against UFC middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya. I know Dana White‘s salivating at the mouth just thinking about these two high-level strikers eventually fighting each other, but we all know Pereira’s going to need to fight a handful more times in order to justify a title shot. Pereira’s slated to fight Bruno Silva in March at UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Ankalaev. Similar to a fight I mentioned earlier, this one is going to be very fun and will be a good measuring stick for Pereira.