As 2020 came to an end and 2021 began, the UFC announced there would be some major cuts happening to their roster.
The likes of former world champions Junior Dos Santos and Tyron Woodley, Alistair Overeem, Jacare Souza and Diego Sanchez have all been released in recent times among many others, with the UFC looking to freshen it up with the likes of Paddy Pimblett.
But there are other big talents out there in the other MMA organisations across the world, who Dana White an co. should be looking at more closely than others. Some are more known than others, but were we look at nine fighters currently competing in rival promotions that the UFC should look to sign.
Paul Hughes (7-1)
Featherweight – Cage Warriors
Cage Warriors is the number one MMA promotion in England and has supplied the UFC with many great fighters over the years, and Paul Hughes is destined to also make that jump.
A young professional at just 23, he has an impressive 7-1 record and is already a main card draw. He’s an unpredictable and exciting fighter that is capable of finishing fights in many different ways and combined with his bags of confidence and personality, this young Irishman will no doubt be a great addition to the UFC featherweight rankings when the time is right.
It might be a while since he just signed a new contract with the UK promotion, but the UFC will certainly pull the trigger if he keeps going in his current trajectory.
Yaroslav Amosov (25-0)
Welterweight – Bellator
The Ukrainian, Yaroslav Amosov is one the best welterweights in the world and a three-time world sambo champion who has a perfect 25-0 record in MMA.
At just 27 years of age, he has the potential to become one of the best welterweights ever should he continue the way he is and joining the UFC would allow him to do that. With Kamaru Usman currently looking a level above the rest in the division, new challengers to his belt would be welcomed.
He fights next month on June 11th at Bellator 260 for their welterweight title against Douglas Lima which could be one of the best fights of the year, where a win would really put him on the map.
Kayla Harrison (9-0)
Featherweight – PFL
Kayla Harrison is a two-time Olympic judo gold medalist in London and Rio and has seamlessly made the transition to MMA with a 9-0 record so far in her first three years as a professional.
She competes in the lightweight division of the Professional Fighters League but would have to get down to featherweight to add some much needed quality to the UFC featherweight division.
A division which doesn’t even have any rankings at this point in time and is at threat of being dropped by the company completely, so this could be an opportunity to save it. She trains at American Top Team so is in great company to continue developing her skills and hopefully be able to challenge the dominance of Amanda Nunes at some point in the future.
She’s already got the attention of the boss too, with Dana White recently name-checking her although he stated he’s not convinced she’s ready yet. We disagree and think she is but more importantly, so does she.
Lowen Tynanes (10-1)
Welterweight – One Championship
Lowen Tynanes has had a great start to his career with a 10-1 record, his only loss coming via a razor close split decision.
The Hawaiian born wrestler is so dangerous on the ground with four submission victories already and is a straight savage with his ground and pound, usually opting to land slicing elbows instead of punches to his grounded opponents.
With an already stacked welterweight division currently being headed up by some experienced quality, a little refresher with the 30-year-old could go a long way to some fantastic fights in the future.
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (11-1)
Flyweight – Bellator
Nicknamed ‘The Iliminator’, Macfarlane is Bellator’s greatest ever homegrown women’s fighter.
No one in the promotion has defended a belt in a single reign more than her and she has the second longest win streak in the companies history with ten victories on the bounce, before losing her title in her most recent bout.
She’s a submission specialist with over 50% of her wins coming by forcing her opponent to tap out and she could be the level of opponent the UFC has been craving to test Valentina Shevchenko in the flyweight division.
There is just one problem however. Just last year she penned a ten-fight contract with the rival organisation, so it would be incredibly difficult and costly to lure her away, but would be well worth it.
Movlid Khaybulaev (16-0-1 1NC)
Featherweight – PFL
You can guarantee this suggestion wouldn’t be popular with fellow featherweights in the UFC.
Khaybulaev is an extremely exciting prospect in this weight class and could certainly hold his own amongst the top 15 right now. Currently undefeated in 18 professional fights, what better way for him to enter the number one MMA promotion than if he was to be matched up with a former opponent and current UFC fighter, Daniel Pineda?
Pineda did actually inflict defeat on the Dagestani fighter with a 1st round knockout but the result was overturned to a no contest, which reinstated his 0 due to Pineda testing positive for a banned substance.
So although his record was unaffected, you can be sure he would love to get revenge for that moment and put things right, at least within his own head. There’s no better platform than the UFC for it too.
Mukhamed Eminov (14-1)
Featherweight – AMC Fight Nights
Mukhamed Eminov is another featherweight with huge potential and already a champion at just 24 years of age at the Russian promotion, AMC Fight Nights.
He started his professional career with an incredible ten straight stoppage victories, including nine submissions, and has the base skills to go on and become a real threat in the UFC.
At such a young age he has plenty of time to perfect his craft and be able to hang with the best of the best in the sport, it’s just up to the UFC if they get him in early or let him gain experience away from the bright lights before offering him a contract.
Angela Lee (10-2)
Atomweight – One Championship
The UFC doesn’t currently have an atomweight division that Angela Lee could compete at, but Dana White has recently expressed his desire to create one for the promotion and that would fill the need to sign new talent.
If it was to be created there would be no better way to promote a new division than getting arguably the number one fighter in that class. The atomweight division is hugely popular in the far east region and with the UFC trying to break into that market more, this would be a huge step forward in that goal.
At just 24 years old Lee already holds a belt in one of the best promotions in the world and has defended it four times so far, the opportunity to create a lasting legacy in the sport by opening up a new division is an exciting possibility.
This is an incredibly exciting weight class and one the UFC will no doubt be bringing in to play soon and Angela Lee should be the star they use to build its hype.
Claressa Shields (0-0)
Lightweight – PFL
Now this is one certainly for the future and no one knows how Claressa Shields will fare in this sport but if she can make the transition from boxing to MMA and compete then this would be a no brainer for the UFC.
Shields is one of, if not the best women’s boxer ever, so she has the potential to be a superstar in MMA and offer value for PPV cards. Her boxing ability is undeniable which is proven by the hoard of belts she has and by the fact she was the first boxer in the four belt era, man or woman, to be undisputed in two weight categories.
Her first fight is next month, June 10th on a stacked card at PFL 4, so we get to see soon what she can offer. Coming from boxing where women are stifled to two minutes rounds, to MMA where women get the same five minute rounds as the men do, Shields can now show she has the ability to knock people out rather than playing the points game.
She’ll have to show that she’s come a long way with her takedown defence and grappling before the UFC signs her, but she’s already got the profile for the UFC to make her an even bigger star.