With over 600 fighters on the UFC roster, there is a ton of talent in mixed martial arts right now, and not every quality fighter can be ranked in the top-15. For example, Sean Strickland is a terrific middleweight but he is currently not ranked in the top-15. Below, I take a deeper look through the current UFC roster and select 10 unranked fighters, plus Strickland, to watch for in 2021. There were others could who have made the list, but these are the fighters I ended up selecting. The only rule is that there is only one fighter per UFC weight class, minus the women’s featherweight division.
Flyweight: Jimmy Flick (16-5 MMA, 1-0 UFC)
Flick is one of the most creative submission artists in the UFC right now. He proved how dangerous he is on the ground in his UFC debut, submitting prospect Cody Durden with a flying triangle choke.
Honorable mention: Tagir Ulanbekov (10-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC)
Bantamweight: TJ Dillashaw (16-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC)
Okay, so I’m cheating here because Dillashaw would obviously be ranked right now if he wasn’t suspended by USADA. After missing two years due to a PED suspension, Dillashaw will return in early 2021 and already he has been called out by the likes of Jose Aldo and Rob Font. Dillashaw has the most experience of any fighter on this list and I’m excited to see his return to the Octagon.
Honorable mention: Casey Kenney (16-2-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC)
Featherweight: Ilia Topuria (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC)
Just 23, Topuria has shown flashes of brilliance in his first two UFC bouts, knocking out Damon Jackson and defeating fellow prospect Youssef Zalal. I believe Topuria could be champ one day.
Honorable mention: Movsar Evloev (13-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC)
Lightweight: Rafael Fiziev (9-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC)
Just 27, Fiziev was knocked out by Magomed Mustafaev in his UFC debut, but since then he has reeled off three straight wins, including a brutal KO over Renato Moicano in his last outing.
Honorable mention: Brad Riddell (9-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC)
Welterweight: Sean Brady (13-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC)
Brady has been a pro since 2014 and he has been in the UFC for just over a year now, beating Court McGee, Ismail Naurdiev, and Christian Aguilera. Brady has all the tools necessary to make a run for the top-15. He’s a guy that I view as having future championship potential in MMA.
Honorable mention: Miguel Baeza (10-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC)
Middleweight: Sean Strickland (22-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC)
He’s a veteran of the sport, but there’s a reason I chose Strickland for the middleweights. After missing two years due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident, Strickland returned at 185lbs in 2020 and defeated Jack Marshman and Brendan Allen. I can’t believe he isn’t ranked in the top-15 after beating Allen. It’s just a matter of time before Strickland makes his move into the rankings.
Honorable mention: Tafon Nchukwi (5-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC)
Light Heavyweight: Roman Dolidze (8-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC)
Dolidze has looked solid in both of his UFC fights, beating Khadis Ibragimov by KO and then John Allan by split decision in 2020. He’s 32, so he’s not young, but he has been very impressive so far.
Honorable mention: William Knight (9-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC)
Heavyweight: Tom Aspinall (9-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC)
There are quite a few heavyweight prospects with promise, which is nice to see, but I have Aspinall at the head of the pack after he KOed Jake Collier and Alain Baudot in his first two UFC fights.
Honorable mention: Alexander Romanov (13-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC)
Women’s strawweight: Loma Lookboonmee (5-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC)
Lookboonmee has been in the UFC for just over a year and has gone 2-1 in that stretch, winning her last fight against Jinh Yu Frey by decision. At only 24, Lookboonmee still has untapped potential.
Honorable mention: Cory McKenna (5-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC)
Women’s flyweight: Miranda Maverick (8-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC)
Maverick had an impressive UFC debut when she defeated Liana Jojua via TKO (doctor stoppage). She is only 23 and has all the tools necessary to make a serious run up the women’s 125lbs ladder.
Honorable mention: Victoria Leonardo (8-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
Women’s bantamweight: Karol Rosa (13-3 MMA, 2-0 UFC)
Rosa has looked good in the UFC, beating Vanessa Melo and Lara Procopio by decision. She is only 25 and continues to show improvements every time we see her step into the Octagon.
Honorable mention: Tracy Cortez (8-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC)
Who are some UFC fighters you are looking to watch in 2021?