I am writing this article to provide some of the prospects I feel have relatively high potential in the UFC based off what I’ve seen thus far. I am not stating all of these fighters in this full article have the potential to be the champion of their respective division (though I think some can be). However, I am including them because I believe they have the capability of moving up the rankings and obtaining a very good reputation inside the octagon.
I realize ‘prospect’ can be perceived as a subjective term so I will specify that the fighters in this article I am referring to have no more than 4 fights in the UFC thus far (as of April 10th, 2020) and have made their promotional debut. By no means have these fighters looked perfect in the UFC thus far. In fact, some of these fighters have lost at least once so far in the promotion, but I believe in their long-term growth and future success which is why I am mentioning them in this piece. I hope you enjoy!
Men’s Bantamweight Division
Montel Jackson is a STUD. He had a minor setback in his UFC debut on short notice against Ricky Simon where he was outwrestled and outworked over the course of three rounds, but I thought he made a good account of himself considering the circumstances. Jackson has some freakish attributes including his very long reach for this weight class (75 inches) and his very large hands (larger than Francis Ngannou’s hands). In addition, Jackson is a very promising talent as he is a very good striker, a very good wrestler, a proficient grappler, a very good athlete, a threatening finisher, and capable of fighting at a very high pace (in his last bout he landed 11 takedowns, 3 passes on the ground, a knockdown, and 75 significant strikes in a decision victory per ufcstats.com). Jackson has not looked perfect in the UFC though as his cardio management and decision making has been questionable at times, but as he gains more experience, I expect these items to be addressed. At 27 years young, obtaining more knowledge about MMA, and improving, I think Jackson has a ton of potential in the UFC.
Since making his UFC debut, Raoni has shown he is a very talented fighter. Raoni is a very good striker (has power, good technique, and reactive timing + decision making), a great grappler (strong BJJ background), threatening finisher, and a good takedown game. Raoni’s technical capabilities, well-roundness, and being a finisher both on the ground and in the striking, will make him a difficult opponent to defeat even in this talented-stacked weight class. He was scheduled to face Cody Stamann, but due to the postponements the bout didn’t materialize at the initial scheduling. I am interested in seeing that bout come to fruition in a second attempt. Raoni is already a top 15 fighter in the Men’s Bantamweight division and I think he will move up a few more spots in the rankings.
This selection is no secret. Sean has looked very good in the UFC overall so far. Sean has shown he is a very good athlete, a very talented striker, a threatening finisher, fast, and a good grappler. He has shown flaws in a few areas including cardio and striking defense at times, but I believe he will (if he hasn’t already) address these. Sean is still 25 years of age and will continue to learn & grow as he trains and gets more experience inside the octagon. I expect the ‘Sugar Show’ to continue within the UFC for the time being and eventually become a 10-top fighter in this weight class as he continues to learn, improve, and get more experience.
Casey Kenney was a ‘Champ Champ’ in LFA which is a promotion that has produced an abundance of UFC-level talent. After Kenney entered the UFC’s octagon in his debut with some hype, he went toe-to-toe with Ray Borg in the wrestling, scrambling, and grappling department to solidify that he is indeed a talented fighter that belongs at this level. I am including Casey Kenney in the Men’s Bantamweight section of this article because he’s fought all three of his UFC bouts at this weight class. While I think he can continue to have success at Bantamweight, I think he has a higher ceiling at Flyweight and is a top 10 talent in that division. Casey is a very well-rounded fighter as he is a good scrambler, wrestler, grappler, and striker. The areas where Kenney has looked most susceptible are his takedown defense and his cardio at times. If Kenney drops back down to 125lbs, I think he will have better success wrestling despite looking solid in that area at 135lbs. As it pertains to the cardio, I certainly don’t think Kenney has bad cardio, but I have noticed he’s slowed down in fights (round 3). Furthermore, all three of his UFC fights thus far have been fought at a high pace and with a lot of grappling & wrestling involved. The fact that Casey was able to go a full three rounds with cardio machines like Merab Dvalishvili and Ray Borg tell me Kenney will be game for all 3 rounds of action. I look forward to seeing Casey succeed in the UFC regardless of his choice in weight class.