In 2020, the regional scene took a big hit. With only about 3% of fighters able to stay active and few promotions putting on shows, those that were able to compete benefited tremendously.
Though there’s so much unpredictability in MMA, we decided to take a deep look at the active promotions and the local fighters that made last year exciting.
Here are The Scrap’s 10 bold predictions for regional MMA in 2021:
Erin Blanchfield will become the Invicta FC flyweight champion before getting called up to the UFC.
Erin Blanchfield was supposed to fight for the Invicta FC flyweight championship in 2020 before her opponent caught COVID. With time now passed, we expect the promotion to announce the rebooking for Q1.
Regardless of when it happens or who is on the opposite end of the cage, Erin Blanchfield will become an Invicta champion — then get signed to the UFC. There is no other female at flyweight worth signing right now in the U.S. or Canada. So we expect a big year for “Cold Blooded.”
Cage Warriors champions will get called up to the UFC more than any other regional promotion this year.
While the world is still racing to fight COVID, it’s clear the rules that stemmed from the pandemic will likely stay put for a while into 2021. With that said, Cage Warriors champions will likely get called up to the UFC more than any other regional promotion this year, including LFA and CFFC.
Why? It’s simple, the pandemic restrictions will allow for more international fighters to get their opportunity on Fight Island. Also, the LFA’s and CFFC’s are currently developing talent still, and will likely have champions who defend their belt once or twice before moving up. The regional scene is an interesting one to say the least, and it will continue to change this year as the promotions adapt to the new normal.
Nick Maximov accepts TUF 29 invitation, fights at light heavyweight before moving weight classes.
After’ Nick Maximov‘s Contender Series debut, he instantly became one to watch. Our 2020 Regional Fighter of the Year, Maximov beat a heavyweight and dominated them for three rounds, earning a TUF 29 invitation by Dana White. The show is set to feature middleweights and bantamweights, however, production has been delayed yet again. Regardless of the delay, we expect Maximov to accept Dana White’s offer. We’re just not confident the show actually happens with COVID still a rising factor in the United States.
If Nick doesn’t get to cash in on his Ultimate Fighter opportunity in 2021, we still believe he makes the cut to middleweight before the end of the year and makes a commitment to the division moving forward. But only after fighting again at light heavyweight and potentially claiming a regional title.
Mo Miller will become LFA bantamweight champion after title becomes vacant.
Mo Miller had a phenomenal 2020, notching multiple nominations for The Scrap’s regional MMA awards. He’s poised to have an even better 2021. With LFA investing in talent that are early on in their career, we can’t help but think the next champion will be around Mo Miller’s record of 5-0.
It’s inevitable that Zviad Lazishvili gets called up to the big leagues this year. Once that happens, Mo Miller will without a doubt be one of the first names on Mark Bieri’s lists to pit in the vacant title fight after a fight or two. But who knows, maybe Contender Series comes calling before than.
Elise Reed loses CFFC strawweight championship before end of year.
After pulling off the upset victory over Jasmine Jasudavicius at CFFC 83, Elise Reed was able to defend the belt once more in 2020. Both fights went to a decision, and both could have been scored for the opposing side. Because of this, we predict that Reed will lose her title in 2021.
This is in no way a knock to Reed’s talent, she has some nice stand-up and will continue to improve. But to improve as a title holder so early on in her career is tough and it will be harder to match her appropriately with such slim pickings on the regional women’s scene.
HRMMA will sign a UFC Fight Pass deal in 2021.
HRMMA has been putting on some great matchups. They even had their featherweight champion Nate Maness get called up to the UFC in 2020. Their product is starting to become more noticed within regional MMA and there will come a point in time where UFC Fight Pass makes the offer they can’t refuse.
It’ll be interesting to see who they bring in for fights this year with a sucessfull 2020 under their belt. The pandemic hasn’t made things easy, but HRMMA’s quality has not suffered. We expect them to announce a Fight Pass deal sometime before the year ends.
Anthony Romero gets signed to a major promotion.
One of the biggest Contender Series snubs of Season 4 was Anthony Romero. “The Genius” was arguably the best prospect to fight on the show last year, leading us to believe that he doesn’t stay on the regional scene for too much longer.
After a successful LFA debut, we expect Romero to maybe fight one more time under the promotion’s banner before getting the call up to UFC or Bellator.
Ian Garry becomes Cage Warriors Welterweight Champion before end of the year.
“The Future” of Cage Warriors was able to go 2-0 in 2020 and we expect him to do the same this year. This time, with gold around his waist. The hype is real and Cage Warriors loves Ian Garry, so there is no doubt that he fights for a championship before moving on the big leagues.
If he does it the right way, he’ll enter the UFC vacating a Cage Warriors title like Mason Jones recently did. Who knows, maybe Garry could become the next Cage Warriors champ champ too. One thing is for sure, the future is bright and Ireland will have their next champion in Garry this year.
Mitch Raposo gets a Contender Series opportunity on Season 5.
New England’s next big thing will likely continue his undefeated ways in 2021, eventually leading to his much anticpated DWCS debut. Though Mitch Raposo had two unanimous decision victories last year, he has showcased his evolution each time out proving he can go the distance if need be.
Depending on when the next season of DWCS is announced, we’ll likely see Raposo fight once more on the regional scene since New England promotions struggled to put on shows during the pandemic. Definitely keep an eye on him this year.
Regional belts will continue to lose meaning for UFC call-ups.
MMA can get very political, especially on the regional scene. When you look at the call-ups that happened this year in the UFC alone, most of them were not regional title holders. Others got signed to PFL or Bellator and we saw a few get a Contender Series fight like Vanessa Demopolous. Though she won the inaugural LFA strawweight championship, the person she beat for it, Sam Hughes, capitlized on the right moment and got the short notice UFC call from Dana White — despite never claiming a LFA title.
Regional MMA is interesting and to think that you can still get a call without ever holding a regional title is exciting to many. Unfortunately for those gunning for gold, we believe titles will continue to hold less weight when UFC matchmakers recruit this year. Until the politics of MMA are exposed and addressed, this will be a trend that becomes the norm.