In terms of countries that produce an abundance of talent, Russia and Brazil certainly stand out. What people forget though, is the UK/Ireland is stacked with talent. Talent that can fight in a big promotion today, talent that need another win or two to get to that point, and young prospects on the rise.
Guys like Leon Edwards, Michael Page, Lerone Murphy, Jack Shore, Arnold Allen, Tom Aspinall, Paddy Pimblett, Muhammad Mokaev, and Molly McCann are leading today’s charge in UK MMA. But with that said, there are more talent to keep an eye on.
Over the next few years, look out for some of these names at the top…
AT THE TOP
To me, at the top of the heap is Jack Cartwright (10-0). The only problem is that he hasn’t fought in a little over a year. What doesn’t help him is his last fight wasn’t a great performance, and his opponent basically ruined it himself. Cartwright won the Cage Warriors bantamweight title in a one-night four-man tournament back in 2019. He defended his title three times before taking this hiatus. The Brit is a good wrestler, and more of an exceptional grappler. His striking with the power and timing he possess stands out, but he’s just as good of a grappler.
At the top of the Cage Warriors featherweight division is the champion Jordan Vucenic (9-1). When Vucenic won the title last year, he took it from fan-favorite Morgan Charriere. He had his first title defense just last month. His last three opponents have a combined record of 28-8. Vucenic is primarily a wrestler with a solid ground game that is hard to defend.
Since Jack Cartwright has been gone, Dominique Wooding (9-4) has taken control as the current Cage Warriors bantamweight title. Wooding has a lot of experience fighting good fighters, and spent some time in Bellator from 2019 to 2020. He’s a dynamic, explosive fighter that is insanely quick and athletic. He can finish the fight at any time. Exciting to watch and still young at 25.
The only man to beat Nathan Fletcher (6-1) is Dominique Wooding, which was for the vacant Cage Warriors bantamweight strap. Although Fletcher came up short, if they fought ten times they would probably split wins. Combined as a pro and amateur, he’s 13-2 with ten finishes. His striking is a work in progress, but has a good ground game and he’s a stellar wrestler.
Among all female prospects in the UK, Dakota Ditcheva (5-0) is the best. Ditcheva has an extensive Muay Thai background, and a very successful one at that. She is a British Muay Thai champion and a member of the British team that won the International Federation of Muay Thai Amateur World Championships. Even with that extensive background, her takedown defense has looked very good. On the feet, she’s a different animal and even girls way higher in the ranks won’t be able to handle Ditcheva on the feet.
A pair of brothers in the UK that have fought in Bellator and now Cage Warriors have been on a roll. Featherweight Harry Hardwick (8-3) and George Hardwick (9-1) are 8-0 combined in their last eight fights. Harry has never fought anyone with a losing record, and George has won his last five while not having lost since 2019. Both the Hardwick’s are technical strikers with a slick submission game.
Sam Patterson (9-1-1) is one of the hottest prospects today. He’s been killing over in Brave CF. He’s beat tough regional guys like Kamil Magomedov and Yiles Djiroun while beating former UFC fighter Felipe Silva. Before his pro career, Patterson was a Fightstar welterweight champion of the UK. His striking is a very in-your-face, high output style. He’s always throwing something different. His straight right is his preferred weapon but his striking as a whole is top-notch. Along with that, his grappling is solid and he has good movement.
Christian Leroy Duncan (6-0) just recently won the Cage Warriors title taking it from Djati Melan. Melan was the champ and 8-0 at the time. Duncan sparked him with a flying knee… Christian did have an extensive amateur career mostly for IMMAF. He went 17-6 as an amateur before going pro, where he’s been excelling. Duncan is known for his diverse, tricky style. He’s always throwing flashy spinning attacks being as dynamic as you see in the middleweight division. He’s also a good wrestler and grappler as hes adaptable anywhere the fight goes.
Justin Burlinson (7-1) lost some hype after his loss on the Contender Series last season. With that said, I feel if him and Yohan Lainesse fought eachother ten times, Burlinson would win more. He has knockout power and good striking fundamentals. But he’s better on the ground with effective jiu-jitsu. He’s a big threat with submissions holding thirteen career wins by that method.
IN THE MIDDLE
Thomas Paull (11-3) is carving out his own quiet path. But he has accomplished a lot. Not fighting in Cage Warriors like the majority on this list, Paull has done his thing on the smaller UK shows. He’s a former London’s Calling champ and is the Golden Ticket double champ. Paull just knocked out UK veteran Perry Andre Goodwin, and altogether has a 100% finish rate. He’s a power puncher and overall good boxer.
Luke Shanks (9-3) has had an up-down career the last few years. In 2020 he won the flyweight title, and lost it to Jake Hadley a few months later. Then last year for the vacant title, he lost to Sam Creasey. Shanks then beat Creasey in the rematch, but missed weight so he didn’t obtain the title. Shanks is a heavy-handed wrestler that is still just 26. He’s never fought anyone with a losing record, fighting some solid guys in his career.
Paul Hughes (8-1) is the current interim Cage Warriors featherweight champ, beating Morgan Charriere last year. The one loss Hughes has is to Jordan Vucenic who is the current champion. Hughes and Vucenic was supposed to unify the title about a month ago but Hughes pulled out due to injury. Hughes is a cardio guy with a strong wrestling base and well-equipped grappling.
Adam Bramhald (12-2) started off 2-2 before winning his last ten fights. He is a two-time Caged Steel bantamweight champion. Bramhald has looked solid, but has fought terrible competition. Bramhald has some experience in kickboxing going 4-0 in K-1. He’s a diverse kickboxer that throws with a lot of volume. Not too powerful, but has everything else.
The always exciting Will Currie (7-2) has only lost to one man and that was twice, to the Cage Warriors middleweight champion Christian Leroy Duncan. Currie had won his last two and could very well be the second-best cage warriors middleweight behind Duncan. He’s got a standout grappling base with a strong submission attack, and a diverse attack on the feet. Currie is only 23, so the sky is the limit.
Caolan Loughran (5-0) is an undefeated bantamweight prospect with a flawless 100% finishing rate. A product out of Team Kaobon Liverpool, Loughran trains with the likes of the UFC’s Tom Aspinall, Mike Grundy, and Darren Till. Loughran won three titles as an amateur, and currently thriving as a pro. Wrestling is where Loughran transcends. He’s at his best when he’s mixing in his wrestling and striking.
Fighting since 2015, Kingsley Crawford (8-3) is on a three-fight win streak. He had an extensive amateur career going 10-3-1. Crawford has had setbacks, but hasn’t shied away from fighting good competition. He’s a well-rounded fighter that has fight-ending ability everywhere. Especially on the mat, where Crawford is so dangerous on top and on his back.
Felix Klinkhammer (7-0) has fought all over the world in France, Czech Republic, and the UK. He’s currently signed to Ares FC over in Paris, France. Klinkhammer trains with a really good team out of the UK in London Shootfighters. He’s a tricky unorthodox fighter on the feet, with a strong ground game. There are not many other welterweights with the styler of Klinkhammer.
From London, England, George Tokkos (7-2) is living in Deerfield Beach, Florida training out of Sanford MMA. He’s the current Fury FC light heavyweight champion and at not point, he did have a short run in Bellator. However, he lost both of those fights. That was unfortunate, but since then, Tokkos has won his last three and is wearing gold.
Although John Mitchell (4-1) lost his last fight, I fully believe he was much better than the other guy. Out of Ireland, Mitchell is a bright prospect in the lightweight division. On the feet, he fights very well on the outside. He throws a good knee up the middle and has a strong straight jab. Mitchell is an even better grappler. He can open you up with constant ground and pound or take the back and secure the RNC. Really well-versed is the Irishman. Mitchell is a must-watch in the future.
ON THE RISE
Even compared to some of the more established UK prospects, Luke Riley (3-0) is even more hyped. He’s never lost a fight between a pro and amateur, being 7-0 combined. The story so far with Riley has been getting taken down, getting up, and knocking guys out. His striking is super clean and the bodywork is top-notch. Cage Warriors have someone special in Riley.
Standout amateur fighter PK Zadeh (3-0) went 3-1 in the IMMAF, and won multiple titles as an amateur. Zadeh is a strong physical wrestler with a good gas tank and good pressure. He’s not been too active in his career, as he’s only fought once in the last two years. His style is gonna be hard to fend off in the coming years though…
Kenny Mokhonoana (3-0) is another guy with a lot of amateur experience. He went 11-6-1 as an ammy, winning multiple titles. Mokhonoana is the younger brother of top prospect Frans Mlambo. Mokhonoana isn’t on the same level as his older brother, but has strong potential as well. He’s a good wrestler and of his three pro wins, he has three submission wins.
Connor Hughes (4-0) is another one that had a good amateur career winning a few titles. He’s been fighting for UK Fighting Championship as a pro and of those four pro wins, he has a 100% finish rate. Three of his wins come by submission and that don’t say enough about his striking. Hughes is a sharp striker and his right hand is sharp. He’s accurate, and the timing is top-notch. Not just a good striker, he has a knack for taking the fight down, taking the back, and finishing with the RNC.
Chloe Cooke (4-0) is still an amateur and is the Cage Warriors Academy South East atomweight and strawweight champion. Cooke is still green, as expected – but has a high ceiling. Especially at such a young age… She throws good kicks, but with good wrestling. As for her ground game, it’s where she’s at her best. She is a submission threat from all areas and lands active ground and pound. We probably won’t hear of Cooke in the next few years, but she will quietly move up the rankings.
Tayo Odunjo (4-1) is a promising fighter out of the UK. He’s on a two-fight win streak and has looked really good lately. He’s a former MTK welterweight champion. Odunjo is a long sniper-like fighter on the feet. He fights with his hands at his waist, and uses a lot of feints to set up big shots. He has a good jab with deceptive power as well. Not a lot of people know of this guy, but he’s someone that can develop into a contender.
Former Bellator fighter Raphael Uchegbu (6-0) is a member of Team Kaobon. He trains with the likes of Mike Grundy and Darren Till in his corner. He fought his first two pro fights for Bellator and won both. Now, he’s been fighting for Almighty Fighting Championship. Uchegbu is a glue-like grappler that can dominate in positions and lock in submissions.
Lewis McGrillen-Evans (3-0) represents the Manchester Top Team training alongside Lerone Murphy and other top fighters. McGrillen is a two-time regional amateur champion who went 8-1 before turning pro. This young man at 21-years-old is the real deal, and his name will be heard in the future.
As an amateur Ben Ellis (4-1) won the Budo Fighting and Cage Warriors lightweight title. Ellis is an excellent wrestler with solid positional grappling, and has damaging ground and pound. He has one setback as a pro, but bounced back in a big way after an exciting fight beating Nik Bagley. The only loss Ellis has in his career is to another good prospect in Manny Akpan.
Harry Keane (7-1) is a two-time amateur K1 champion, and a won four amateur MMA titles. Keane as a pro has won the UCMMA and ECMMA title. He is a good boxer that uses a lot of feints and kicks. He’s also a good wrestler that uses the feints to get takedowns. Keane holds four submissions on his record, so he is well-versed everywhere.
Not a lot of light heavyweight prospects out of the UK, but Simeon Powell (5-0) looks to be one of the best in the weight class. Powell recently fought on the PFL Challenger series, and is now on the official PFL roster. At 6’5″, Powell is someone that uses every bit of his range. He’s a good, long explosive striker. Snipping long punches and explosive knees. His length is used perfectly on the mat, being dangerous everywhere. He’s good at taking the back and finishing from there as well. At light heavyweight, I like Powell a lot…
Steven Hill (5-0) has competed in various jiu-jitsu competitions, and some boxing as well. He was a four-time Australian boxing champion, a three-time British champion in BJJ, and a K1 champion. All that has developed him into a dominant MMA fighter. Hill in 9-0 combined as a pro and amateur, and has won a title in each. In his MMA career, it’s been the wrestling of Hill and the ferocious ground and pound that’s been a difference-maker.
Lone’er Kavanagh (3-0) is from London, England, with a Chinese-Irish heritage. He trains out of Great Britain Top Team under his head coach, former UFC fighter and UK MMA legend, Brad Pickett. He competed in K-1 and is a five-time world champion. Kavanagh brought every single bit of that into his MMA career… He is a very skilled and an intriguing young man. Where he’s best at, is unequivocally on the feet. Kavanagh is one of my favorite young prospects on the rise.
Louis Lee Scott (3-0) is a stud, and has a strong resume. As an amateur Scott won titles, and was a staple of IMMAF juniors in 2018 and 2019. Outside of MMA, Scott fought in thai boxing. Scott thrives in those scrappy fights as his footwork, bodywork, and head movement is slick. He is gonna be a guy that’s known as a scrapper, like the Mason Jones’ of the world.
George Staines (8-0) is unbeaten, but still competing as an amateur. He is the Almighty Fighting featherweight champion and the UKFC lightweight champion. Staines has the skillset to turn pro today and succeed. He has good footwork, keeps heavy on the gas, has good kickboxing, and strikes to close the distance well. Staines could be the one taken down, but he’s a very strong grappler. His guillotine is super dangerous and he has put a couple of guys to sleep with it.
20-year-old Liam McCracken (1-0) is just 1-0 as a pro, but went 8-4 as an amateur. He competed in jiu-jitsu competitions and won amateur MMA titles. McCracken is a growing striker with a well-rounded ground game. His jiu-jitsu is strong and can either finish on the mat or easily go the distance with a deep gas tank.
Ieuan Davies (2-0) is a 25-year-old from Leigh, Wigan, England, training out of Blackledge MMA. Like many MMA fighters; growing up he was always in traditional martial arts, starting in kickboxing and karate. The Welshman is a strong kickboxer. His front kick is the jab and his roundhouses are his right/left hooks. Davies quickly asserts himself right away in fights, landing thudding kicks to knock you out. He kicks frequently and mixes it up going to the head and body before going upstairs. When he decides to throw his hands, it is set up off of his kicks. Very bright future…
Who is your favorite UK MMA prospect? Let us know in the comments below!