With The Ultimate Fighter 30 now in the history books, the speculation around the new season begins. Who will coach TUF 31? Which weight classes would the UFC be interested in bringing in? Since there are currently more questions than answers, Katie Vega & Shawn Bitter decided to imagine what the next divisions could be, and which fighters would be perfect fits.
It’s clear that some divisions are deeper than others. With the last two seasons featuring different weight classes, it seems like welterweights and women’s bantamweights could potentially be on tap for the next season. Moving forward with those divisions in mind, read about the 16 potential cast members that could bring some exciting fights to the UFC Apex next season…
Shawn’s #1 Welterweight Pick: Mikey England
Mikey England may have fought at a catchweight of 180lbs his last fight, but is indeed a true welterweight. His aggressive fighting style, finishing ability, and looks will have all eyes on him if he was to be on the show. England is a product out of Glory MMA with coaches James Krause and Zac Cummings in his corner.
England grew up wrestling ever since a young kid in middle school. He started wrestling at Iowa State and then the University of Missouri. England has done a great job sticking to his roots, being his wrestling. He’s also developed a dangerous striking game. He generates so much power in his hands it only takes one from him to make a difference. If anything, win or lose, England will go out on his sword and so far, he’s been the swordsman.
Katie’s #1 Welterweight Pick: Mateusz Figlak
Poland’s Mateusz Figlak may not be a realistic choice to join a TUF cast due to his location, but let it be known… He’s absolutely worthy of the pick. Currently 16th ranked of 169 active UK/Ireland Pro Welterweights, he’s due for a Cage Warriors title shot and then that next step up in competition.
Figlak is scrappy, gritty, and extremely well-rounded. He also fights whoever they put in front of him, which is respectable in today’s MMA regional scene. Alongside his brother, the Figlak’s could be the next brother paring to make waves in the UFC.
Shawn’s #2 Welterweight Pick: Raheam Forest
Raheam Forest went 5-6 as an amateur, so the resurgence he’s had in his career has been amazing. He’s only 25 and has fought for LFA and CFFC in his last two fights. There isn’t much not to like about this guy. I think he’s a stud and has a high ceiling…
When talking about the guys with massive power in their hands, that’s Forest. Not just his hands as he kicks like a mule and is very explosive. He brings that with constant forward pressure and a good gas tank. Forest is a good wrestler as well, capable of taking the fight anywhere. He has a heavy top position and nasty ground and pound. Everything he does is with 100% commitment and power.
Katie’s #2 Welterweight Pick: Haris Talundžić
Factory X’s undefeated protege would be a phenomenal pick for a new season of The Ultimate Fighter. Haris Talundžić is 5-0 currently, and 4-0 under the LFA banner. Not only can he take you to deep waters, he can also strangle you if it gets to the ground. Dangerous all round, a LFA title shot has to be on his horizon.
Talundžić would be awesome for TUF, due to his well-rounded skillset. He’s a smart fighter with a great camp behind him and has never fought anyone with a losing record. If you haven’t heard of Haris, you will definitely be hearing more of him this and next year.
Shawn’s #3 Welterweight Pick: Solomon Renfro
Solomon Renfro has had a weird go this last year. He fought last season on the Contender Series and lost a very controversial split decision to Jonny Parsons. A few months later, he fought in LFA and shockingly got knocked out by Adam Fugitt who is now in the UFC. He did get back on the board last July with a nice unanimous decision win though.
It’s evident that Renfro has massively improved over the last few years. Ever since training at Tiger Schulmann, he’s a much better fighter. Renfro does have good wrestling and is physically strong. On the feet, he has fast hands with clubbing power — a dangerous duo. He attacks everywhere too, including leg kicks and attacking the body. He would be a massive favorite to win the whole show…
Katie’s #3 Welterweight Pick: Trevor Peek
A successful The Ultimate Fighter has a mixture of veterans and fighters still building on their skillset. We’ve learned overtime that #1 picks rarely win the show, and usually – people step up to the occasion, learn a bunch, and strive under the conditions of being on TUF. Though early in his career, Trevor Peek is a valid welterweight pick. It looks like he’s making his way down to lightweight, but he currently holds the AFS welterweight title.
Currently 6-0, the 26-year-old has tons of potential… So much so he was recently booked for Season 6 of DWCS. He boasts a 100% finish rate with six impressive knockouts and a win over UFC veteran Khama Worthy. It would be stupid for anyone to stand up with Peek, it’s usually lights out within the first two rounds. Trevor continues to challenge himself on the regional scene, which is always great to see in a young prospect. We’re sure that you’ll continue to hear about him more in the coming years.
Shawn’s #4 Welterweight Pick: Justin Burlinson
Justin Burlinson is another one that lost on Contender Series last season. He won his fight after that, but just lost to former UFC fighter Rhys McKee for the Cage Warriors title. Being 1-2 in his last three fights, he’s a lot better than his latest outcomes.
Burlinson has knockout power and good striking fundamentals. He is better on the ground with effective jiu-jitsu. He’s a big threat with submissions holding thirteen career wins by that method. Burlinson is just 25 years old and in a weightclass that is still not as strong, he’s gonna be a top guy.
Katie’s #4 Welterweight Pick: Tyler Ray
Now Tyler Ray may be nice to look at, but aside from that fact – he’s a beast in the cage. Since suffering his second pro loss in 2020, he’s bounced back and has fought under several of the best regional promotions. Most recently, he won via unanimous decision at Eagle FC 46. In his last four, he finished one fight via first-round submission, and dominated the rest. If he went into the TUF house, you know he’ll have the smartest approach to be able to fight back-to-back…
With one of the best nicknames in MMA, “Wolverine” would be perfect if the next season casted welterweights. He’s experienced with a 10-2 record, trains with some of the best in the world at Kill Cliff FC, and truly has that dog in him to pull it all off.
Shawn’s #1 W Bantamweight Pick: Evelyn Martins
Evelyn Martins is from Brazil, but lives in Miami, Florida, where trains at American Top Team. She grew up doing muay thai before coming over fully to MMA. She is only 2-0, but has beaten decent fighters including Melissa Croden who had some hype behind her.
With TUF, you see a lot of these young pros get casted for the show. Evelyn is well-rounded; she’s solid on the mat, and her Muay Thai with those leg kicks on the feet are very well done. She was scheduled to fight on the Challenger Series for PFL earlier this year, so if available she would be fitting for the TUF house.
Katie’s #1 W Bantamweight Pick: Ekaterina Shakalova
Currently 7-1 and only 25-years-old, Ekaterina Shakalova has to be closing in on a much deserved call up to the big leagues. Especially with the division needing some new talent… If she were to get on an Ultimate Fighter season, she could be a favorite to win it all. She’s strong, has a great ground game, and she’s young. Which seems to be something the division is lacking today.
Ekaterina is relentless with her ground-and-pound, and super mean when the cage doors are locked. It’s something that TUF fans would absolutely love if she were to ever get casted on the show.
Shawn’s #2 W Bantamweight Pick: Bella Mir
Bella Mir is another young pro that I still think would make sense to cast for TUF. The biggest note on her is her father is the MMA legend and former UFC champion Frank Mir. Bella was just 17 when she made her MMA debut, and is now 3-0 at the age of 19.
Mir dominated in her debut and the other two fights she finished by first-round submission. Like her father, the jiu-jitsu is her strong suit and it seems like she has the wrestling to compliment her ground game. Of course, she’s gonna be raw – but in a weak division, she can really blossom in this competition.
Katie’s #2 W Bantamweight Pick: Montserrat Rendon
Montserrat Rendon is the definition of a beauty and a beast. She’s long, strong, and loves to scrap. She can also take a punch… Though she has no finishes on her pro record currently, she’s been in some fun scraps. It’s clear that she’s still putting things together, but the TUF house would be the perfect place to evolve in a short period of time.
Once Rendon masters her length, she’s going to be an absolute problem at 135-pounds. Let’s put the Mexican in the TUF house and see how she does… I think she’ll surprise a lot of people.
Shawn’s #3 W Bantamweight Pick: Auttumn Norton
Auttumn Norton probably wasn’t on most people’s radar until her last fight for Invicta FC 48. She beat the tar out of her opponent Maria Djukic, en route to a second-round stoppage. She lost her pro debut but to her credit, it was a split-decision loss. Norton rebounded since then, and has won now two in a row.
Norton would bring a lot to the TUF house and would probably be the fan favorite. She is a savage striker that has a lot of good qualities. Her head movement is solid and her footwork is really good. Norton is an in-your-face striker that’s gonna put out a lot of volume while talking a lot of shit in the process. She would be a must if bantamweights are being casted for TUF.
Katie’s #3 W Bantamweight Pick: Taneisha Tennant
Taneisha Tennant has never been more UFC-ready than she is today. After suffering her lone defeat on Contender Series in 2019, she’s since bounced back and even claimed the Invicta FC bantamweight title. They don’t call her the “Triple Threat” for no reason… Tennant has decent power in her hands, the cardio to last five rounds, and she’s durable as hell.
I think the TUF house would be perfect for her, as it often gives fighters a chance at redemption. Fighting in front of Dana White is no joke, but if there is anyone who deserves it – it’s Taneisha. She fights solid competition and at this point in her career, has earned a second chance at a UFC contract.
Shawn’s #4 W Bantamweight Pick: Lucia Szabová
Along with her MMA experience, Lucia Szabova has had a ton of Muay Thai fights as well. She has a 39-5 record in Muay Thai, and is a national champion. She is a bit more experienced than others on this list, but has put on some great performances.
The Muay Thai has shown out so far for Szabova, but she’s actually had just as much success on the mat. Still, with an underrated ground game, she prefers to keep the fight standing. In the clinch, she does excellent work with knees and smashing elbows. There is room for improvement, but she would be a favorite in the TUF house for sure.
Katie’s #4 W Bantamweight Pick: Brigid Chase
I’ve watched Brigid Chase fight a few times, and let’s just say… I would NOT want to be locked in the cage with her. She gives those Ronda Rousey-esque mean stares that would make anyone run the other way. Though she is my #4 pick, I whole heartedly believe she could win the entire thing. Most would look at her 3-1 record and believe it may be too early for something like The Ultimate Fighter. But she’ll be able to learn from the best and rise to the occasion.
Chase is scary. She’s an absolute beast with real power in her hands. I believe she would be perfect for the show simply because you know she’s getting ducked on the regional scene today. She’s the reigning B2 Fighting Series bantamweight champion and boasts a 100% finish rate. Her sole loss comes to UFC flyweight Jasmine Jasudavicius, but she’s come such a long way since 2019. I would love to see her on an upcoming TUF season because she’s tailor-made for the show. Chase has fan-favorite written all over her.
Which weight classes would you want to see next on The Ultimate Fighter?