November was a solid month for Regional MMA. There were various promotions putting on quality cards with several prospects in the spotlight. Miss Katie Vega and I decided to scout the world, watch all the top prospects that competed last month, and came up with eight fighters who are “Ready 4 The Call”.
We will name four prospects each who we think are ready to make it to the big show; and are only considering the UFC and Bellator for them to go to.
Shawn Bitter’s Choices
Tatsuro Taira has quietly been flying under the radar as one of the best flyweight prospects worldwide. In 2021 alone this year, Taira has gone 3-0. All three of his wins this year have come by submission. His most recent main event fight for Vale Tudo Japan, he won via a rear-naked choke around four minutes in.
The 21-year-old Taira is the current Shooto champion- a title he won earlier this year. Eight of his ten wins coming by finish and he’s undefeated. Taira is one of the brightest young prospects out of Japan. He’s well-rounded: on the feet, he’s got an explosive barrage of strikes and he closes the distance with well. He’s got some solid takedowns and on the mat is where he’s best. Taira has fight-ending ground and pound and is a submission threat.
Between Bellator and UFC, the UFC is the only one that would sign Taira. UFC signing Taira should be a no-brainer. Especially with ONE Championship and Rizin always picking up these Japanese up-and-comers. Right now the flyweight division is arguably the most enjoyable division to watch. Taira would compliment that young division in an instance.
Right now, Sharaputdin Magomedov is Russia’s best-kept secret. He’s been racking off highlight-reel finishes. He recently moved to 7-0 executing a very smooth hook kick knockout. Moscow’s 6’2″ middleweight has a 100% finish rate…
Magomedov is a kickboxer with an extensive background. In MMA, that’s what he has showcased so far. Even going backwards, Magomedov has light footwork and can still land effectively. He has a lot of dexterity in his legs, being able to throw head kicks in tight spaces. He can throw with both legs and is hard to read on what he’s going to throw. His style is very exciting to watch.
Most likely the UFC isn’t aware of Magomedov yet. With that said, it would be such a steal from Bellator to get this young man. Bellator in 2021 has made some excellent signings from Russia. Magomedov would be a great pick-up from the promotion in the start of 2022.
Mateusz Rebecki was on this list for me last month when he defended his FEN title for the sixth time. Now, make it seven defending his title in November beating Arkadiy Osipyan. After nine straight finishes, Rebecki went all five rounds winning on the scorecards. This time his opponent’s combined record was 152-52 beating guys like Kaik Brito, Daguir Imavov, Marian Ziolkowski, and many more.
Rebecki is best known for his jiu-jitsu before developing into a top prospect. Among his accomplishments, winning the Polish ADCC gold medal stand out. He is actually a two-time ADCC gold medalist in fact. In other BJJ competitions, he’s taken home a slew of bronze medals as well. Outside of his gold medals, he’s of course a BJJ black belt. Rebecki is a bit one-dimensional being solely a grappler. But in that area, he’s just so dangerous and that’s on top or bottom. As shown in his last fight, he’s fully capable of finishing it on the feet.
It really baffles me that Rebecki is still fighting regionally and not in a big promotion. Rebecki is a must-sign for the UFC. Among all weightclasses and prospects, he is one of the most deserving guys for a big opportunity. No need to take another fight because there is nothing left for him.
Brazil’s Felipe Lima has a lot of things going for him. He’s a young man fighting at 23-years-old. Also trains out of Allstars Training Center where Khamzat Chimaev and many others train out of. More importantly, Lima is the current Fight Club Rush bantamweight champion. That title he won in November by a flying knee to the body in the first round. If he was a bit more active, then his name would be more known as a top prospect.
Lima has massive potential. He has gone the distance five times and that doesn’t mean he lacks the killer instinct, because he goes after it. Lima is a dynamic striker. He’s an athletic fighter that favors the flying knee. He goes body to head better than most. Lima is very well-rounded as his grappling and wrestling are up to par. It’s just there in his back pocket when needed.
With his ties to Khamzat Chimaev, that should alone give the UFC some interest. Also, fighting and headlining events on UFC Fight Pass build his case. Without all that, his skillset should be enough to get a chance in the UFC. Since losing his pro debut, Lima has won his next/last eleven fights. Call this guy up UFC.
Katie Vega’s Choices
Aaron Phillips was the latest TUF 29 contestant to return to the regional scene in successful fashion. Repping the new nickname “The Alaskan Bull Worm,” Phillips dominated Trey Williams in the main event of FirePower 3. Now training in Texas under the Gracie Barra gyms, fans were able to see massive improvements for a fighter who was once solely self-trained via YouTube.
Phillips was able to showcase his solid stand-up, coupled with dominant wrestling. The new white belt was also able to get out of some very tight submissions by a brown-belt in Williams, and showed he truly has an iron chin. We’d love to see him make his way back into the UFC and prove that people with his story and hurdles in Alaska can make it.
Being on The Ultimate Fighter was huge for him and his career, he joined the show with only three years of MMA experience under his belt. It would make a hell of a movie; from not having any access to gyms and fresh fruits + vegetables to the big stage. He’d be the first Native from Kotzebue, AK too, which would be huge for the community.
The “Baby Bull” stole the show, winning the USA vs. Mexico tournament for Combate Global this month. What made his multiple performances that night even more impressive is the competition he had to beat in order to come out on top. He beat Jim Alers (14-5), Samuel Alvarez (6-5), and the proomotion’s poster boy, Cristian Perez (7-1), who was a previously undefeated and slate to win it all.
After a performance like that, Enrique Gonzalez deserves a call up to the big leagues. He would be a perfect fit in Bellator’s lightweight division. He’s so well rounded and is someone they can push; plus has all the tools to be a title contender in a year or two.
“Spartacus” went to war yet again at BTC 13, showcasing his consistent growth since training at Niagara Top Team. Though the start to his professional career didn’t go as planned, Xavier Nash is making up for it. Taking on tough competition too…
After back-to-back unanimous decision wins in 2021, next year should be a good one for the Canadian prospect. His well rounded skill set and wrestling will be a problem for most at 170lbs, regionally. We’d like to see Bellator scoop him up. Nash fights tough competition and will eventually earn his way.
Billy Goff won the Cage Titans welterweight championship last month against an undefeated Marty Navis. Goff is an absolute savage, and takes on the best of the best. He’s very well rounded, and is dangerous wherever the fight may go. We saw what he did to a Gracie in his Bellator debut, and he’s been knocking guys out on the regional circuit for a while now.
After his Bellator win last year, Goff has gone 2-0 under the Cage Titans banner. Now the title holder, you have to think 2022 will be the year he gets a stable home in one of the big league promotions. Since we’ve seen what he can do in Bellator, I’d like to see him get a shot on Dana White’s Contender Series and eventually into the UFC.