It was a challenging year for MMA with the global pandemic putting a halt to sports for the beginning of 2020.
But COVID couldn’t stop some promoters from putting on multiple shows a month once lockdowns eased. Last year, we featured 60 fighters on our list and 21 of them got the call up to one of the big leagues, 5 others got a shot on Contender Series and either lost or didn’t get the contract, and 9 were unable to stay active due to the circumstances.
With fighters starting to train at a younger age, many college wrestlers making their transition to MMA, and regional promotions back in full swing getting exposure through UFC Fight Pass, 2021 is poised to be one of the better years for the regional scene. We know the talent pool is deeper than ever before and though we have a few returners, The Scrap staff decided to put together their annual list of regional prospects to watch from all over the world. Below is a list of fighters on the Western and Southern United States regional scene you should keep an eye on next year.
Fighters in the Southern United States
Elvin Espinoza (4-0, Lightweight)
Florida – Our lone Nicaraguan prospect fights out of Florida and was able to go 1-0 this year under the iKON MMA banner. Elvin Espinoza is riding a 7-fight win steak heading into 2021 and a 100% finish rate. Make sure to keep an eye on this lightweight product next year with the lightweight division being as deep as it is.
Cole Ferrell (10-0, Featherweight)
Georgia – The 28-year-old featherweight is on a 11-fight win streak, adding two wins in 2020. Returning to our list, Cole Ferrell fights out of X3 Sports in Atlanta, GA. and has a clearly has a knack for choking people out. Ferrell boasts a record of 10-0 now, with 8 wins via submission and 2 via KO/TKO. A front runner for TUF 29, keep an eye on Ferrell in 2021. UFC has got to be right around the corner.
Levi Mowles (14-4, Bantamweight)
Texas – Levi Mowles returns to the list going 2-0 this year and claiming both the CFFC and Atlas Fights bantamweight titles. The young prospect is now riding a 4-fight win steak and the #1 bantamweight in Texas, the U.S Southwest, and the United States. We hope to see Mowles get the shot he deserves come 2021 in the UFC or TUF 29.
Joshua DaSilveira (3-0, Light Heavyweight)
Florida – Joshua DaSilveira is the son of American Top Team coach Marcus “Conan” Silveira and he’s been off to a killer start in his MMA career. Undefeated since his amateur career, DaSilveira went 2-0 in 2020 and signed with Legacy Fighting Alliance, making a successful debut in October. Currently on a 7-fight win streak, DaSilveira is one to watch heading in 2021 as he continues to climb up the regional ranks.
Brant Moore (8-1, Lightweight)
Texas – Brant “Killer Bee” Moore only had one fight this year, but his one win was impressive enough for the division to know they don’t want to be on the ground with him. 3-0 now under the LFA banner and his win over Joe Gianetti may have put him in line for a title shot in 2021. Whatever is next, we expect big things from Moore.
Evan Elder (4-0, Lightweight)
Florida – The Sanford MMA prospect makes his debut on our list after going 2-0 this year. Evan Elder was able to fight for Shamrock FC before the pandemic slowed things down. He was also able to make his LFA debut later in the year, winning his fight via unanimous decision. Currently 4-0 and on an 8-fight win streak, 2021 should be a good year for “The Phenom”.
Ashton Kirby (11-1 Ammy, Lightweight)
Arkansas – Our second amateur fighter ever to make our prospect list fights out of Arkansas. With an impressive 11-1 record you’d think Ashton Kirby is about ready to make his pro debut. If so, 2021 would be the year to do it after going 3-0 and claiming an amateur title along the way. Definitely keep an eye on Kirby, he seems to be doing everything right before making taking on that next level of competition in the professional regional ranks.
Danny Sabatello (9-1, Bantamweight)
Florida – After not receiving a contract on Contender Series this season, the loud and in-your-face Danny Sabatello makes our list. After an impressive 2020, going 3-0 this year with two finishes, “The Italian Gangster” should have no issue with getting a call-up in 2021. A fight for two in Titan FC again may do the trick, unless he goes the TUF route which he would be perfect for. Whichever is next, make sure you tune in. It’s always a fun one.
Elijah Johns (7-1, Featherweight)
Texas – The LFA prospect, Elijah Johns, makes his debut on our list after going 2-0 in 2020. With a 5-1 record under the LFA banner, only time will tell when Johns will get his shot at the LFA featherweight championship. Ranked #8 in Texas for pro featherweights, definitely keep an eye on the Texas product come the new year.
Fighters in the Western United States
Nick Maximov (5-0, Light Heavyweight)
California – The young Nick Maximov makes his debut on our list after an insanely busy 2020. Looking at his Tapology, you wouldn’t have thought a pandemic happened with the amount of times he competed. Fighting 3 times this year and competing 4 times for Submission Underground, Maximov is likely one of the most active combat sports athlete this year. The Nate Diaz protege is probably the fighter to watch heading into 2020; finishing his fights for KOTC and LFA in the same calendar year and fighting up a weight class on Contender Series. The future is bright for this 22-year-old.
Bella Mir (2-0, Flyweight)
Nevada – Bella “Lady” Mir is our only fighter with under three fights on her record. However, if it were to go to anyone, Mir is very much deserving with the amount of hype behind her name. Now she may be the daughter off UFC legend, Frank Mir. But that doesn’t mean things are coming easy for the 17-year-old prospect. Headlining her first card right before the end of the year and putting on a dominant performance, the sky is the limit for the young product.
Chelsea Chandler (3-1, Bantamweight)
California – Chelsea Chandler is a newcomer on our list, and man is she badass. Just watch her last fight at Invicta FC 40 where she made quick work of her opponent in the first round. Although she only fought once this year, Chandler is absolutely one to keep an eye on in 2021. That is if anyone decides to fight her now after watching her. Only fighting undefeated opponents, Chandler is willing to fight at 135 and 145, which makes things a bit more interesting now that Dana White signed Danyelle Wolf at 1-0.
Justin Wetzell (6-1, Bantamweight)
Colorado – Justin Wetzell is another returner on our list who fights out of Denver, Colorado. Now 6-1, the Elevation Fight Team prospect was able to get a fight in this year after multiple cancellations. Fighting at catchweight his last time out against an undefeated Canadian, look for Wetzell to return to bantamweight in early 2021 and continue his winning ways.
Bruno Souza (8-1, Welterweight)
California – “The Tiger” had a great year under the LFA banner, even getting in a Karate bout for Karate Combat back in October. Going 2-0 with impressive finishes, Bruno Souza is one you should keep man eye on heading into 2021. Whether it’s a LFA title shot or a call up to the big leagues, Souza is ready for the upper echelon talent in his weight class.
Edwin Chavez (4-0, Lightweight)
Colorado – Edwin Chavez went 2-0 in 2020, one under the LFA banner and the other for Midwest Championship Fighting. Now on a 10-fight win streak seeming from his amateur career, the lightweight prospect is one to watch heading into 2021. Chavez will end the year was the 8th ranked of 30 active Colorado pro lightweights, putting Pariah MMA & Fitness on the map.
Josh Quinlan (3-0, Welterweight)
Nevada – Josh “The Renegade” Quinlan was one of many new undefeated prospects to make their LFA debut this year. He got his opportunity after a first-round Rear Naked Choke win at Fierce FC: New Era before the pandemic hit. Keeping his 100% finish rate after LFA 91, Quinlan is one to keep a close eye on come the new year win the LFA welterweight division.
Josh Fremd (6-1, Middleweight)
Colorado – Although he reps Pennsylvania, Josh Fremd is now out in Colorado training at Factory X. Going 2-0 this year and making a weight class change, Fremd looked scary, finishing both of his fights in the first round by vicious knockouts. If that wasn’t exciting enough, he’s interested in The Ultimate Fighter reboot that is set to happen next year. 2021 should be good to Fremd, definitely keep an eye on him.
Albert Trujilo (5-1, Flyweight)
California – Albert Trujilo only had one fight in 2020, but with that opportunity, he was able to capture the CFFC flyweight championship. The California prospect silencened the crowd and made a statement to the rest of the flyweight division. After only two fights for Combate in 2019, we hope he can stay active in 2021 as the new belt holder for Cage Fury FC.
Clayton Carpenter (3-0, Flyweight)
Arizona – Going 2-0 this 2020, Clayton Carpenter makes our list for the first time. The exciting Arizona product made a successful LFA debut after a first-round finish for World Fighting Federation. Having the performance he did at LFA 91 makes everyone excited for what’s to come in 2021. Keep an eye on this young prospect.