2021 was such an amazing year for regional MMA.
COVID couldn’t stop promoters from putting on multiple shows a month, and we’ve seen many UFC Fight Pass promotions put on shows in new countries. Over the last two years, the fighters named on our list have gone on to do big things. Out of the 105 fighters we’ve highlighted on this column, we’ve had a total of 38 get signed to the UFC, 4 to Bellator, 2 went to fight for the PFL, and 21 got their chance on Contender Series.
With fighters getting more fight experience at a younger age, many college wrestlers making their transition to MMA, and regional promotions thriving on and off the UFC Fight Pass platform, 2022 is poised to be one of the best years ever. We know the talent pool is deep 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 International fighters you should keep an eye on this year.
Yazmin Jauregui (8-0, Strawweight)
Mexico – Yazmin Jauregui is an absolute beast at strawweight, so of course she returns to our list this year. Training with former UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno, Yazmin has burst into the regional scene and has really started to build a following under the Combate Global promotion. After winning the first-ever women’s tournament in Combate, her next fight should be a title fight. After that, she should get signed directly to the UFC because she’s that much of a star. Make sure you look out for her this year… This one could be a future world champion.
Jean Matsumoto (10-0, Bantamweight)
Brazil – Not only is his last name sick, Jean Matsumoto’s skills in the cage are phenomenal for such a young prospect. If he isn’t on Contender Series this year or just signed outright, then Dana White is drunk. Undefeated with a knack for finishes? Sign me up! Jean has 4 submission wins, 3 knockouts, and 3 decisions. He recently won the inaugural Fight Pro Championship bantamweight title too, so I wouldn’t be surprised if his next fight is under brighter lights.
Josh Kuhne (3-0, Lightweight)
Australia – Josh Kuhne may be very early on in his career, but his star potential is undeniable. We couldn’t leave him off this list for 2022. Not only does he have a 100% finish rate currently, they are all in the first-round. He’s is also an insanely dope tattoo artist in Australia. Yes, he’s tatted the f*ck up too. Now if his nickname “Kamikaze” doesn’t get you fired up, just watch some of his fights on UFC Fight Pass. You’ll become a fan too…
Anton Turkalj (7-0, Light Heavyweight)
Sweden – I’m currently obsessed with this dude. Probably one of the top light heavyweight prospects not signed to the UFC. In the last two years, he’s obliterated the competition, earning him a shot on Season 5 of Contender Series. Though COVID put a halt to that fight, he’s on the UFC’s radar and we have no doubts he’ll be fighting on the big stage in 2022. He’s flashy, confident, and can dress well. If you didn’t know Anton Turkalj, well… he’s the next big star for the UFC at 205 pounds.
The Figlak Brothers (Welterweight & Lightweight)
Poland – The Figlak Brothers have been mentioned countless times on The Scrap. The duo also made it on the inaugural Top of the Class list the site started in 2021 and Mike Figlak was on this list last year for the first time. Their well roundedness and their consistent want to fight the best in their division make them undeniable when thinking of future signings. They are future fan favorites and they’re tough as hell. There’s no doubt that 2022 is the year for Mike & Mateusz Figlak.
Mike is still undefeated, 7-0, and has looked extremely dominant in his recent outings. As for his brother, he’s 7-1 with his sole loss coming to UFC welterweight Ian Garry. You have to think these two have Cage Warriors title opportunities in the very near future…
Dominique Wooding (9-4, Bantamweight)
England – Now this man had an insane 2021… Talk about a man who beat every single odd against him, made a name for himself under the Cage Warriors banner, and became a champion. After the run he had last year, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be fighting in the big leagues next. Dominique Wooding may be 9-4, but he’s battle tested, fights the best opponents in his division, and has been overlooked for too long. I mean c’mon… the man has a 100% finish rate. Scary part? He’s only getting better.
The Bonfim Brothers (Welterweight & Lightweight)
Brazil – These guys are second pair of brothers to make our International list, and boy do they make it that much better… Both Gabriel and Ismael Bonfim are beasts. And they both are going to be big problems for their divisions when they get the call-up. Gabriel is currently 12-0 with a 100% finish rate. His last two wins were under the LFA banner, and they totaled less than 2 minutes of cage time. He’s a scary good welterweight who we expect will do big things this year.
As for his brother, Ismael is much more experienced. He boasts a 17-3 record, and though his two LFA wins came via unanimous decision, his record prior consists of mainly finishes. The lightweights better watch out, cause Ismael is one well rounded dude.
Christian Leroy Duncan (5-0, Middleweight)
England – Christian Leroy Duncan has always been an exciting prospect; but some may have felt he was taking on more than he can chew when he signed the contract to face Will Currie only two fights into his professional career. Currie was a highly touted prospect, but it only took Will 18 seconds into round two to finish the fight. And just incase you thought it was a fluke, he rematched “Drago”, beating him again via unanimous decision. Christian is a G, make sure you keep a close eye on him as he continues to develop under the Cage Warriors banner.
Dylan Hazan (7-0, Flyweight)
Italy – Dylan Hazan is an undefeated prospect who has been recently fighting under the Cage Warriors banner since 2021. Since his burst onto the scene, Dylan has gone 4-0 with two of them coming by way of finish. The great thing about that is we know he can go the distance though he’s only 7-0. He is one of the few talented fighters representing Italy that we expect to see more of in 2022.
Djati Mélan (8-0, Middleweight)
France – After his Cage Warriors debut in 2017, Djati Mélan returned to the promotion in 2021 and will now fight for a title this year against another undefeated fighter on this list. Representing France, Djati is currently perfect with an 8-0 record. With finishes and decisions on his record, he’s notched the necessary cage time needed to make big moves in 2022… Especially if there’s shiny gold around his waist.
Jon Furuheim (8-2 Ammy, Featherweight)
Norway – We never show enough love to the UK amateur scene, especially after the pandemic hit. But don’t you worry, we found Jon Furuheim and we think you’re going to love him just as much as we do. Currently 8-2 at just 19 years of age, Furuheim is pretty well rounded for being so young. He’s been fighting since 2017, so he already has some solid years in the fight game, and many more ahead of him. “Wonderboy” is going to be something special, so remember you heard it here first. We expect a big year for the young lad, and maybe even a pro debut…
Sharaputdin Magomedov (10-0, Light Heavyweight)
Russia – Step aside Valentina, there’s a new “Bullet” in town, and that’s Sharaputdin Magomedov. At 27-years-old, the Russian prospect is undefeated and has pretty much demolished anyone who has signed the dotted line to face him. His most recent fights have all finished in the first or second rounds, and he even racked up a kickboxing win in 2019 to further prove his hands should be feared. After an active 2021, we expect big things from Sharaputdin. But one thing is for sure, it’s time for him to test the upper echelon of the division, his record will fit quite nicely in the UFC or any other major promotion that’s willing to build him.
Felipe Lima (11-1, Bantamweight)
Brazil – Brazil has a solid bantamweight prospect in Felipe Lima, who is currently on an 11-fight win streak. At only 23-years old, Felipe has seen more cage time than most, making him that much more intriguing as a prospect. With five recorded finishes, the sky is the limit for this kid. His recent flying knee finish at Fight Club Rush 10 just may have been the statement needed to prove he’s ready for the next level.
Farid Basharat (8-0, Featherweight)
Afghanistan – The last name may be familiar, and that’s because Farid Basharat is the brother of UFC bantamweight Javid Basharat. There is no doubt we will see Farid with his brother in the UFC this year. It’s undeniable at this point, they are both extremely talented. But this is about Farid, who like his nickname, is ferocious inside the cage. He boasts six finishes on his record, and two unanimous decision wins. Hopefully he follows his brother’s footsteps onto the Contender Series win 2022. He’s a no-brainer signing for the show!
Maria Silva (8-0, Strawweight)
Brazil – If you don’t remember this specimen of a human, go back and watch her Contender Series last year. Maria Silva has remained undefeated since the show, submitting another undefeated prospect to further prove she should have been signed. Not only can she take you to deep waters, she’ll finish you on the feet or the ground. There’s no doubt she’s getting the call in 2022; she’s only 26 years old and just getting started.