10 major signings the UFC should make in 2022

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MMA has grown immensely since its inception. With the new mainstream status the UFC has entered, it has certainly rubbed off on the regional MMA scene; alongside the massive spawning of sports apparel like rash guards, bjj shorts, gloves and more. You can also see the impact throughout the promotions who have helped make UFC Fight Pass what it is today, like Cage Warriors, LFA, and the CFFC.

With more eyes on prospects leading to their eventual call-up, there’s so many names and promotions to keep up with. So we decided to name 10 major signings the UFC should make this year…

Lightweight, Mansour Barnaoui (19-4)

It’s untelling where Barnaoui has been not fighting since May of 2019. With MMA now legal in France, the market is wide open and Barnaoui is arguably the best prospect from there. He’s fought for the likes of M-1 Challenge, KSW, and BAMMA. Barnaoui was actually the BAMMA and the M-1 lightweight champion at a time. His last couple of years of fighting, Barnaoui fought for South Korean promotion Road FC. Road FC held a 16-man lightweight tournament and the winner won $200,000, a title shot, and a million dollars.

Barnaoui won the tournament and went on to win the title. And of course the million dollars. That is a reason he probably hasn’t fought in a while. His record speaks for itself; fighting excellent competition, and he has a stunning 18 finishes out of his 19 wins. This would be a huge signing from the UFC if he still has an interest in fighting.

Welterweight, Yusuf Raisov (18-2)

Raisov is from the Czech Republic, but has lived in Russia for years. Russia is absolutely loaded with talent outside the UFC. The one that stands out to me out of all Russian prospects is Grozny’s Yusup Raisov. Fighting in ACA/ACB for years; he’s competed at bantamweight, featherweight, and lightweight. Raisov is a former ACB featherweight champion too.

Now he fights at lightweight, and recently fought at welterweight. He’s currently a free agent and has been taking to social media calling for a UFC opportunity. No reason he should be taking fights outside the UFC today.

Featherweight, Salahdine Parnasse (16-1-1)

Parnasse is an amazing talent who has a bright future in MMA. At only 24-years-old, he’s already a two-time KSW featherweight champion. The French native has only fought one opponent with a losing record. The level of competition has been fair as his opponents have a combined record of 168-77 at the time they fought.

He lost his KSW title at the beginning of last year and at the end of the year won it back in a rematch. Over the last five years and eight fights, Parnasse has fought for KSW. There isn’t much more he can do other than show his talents under brighter lights.

Strawweight, Melissa Martinez (7-0)

From 2017 to 2019, Martinez was on fire being talked about as one of the best strawweight prospects. Putting on good fights and dishing out a few incredible knockouts. “Super Melly” mainly fought for Combate and capped of the 2019 year winning their title.

She’s been largely forgotten due to her absence since winning the title. Today is shouldn’t be too difficult signing Martinez. She will do a lot for the UFC in their Mexican market.

Welterweight, Roberto Soldic (20-3)

At this point, everyone knows who Soldic is. He’s currently signed with KSW as he has been for the last five years. Everything possible you can accomplish in KSW, Soldic has done. In his debut for KSW, he won the welterweight title. He would drop it to current UFC fighter Dricus Du Plessis. With that said, Soldic won it back in a rematch a few years later.

He defended that welterweight title a few times. Soldic would then later attempt for double champ status moving up to middleweight. A title he won, taking it from KSW legend and Poland superstar Mamed Khalidov. Soldic may not need the UFC, but the UFC needs him.

Lightweight, Eduard Vartanyan (23-4)

Vartanyan has been fighting at a high level in Russia for quite some time. His losses have come primarily to good competition, and he’s also beat some quality opponents as well. He holds wins over Magomedrasul Khasbulaev, Sergey Khandozhko, Alexander Shabliy, Alexander Sarnavskiy, and many other good fighters. Vartanyan is also the former ACB lightweight champion. His contract with ACA ran out in 2020.

He’s fought twice since then, for Open FC out of Russia. It’s crazy he’s still available… Vartanyan isn’t only extremely talented, but can be so exciting to watch. Not sure why the UFC hasn’t made a move yet.

Flyweight, Amanda Serrano (2-0-1)

Amanda Serrano is one of the most well-known boxers worldwide. Her boxing record is impressively 42-1-1. Serrano won WBO titles at lightweight, featherweight, bantamweight, junior featherweight, light-welterweight, and junior bantamweight. Her sole loss in boxing was in 2012. She keeps active and has been winning and defending titles. Serrano could very possibly convert fully to MMA. She went to a draw in her MMA debut, and her other two fights she won. By submission…

It shouldn’t be too surprising though, since Serrano has been competing in submission grappling. She is currently 5-0 in grappling and has won a tournament. It would be a huge signing from the UFC if her boxing contract doesn’t hold her back.

Lightweight, Roberto de Souza (13-1)

Souza grew up training in judo and jiu-jitsu and would later become very successful in BJJ. His grappling record (as far as official matches go) is 61-15 with 37 submission wins. He has many achievements in BJJ including 1st Place in the IBJJF European Open,  IBJJF World Championship, and the Rickson Gracie Cup. Souza signed with Rizin in 2019 and has been there ever since. Ever since losing to former UFC fighter Johnny Case, Souza has been on a tear winning his next four fights. Last June Souza won the Rizin lightweight title and in December he defended it. UFC has done a good job snagging Rizin talent like Manel Kape and Jiří Procházka.

Flyweight, Azamat Kerefov (15-0)

The undefeated Russian Azamat Kerefov is the former ACA champion. He’s now the former because his ACA contract is up and now a free agent. Over the last four years, he’s fought and proved himself under the ACA banner fighting nothing but top-level competition. He’s arguably the best flyweight outside of the UFC.

Of all the fighters on this list, Kerefov is the most likely to be signed. With no other big promotions developing the flyweight division, Kerefov is likely to go to the UFC before Rizin or ONE Championship.

Middleweight, Bo Nickal (2-0 Amateur)

Bo Nickal is the latest big-time wrestler to transition to MMA. Nickal is a three-time NCAA Division 1 Champion and a three-time Big Ten Conference champion out of Pennsylvania State University. He truly is a highly profiled wrestler that surprisingly came to MMA. Nickal is starting off in MMA slowly, not going straight to pro and has been fighting as an amateur.

In his two MMA wins he got a knockout on the feet and an arm-triangle in the other. Although he’s an amateur, it would be such a big move by the UFC signing Bo Nickal this year.

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