Inspired by the yearly XXL Freshmen List, and our consistent urge to be a platform regional fighters are able to benefit from, The Scrap will continue the yearly Top of the Class List. This year we’ll feature The Scrap 7, which is a list of seven prospects that have separated themselves from the rest of the regional bunch.
Being at the Top of the Class means you’re an up-and-coming fighter who is making noise on the regional scene. That next level should be right around the corner, within the next year or so, if they aren’t already booked for Dana White’s Contender Series. We decided to feature fighters who are starting to generate hype after every appearance… They are currently finishing fights, taking on tough competition, capturing regional titles and/or fighting on the best and biggest regional promotions possible.
Our seven fighters featured last year are on the verge of big things… Aaron Jeffery recently debuted in Bellator, and is now ranked #6 in the promotion after taking out the #2 ranked Austin Vanderford. Yazmin Jauregui made her highly anticipated UFC debut this year. She is now being looked at as a future star in the strawweight division.
The Figlak Brothers are on the verge of that next level. Mike recently got signed and debuted at UFC Paris. Matt should be getting that much deserved Cage Warriors title shot. Anton Turkalj was signed to the UFC on short notice after his DWCS fight. Mitch Raposo was also booked for DWCS, but last year. He’s now closing in on his much deserved CES MMA flyweight title shot. Paul Capaldo was supposed to be featured on Contender Series last year, but got Covid. He’s now in the process of making his CFFC return.
Read about the 7 new regional fighters from all over the world currently ready for the big leagues.
Bo Nickal – Middleweight
Our selection of Bo Nickal may seem like a stretch to some. But if you take into account his time at Penn State, then the choice makes so much sense. Though only 2-0 in MMA, there is no man or woman in the UFC right now with his collegiate accolades. Nickal is a 3x NCAA wrestling champ and the 2019 Hodge Trophy winner. His first two professional bouts haven’t even lasted a round and after his first Contender Series fight, Dana White compared his transition to MMA with Brock Lesnar’s. Bo’s stock is at an all-time high and he has barely used his wrestling in a fight. Only time will tell how his career unfold, but one thing is for sure, his UFC career is only a fight away…
Austin Bashi – Bantamweight
The bantamweight division is one of the deepest in all of MMA. But when you’re 20 years old, 7-0, and as well rounded as they come… it’s a no brainer choice. Michigan’s Austin Bashi is an absolute beast who takes his opponents to deep waters if he doesn’t finish you. He’s also in no rush to get into the big leagues, which is quite refreshing to see. Bashi wants to build and take on tough competition while on the regional scene. Currently on a nine-fight win streak, he has yet to fight anyone with a losing record and has fought for several promotions. Bashi was promoted well in the XFC, returned to Lights Out Championship as a pro this year, and recently captured the Shamrock FC bantamweight title. The future is so damn bright, and Bashi has nothing but time on his hands.
Haris Talundžić – Welterweight
There are plenty of welterweights to choose from on the regional scene. But Haris Talundžić is one of the standouts from the bunch. Training under Factory X, the undefeated protege is currently 4-0 in the LFA. He looks to make it 5-0 on Sept. 9th when he headlines his first LFA card. Not only can Talundžić dominate you to a decision, he can strangle you if and when it gets to the ground. “The Bosnian Silverback” is a smart, well-rounded fighter with a great camp behind him. He has also never fought anyone with a losing record. The 26-year-old has a bright future ahead of him, and has all the makings of becoming a future welterweight star…
Jaqueline Amorim – Strawweight
Jaqueline Amorim captured the LFA strawweight title at the beginning of the year. She looks to make the first defense of that title in September and extend her record to 6-0. It’s crazy to think that she made her MMA debut during the pandemic because she’s been on a fast track ever since… Though early in her MMA career, Amorim has an impressive BJJ resume under her belt. By 22 years old, she won IBJJF, UAEJJF and CBJJ championships. To this day, she continues to impress and improve on her striking. Amorim currently boasts a 100% finish rate and is on a five-fight win streak. Her social media following, combined with the fact she’s fighting under the LFA banner – there is no doubt that the big leagues will be calling soon enough.
Don Shainis – Featherweight
Don Shainis has gone under the radar for far too long. But under the radar no more… The New England native has had an insanely successful year full of regional gold. “Shameless” Don captured the FAC lightweight championship back in May and made a quick turnaround to capture the Cage Titans featherweight title almost a month later. Now a two-promotion and two-division champion, that next level is inevitable and has to be around the corner. He has 11 finishes on his record and is on a five-fight win streak… So Shainis could very well be the next fighter to put on for New England inside a UFC octagon.
Cristian Perez – Lightweight
Combate Global’s golden boy, Cristian Perez, deservingly joins the list this year. “Puas” bounced back strong in 2022 after suffering his first defeat last year. With seven finishes on his record and Combate’s backing, he could very well be the next big Mexican star to debut in the UFC. Not only does he have the look, the 27-year-old speaks well and fights even better. He’s very well-rounded, quick on the feet, and has only gone to decision three times in his career. If he doesn’t claim the Combate lightweight title this year, expect him under the bright lights. It’s about time for The Goat Shed to infiltrate the big leagues…
Phumi Nkuta – Flyweight
Though only 5-0, Phumi Nkuta currently holds the CFFC flyweight title. What’s crazier is he became the champion three fights into his professional career. It’s evident that Longo and Weidman MMA have a bright star on their hands… During his time with CFFC, “Turbo” has shown he’s UFC ready, and can go up against the best of them. He’s never fought anyone with a losing record; Phumi dominates opponents, he’s lightning quick, and has the cardio to go five rounds if needed. Currently on a 10-fight win streak, it’s only time until he gets the call for the big leagues. New Jersey definitely has a future world champ in the making, and we’re excited to see how it all unfolds…
The Scrap will be continue featuring each Top of the Class fighter on their own in-depth piece, highlighting big moments and wins from their regional fight careers. Stay tuned for more on The Scrap 7.