MMA has seen the rise (and fall) of many stars over the years, with the likes of Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor and Jon Jones being born from the ranks of the UFC roster.
Today though, we’re going to be looking forward to the future stars of MMA, who they are and why we think they’re the next big thing.
Let’s get right to it.
Johnny Walker – Light Heavyweight
Right off the bat we’ve got number 12 ranked Light Heavyweight Johnny Walker. Currently running on a 9 fight winning streak, Walker has showed incredible skill, precision and most of all, power inside the Octagon.
Walkers most recent victory came back at UFC 235 in March, where he defeated then ranked number 14 Misha Cirkunov via first round TKO in just 37 seconds.
This awesome victory however was slightly overshadowed with Walkers post-fight celebration. This somewhat stupid celebration saw him sustain a pretty serious shoulder injury that he’s still recovering from over 6-months later.
If Walker can recover quickly from this injury and maintain his momentum, there’s no doubt that he’s a future star of the UFC. As long as he keeps his celebrations slightly more sensible.
While I would say he’s not quite ready for the likes of Jon Jones, a match up with a top 10 contender would be interesting to watch.
A couple of names that come to mine are UFC veteran and number 10 ranked Glover Teixeira or number 8 ranked Corey Anderson, who himself is riding a 3-fight winning streak.
Sean O’Malley - Bantamweight
“Sugar” Sean O’Malley first made a name for himself during the first series of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. O’Malley was able to score an impressive first round KO win that saw him awarded a contract with the UFC.
Since then, “Sugar” Sean has gone 2-0 with the company, however has had some issues since regarding contaminated supplements following a failed drug test.
This has unfortunately seen him pulled from planned matches against José Alberto Quiñónez on October 6, 2018 at UFC 22 and against Marlon Vera on July 6, 2019 at UFC 239.
Still though, this issue seems to be subsiding, as USADA has confirmed that the amounts of Performance Enhancing Drugs found in O’Malley’s tests were correspondent with that of a contaminated substance.
Only time will tell how O’Malley will bounce back from these set backs, but based on his previously unblemished record of 10-0, his past performances with the UFC and his charisma, I think he’ll be just fine.
You can watch O’Malley’s performance on DWTNCS down below.
Mackenzie Dern - Strawweight
Mackdenzie Dern, in her own right, is already an extremely accomplished Martial Artist, having won gold medals at each BJJ World Championship for all belts, all the way to black belt.
Dern is currently riding an undefeated 7-fight win streak since making her MMA debut, with the two most recent wins taking place under the UFC banner. As expected, 4 out of her 7 wins have come via submission, with many referring to her as the next Ronda Rousey, collecting arms on her way to UFC Gold.
While still very young in her MMA career, Dern definitely possesses a lot of talent and potential, should she keep this momentum going forward.
That said, she's had a few issues when it's come to weight cutting, so a more professional outlook and approach will be need, should she hope to become one of MMA's biggest draws.
Zabit Magomedsharipov - Featherweight
Zabit is the UFC's number 5 ranked contender in the Featherweight division and is currently on a 13 fight win-streak, with the last 5 taking place in the UFC.
For me, Zabit is one of the scariest guys in the Divisionon.
He’s possesses an incredible array of techniques in his arsenal, from winning with a highly rare banana split submission, so spinning back fists, this man is one to be feared.
What’s more, his chin seems incredibly solid, he keeps a strong solid pace with unrelenting pressure, and for the most part, is yet to be truly hurt and tested in the UFC.
Admittedly, his most notable win so far is over Jeremy Stephens, who is probably the only real person to have proven a true challenge.
I for one can’t wait to see who he faces next, and with the UFC’s ever-growing Russian fan base (thanks Khabib), there’s no denying this man is a future star, if he isn’t one already.
Kron Gracie - Featherweight
The surname Gracie is forever cemented in the history books of martial arts, and even the UFC, which saw Royce Gracie (Kron’s Uncle) win it’s first ever show back at UFC 1.
It seems things have come full circle, as the latest generation of the Gracie family has recently made his UFC debut, where he won in the first round via rear naked choke...
Who would have guessed?
While only 5-0 in his professional Mixed Martial Arts Career, all of which came via submission, Gracie is unsurprisingly highly accomplished in BJJ.
Plus, considering he comes from a family with Martial Arts in their blood, Kron undoubtedly has a bright future, and could very well be one of the next stars to emerge from the UFC.
While he isn't booked in for his next bout, it'll definitely be worth watching him climb up the ranks and to see how other areas of his game hold up against top level competition.
Tatiana Suarez - Strawweight
Tatiana Suarez has shown herself to be more than a handful inside the octagon. The 28-year-old is currently ranked as the UFC’s number 2 contender in the Women’s Strawweight Division and holds a perfect 8-0 record.
Having defeated former Champion Carla Esparza by TKO and the current number 3 ranked by decision this past June, it’s only a matter of time until she faces off against current champion Jessica Andrade.
Suarez, as a fighter, is incredibly well rounded, especially for such a young talent. She's got decent hands, lands the vast majority of her take down attempts and has finished 6 out of the last 8 of her fights (4 by Submission, 2 by KO).
That said, Andrade is definitely going to be a challenge.
Though, if Suarez can nullify Andrade's sheer power with her wrestling acumen, like she has done in the past, she could very well be next in line for UFC gold.
Like many of the rising stars of the UFC, Geoff Neal first came into the spotlight on the first series of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.
Here, he began his current 5 fight win-streak with the UFC, scoring a TKO over Chase Waldon in the first round.
Neal’s latest outing saw him throw down in a spectacular brawl against fellow rising star Niko Price at UFC 240.
While Neal is yet to face a top 15 ranked opponent, he’s definitely got the skill and fight IQ to see him earn a spot as a contender.
The only problem for Neal is his weight category. Welterweight is by far one of the most stacked divisions in the UFC right now, with the top 10 contenders being some of the most highly skilled and ferocious fighters on the roster.
Still though, every fighter has to start somewhere and in my opinion, Neal can definitely break top 10.
Aptly named “The Future”, Maycee Barber could well be the future of the Women’s Flyweight or Stawweight Division, depending on which ways she decides to go.
One of the craziest things about Barber is her age, she’s only 21 years old. Despite this, she’s ranked as number 12 in the Women’s Flyweight division, and is currently 7-0 in professional MMA.
You can check out the video below of Maycee earning her UFC contract on the second series of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender series.
Here she wins in a pretty dominant fashion, finishing the bout with some brutal ground and pound.
Since then, she’s won both of her most recent UFC appearances in the second round by TKO. Not only is she highly skilled and accurate, she’s also incredibly entertaining to watch.
Pair this with the potential she possesses at such as young age, and you’ve got yourself a future UFC star in the making.
Petry "No Mercy" Yan, is yet another elite fighter to emerge out of Russia, and is currently ranked as the number number 4 Bantamweight in the UFC.
Yan Broke into the top 15 with a win over Douglas Silva De Andrade, followed that up with a win over then ranked number 9 John Dodson and most recently scored a win over veteran Jimmy Rivera.
What makes Yan so interesting is his activity, and his ability to sustain little damage inside the Octagon.
Yan for example, fought 5 times inside the space of a year, which saw him go from making his debut, to the number 4 ranked Bantamweight in the world.
While Yan is not a finisher as such, winning 3 out of his last 5 by decision, all of those wins were unanimous, which shows Yan's ability to dictate the fight, keep it where he feels most comfortable and consistently take home the win.
As for who Yan fights next, it's hard to say. Cejudo seems to be on the sidelines for some time due to an injury, so a match up with number 2 ranked Aljamain Sterling could make sense.
The winner of this fight could then go on to challenge for the belt once Cejudo has recovered from his surgery.
I couldn’t help but include the self-proclaimed future of MMA on this list… and if you weren’t sure, yes I’m joking.
Who knows though, stranger things have happened.
Well there we have it, some potential MMA stars to keep an eye out for going forward.
Of course, some of these folks are further down the path to stardom, and it will be interesting to see how things pan out for all on the list.
Who have you got marked for future stars of MMA?
Let us know in the comment section below!