With the UFC going back to Abu Dhabi, there are dozens to great fights and fighters on the docket. During the promotion’s first stint on Fight Island, Khamzat Chimaev (9-0) was unleashed, and just over two months later, the legend has grown.
Chimaev is 3-0 in the UFC and is coming off a one-punch knockout over Gerald Meerschaert (31-14). He smashed him, just like he said he would. He’s smashed everyone.
Phase 2 of Fight Island brings the possibility of more breakout stars. For MMA-Prospects, I wanted to give 10 names to look for on Fight Island, starting with the 10th best UFC prospect competing on Yas Island.
10. Charles Jourdain (10-3) vs. Josh Culibao (8-1) at featherweight
I’m not really sure if Jourdain should be on this list, and I’m not really sure why I like him, but I do. I thought he beat Andre Fili (21-7), and I was high on Fili.
Jourdain is 24 years old and is fighting in the UFC for the fourth time in his Fight Island bout. I believe the Canadian has all the skills to be a future contender at featherweight.
I think this one will be telling on how much Jourdain is improving. If he dominates Culibao, his stock goes up a lot.
9. Tracy Cortez (7-1) vs. Bea Malecki (2-0) at bantamweight
I like Tracy Cortez as a prospect because the 26-year-old has one elite skill, her wrestling. That caliber of skill can win a lot of fights; a truly elite wrestler can get one takedown a round, do just enough to continue to lay and pray on their opponent and win fights. Just ask Carla Esparza (17-6) or Georges St. Pierre (26-2) about that.
I do want to see Cortez go the route of Jessica-Rose Clark (10-6) and get stronger so she can finish more fights on top. I actually think this fight with Bea Malecki will be a challenge. In my opinion, Cortez and Malecki don’t even look to be in the same weight class. If you look at pictures of Malecki, she is definitely a lot larger than Cortez and will be challenging to both take down and keep down.
This fight looks more like a flyweight and a featherweight meeting at bantamweight. If Cortez can’t put on some more size, I think it would do her service to go back down to 125 pounds. This is a huge fight for Cortez.
8. Modestas Bukauskas (11-2) vs. Jimmy Crute (11-1) at light heavyweight
I couldn’t just put one of these guys on here, and since they are fighting each other, I guess we’ll see which is the better prospect. Crute is 24 years old and Bukaskas is 26. These guys both seem to have bright futures in a division in desperate need of new blood.
Bukauskas looks like he is chiseled from stone and looked great on the feet in his debut. Crute is the better grappler and has a bright future as well.
This is a great fight and one of these guys will see their stock rise in a division where a few wins could get them in the top 5.
7. Youssef Zalal (10-2) vs. Seung Woo Choi (8-3) at featherweight
Zalal has looked great and is undefeated in the UFC. The 24-year-old is also very active; this is his fifth fight in 11 months. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. It’s nice that he’s in shape, not taking any damage, and can fight often.
As a young fighter though, sometimes more time in between fights can help add things to their game.
Zalal hasn’t finished a fight in the UFC, so I do want to see him start doing that and once he does, he could move higher on this list.
6. Mateusz Gamrot (17-0) vs. Magomed Mustafaev (14-4) at lightweight
On paper, Gamrot is an outstanding prospect. He is undefeated, he can win in a bunch of different ways, and he’s a two-weight KSW champ who has signed to fight 25 minutes multiple times. In his last fight with Norman Parke (28-7-1) he kind of took his time and jabbed Parke a lot. Eventually, he poured enough on Parke to stop him. He also has an impressive grappling acumen; he suffered a grappling exhibition loss to Garry Tonon, widely seen as one of the best in the world.
I see Gamrot as a guy that could eventually work his way up the ladder, but I’m not sure he’s a future star just yet. Mustafaev is a guy that is 1-2 in the UFC. One of those losses was to Kevin Lee, which there is no shame in, even for a Kevin Lee detractor like myself.
I want to see Gamrot before I crown him.
5. Mounir Lazzez (10-1) vs. David Zawada (17-5) at welterweight
Lazzez really impressed me in his UFC debut against Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-2). He was able to out-strike a really good and powerful striker in Alhassan. Lazzez decisively won that third round and is an elite striker. Zawada seems like a step down in competition. This is a guy that you want to watch, and that is something that makes him an elite prospect.
I can’t wait to see Lazzez again. He’s an exciting guy and I think he can put away Zawada. I am interested to see Lazzez on the ground if it should go there. I would imagine that’s what he has been working on.
4. Magomed Ankalaev (13-1) vs. Ion Cutelaba (15-5) at light heavyweight
If it wasn’t for his fight clock IQ, Ankalaev would be undefeated. He has good wrestling, cardio and is seemingly the full package. He also has confidence everywhere as evidenced by his willingness to trade with a nutcase like Cutelaba. I’m very interested to see Ankalaev’s striking, assuming Cutelaba has a better game plan.
I think we’ll learn a lot about Ankalaev here. He could definitely be a contender at 205.
3. Ciryl Gane (6-0) vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-5) at heavyweight
I love Gane as a prospect. He’s 29 years old, which is typically a little old for a prospect, but I believe he has everything he needs to be a factor at heavyweight.
Often, a heavyweight will have one nice trait. Either big power (like a Francis Ngannou), a great ground game (a la Fabricio Werdum), or wrestling (your Curtis Blaydes’s). Very few heavyweights have the ability to have all four of those things.
Gane, at the very least, has the power, cardio, and ground game, all of which he has displayed so far as a pro. I don’t see Abdurakhimov will put up much resistance here. I’m more interested to see what Gane has added to his game.
2. Islam Makhachev (18-1) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (29-13) at lightweight
Makhachev is an intriguing guy. A member of lightweight chamoion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s circle and one of his main training partners, we usually see Makhachev when we see Khabib. Khabib is fighting, and that means so are most of his guys. I’m interested in how much better he is this time out.
Makhachev last fought 13 months ago against submission ace Davi Ramos (10-4), who was a prospect in his own right.
Dos Anjos is a real test. The former champion is moving back to lightweight after mixed results at 170. He was often the undersized guy and used his toughness to stay in fights. There is really no shame in losing to welterweight champion Kamaru Usman (17-1), former interim titleholder Colby Covington (16-2), or Leon Edwards (18-3).
Losing to Michael Chiesa is a problem though. Size was a major issue for RDA. The clock is ticking for the 35-year old, who has lost four of his last five.
1. Khamzat Chimaev (9-0) vs. TBD at TBD
Chimaev was supposed to fight Demian Maia (28-10). For Maia’s health, it’s probably not the best idea to have this as his last fight. Markus Perez (12-3) called out Chimaev. Chimaev called out the entire top 5 at welterweight. I don’t see them giving him Perez.
I hope Leon Edwards finally steps up and takes a fight, especially one no one else wants. I personally would love to see him fight Thiago Santos (if he’s healthy). Some may say that is too big a step, too fast. I think that would be an incredible fight. There is no chance that one happens though. Dana wants to keep building a star.
No matter who he fights, I can’t wait to see Chimaev.