MMA-Prospects Staff Picks: MMA Prospects to Watch in 2021

Bo Nickal receives an award. Credit: Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com.

Rafa Garcia

Combate Americas Scores Highest Rated Hispanic TV Program – MMA Fight Coverage
Rafa Garcia scores the Combate Americas lightweight title. Credit: Combate Americas.
  • Selected By: Tom Albano
  • Age: 26
  • Nationality: Mexico
  • Record: 12-0
  • Division: Middleweight (185 pounds)
  • Current Promotional Standing: Free Agent, ex-Combate Americas lightweight champion

When 2020 started, it looked like Rafa Garcia could have been in for a big year that could have risen his star power further in MMA. He entered the year as the lightweight champion of Combate Americas, having defeated Erick Gonzalez by decision at Combate 44 in September 2019 to claim the belt.

Things started on the right foot for Garcia when he retained the title against Humberto Bandenday at Combate 55. But through various circumstances, it ended up being the only time we saw Garcia inside the cage during 2020. But as we enter 2021, hopeful that one day sooner than later the world will return to “normalcy,” perhaps there is the chance that Garcia can make up for lost time and show again why he has been considered one of the best young, up-and-coming names in MMA.

As Garcia told MMAJunkie last year, his journey into the world of combat sports world came as the result of getting into fights a lot as a youth. His father took him to a gym so Garcia could truly learn how to box and wrestle. Now, Garcia has gone from fighting in the streets to being a current 11-0 fighter, having most recently been a notable star for Combate.

Garcia is not the kind of fighter who necessarily goes in with the same gameplan every fight, as he’s said himself he takes his career one fight at a time. As Shawn Bitter explains, Garcia isn’t the most sound working a fight with his fists, but he can land some crisp and powerful shots. But Garcia’s main key to success comes with his wrestling and ground game, having finished most of his fights by submission — and most of those coming in the first round. Garcia also credited some training with UFC star Cub Swanson as helping to improve all aspects of his game.

Garcia ended up vacating the Combate Americas title in June 2020, departing the promotion and stating that he is looking forward to the next stage of his career. It’s unknown what the future holds for the 26-year-old, but a bigger-name promotion like the UFC or Bellator may want to have a look at his talents. Even if he doesn’t get such a deal right away, Garcia may be one big return performance away from scoring a spot on a big stage, and promoters might be mistaken to overlook this individual.