Octagon Oracles: David Onama

James Colwell

Grade: A-

David Onama is an excellent lightweight prospect who has the misfortune of being matched up against the stellar Mason Jones for his short-notice UFC debut. While he’s spent his entire career fighting in the American Midwest, he was born in Uganda and will be the first fighter to represent his home country in the Octagon. He trains out of highly-regarded gym Glory MMA and has the combination of athleticism and skill to be a real threat.

At 27 years old, Onama is in his prime as a fighter and his incredible fitness is evident whenever you look at him. He compiled a perfect 10-0 record as an amateur between 2014-2018 before turning pro in 2019. As a pro he’s kept impressively busy and put together 8 straight wins in about 2.5 years to stay undefeated throughout his career. It’s probably easy to fight again quickly when you take as little damage as he does, as he’s finished all of his professional fights with 6 ending in the first round and the other 2 ending in the second.

Onama has shown the ability to end the fight with either his hands or feet, and if you try to take him down he’s got a dangerous submission game. That includes a guillotine that he’s able to apply very quickly and has used to end two separate fights. He’s an aggressive pressure-based fighter but doesn’t take unnecessary risks or start going crazy when he thinks he has a chance to finish. He picks his strikes well and uses each one to pummel his opponents into oblivion. I haven’t seen him get challenged in wrestling often, but the few times I have he’s simply been too strong and explosive to contain and is quickly back at striking range.

With all of these positives stated, there are a couple things that move him down to an A- in my books. First is the level of competition, as he’s generally fought guys with winning records but its been exclusively for small-time promotion Kansas City Fighting Alliance (now Fighting Alliance Championship). No disrespect to his past opponents, but they were nowhere near UFC caliber or even prospects for smaller international shows like PFL or Brave. Onama has dominated them like you want a top prospect to do, but there will always be questions when someone comes into the UFC without experience against high level guys.

The second negative is entirely out of his control, as its the fact that he’s matched up with Mason Jones for his debut. I think Jones is a more polished fighter at this point and see him getting the win, and if Onama starts his UFC tenure with a loss it will become much more difficult for him to reach the level he has the potential for. However, he is a very exciting talent and is one of the better short-notice signings the UFC has made this year.

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Chinyere Okafor

Grade: A+

First of all, I am so happy to see David Onama making history as the first Ugandan fighter to step into the UFC octagon. Onama is coming off the high of being the newly crowned Fighting Alliance Championship (FAC) featherweight champion following an impressive TKO victory in the first round, and he’s not waiting to make a name for himself in the biggest fight promotion.

Onama has an impressive 8-0 pro record with a plethora of amateur circuit experience (where he was also undefeated).

2020 saw a lot of fighters forced to be inactive for a while but Onama managed to get himself three fights in that year and has continued being active this year.

Even though this fight is short notice, Onama has the admirable ability to keep his composure and accurately capitalize on an opening, and I believe this will help him against Mason Jones in his promotional debut.

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Drew Beaupre

Grade: B+

David Onama will make his UFC debut on short-notice this weekend, just two weeks after a first-round finish at Fighting Alliance Championship 10.

Following a 10-0 amateur career, Onama turned pro in 2019 and has finished all eight of his opponents since then. His most recent bout earlier this month was his fifth first-round stoppage, finishing Brad Robison with strikes on the ground after dropping him with a right hook.

One of the first things that stands out about Onama is how composed he looks from the opening moments of his fights. While he’s clearly a finisher, he doesn’t come in looking to rush straight at his opponents. The Uganda native takes his time on the feet, pumping out his jab and using frequent feints in order to gauge the reactions of his opponents and create opportunities. He’ll also regularly switch stances and defends leg kicks well, either checking them or stepping out of range when they’re thrown.

Preferring to do his work striking, Onama’s scrambling ability and sheer strength have caused problems for his previous opponents when fights have hit the mat. He was able to outmuscle Justin Overton in their bout despite the latter’s grappling pedigree, eventually winning by guillotine when Overton tried to finish a double-leg takedown. The most impressive thing about that submission was that Onama had no guard established in order to leverage the choke, instead forcing the tap just through the squeeze of his arms.

If there’s any real question about Onama it’s likely about how much his athleticism has masked any gaps he currently has in technique. He’s found himself in trouble on the ground before, but has always been able to sweep and get back to his feet or fight his way out of any submission attempts. In fights with Overton and Sam Agushi he realized this danger after some close calls and would actively avoid any interaction on the ground, so that’s promising to see him make those adjustments mid-fight and not just pounce on what may appear to be an advantageous position.

Aside from it being on short-notice, this debut against Mason Jones is further complicated by it being contested at lightweight rather than Onama’s usual class of featherweight. Jones should be happy to keep things standing, and will try to put pressure on Onama and overwhelm him with volume. If Onama can weather that pressure early on and get Jones biting on his feints, he’ll have opportunities to crack the Welshman with his own heavy counter strikes.

Featherweight and lightweight are two of the UFC’s most talent-rich divisions, but I’m impressed by what I’ve seen from Onama so far and expect him to make further improvements. He’s part of a great camp in Glory MMA and Fitness, and I think he’ll be able to have a lot of success in the UFC if he continues to develop his game.

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Vince Rodemer

Grade: B+

David Onama is the kind of guys that fits all the things I like in a prospect. I want to see a prospect that can fight anywhere and is good everywhere.

Two things I often talk about is where a prospect trains and who they train with. Onama has been at Glory MMA and Fitness with James Krause. As Onama told me last year when I spoke to him for MMA-Prospects, his three main training partners are UFC fighters Sean Woodson, Kevin Croom, and bantamweight title challenger Megan Anderson.

Woodson and Anderson are both lengthy strikers and give him good looks on the feet. Croom is known for his submission game, which included his lightning quick sub of Roosevelt Roberts that was later overturned to a no contest. Krause has also helped him tremendously.

I see Onama as a guy that will get better over time. I think he’s a mainstay through the years.

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