2020 was a year which saw many fighters establish themselves as legitimate future contenders. From the dominant displays of Khamzat Chimaev to the wild and creative performances of Kevin Holland, 2020 brought a breath of fresh air to the UFC talent pool. I have compiled a list of fighters who could break out like the aforementioned within this year.
Mason ‘The Dragon’ Jones
Jones became only the second man to hold two belts simultaneously in Cage Warriors in September. The only other man to do that was a man some of you may know, Conor McGregor. Jones defeated Adam Proctor to win Welterweight gold to add to the Lightweight championship he already held. He is currently undefeated at 10-0, and signed a UFC contract in October. His debut will come against the tough Mike Davis on the Chiesa vs Magny undercard, and an impressive victory will see his stock rise in the stacked UFC lightweight division. The Welshman is without a doubt somebody you should keep an eye on in 2021.
Jack ‘The Tank’ Shore
Here is another undefeated Welshman in the form of 13-0 Jack Shore. Shore made a name for himself with his dominant displays in cage warriors, where he reigned over the bantamweight division before making the step-up to the UFC. It has been a seamless transition for ‘The Tank’ with 2 finishes over Nohelin Hernandez and Aaron Phillips. It was a frustrating end to 2020 for the rising star, with his fight with fellow prospect Khalid Taha being scrapped. He looks to make his return early in 2021, and with 12 finishes in 13 fights, this man is must watch TV. Do not be surprised if you see him crack the top 15 before the end of this year.
Guram ‘Georgian King’ Kutateladze
Guram Kutateladze gained many plaudits after spoiling the highly anticipated UFC debut of former KSW champ Mateusz Gamrot, handing him his first pro loss in a fiercely contested 3 round battle. Kutateladze showcased his high level striking while also impressively fighting off many of Gamrots attempts to take the fight to the ground. In the end, The Georgian King was awarded a split decision victory, which he oddly protested, saying it was not his fight. Off the back of this high-profile debut win, Guram will look to keep his hype train in full steam when he faces off against the always tough Don Madge in March. The Georgian trains out of the Allstars camp in Sweden alongside top fighters such as Khamzat Chimaev and Alexander Gustafsson, so he is in great company as he continues to improve as a complete mixed-martial artist. You should definitely tune into Guram Kutateladze’s next fight.
A third inclusion from Wales, it seems that it is becoming a hotspot for upcoming MMA talent. Cory McKenna earned a UFC contract after defeating Vanessa Demopoulos on The Contender Series. At just 21 years old, the skills she has displayed so far in her career at such a young age is truly impressive, and being offered a UFC contract this early is a testament to the ability she has. She began her UFC career with a victory over Kay Hansen in November, and will look to continue her development while also rising up the strawweight rankings in 2021. Cory is definitely one for the future, and it may be awhile before she faces the top talent the division has to offer due to her young age. However with the potential she has, it is not hard to see why she has earned the right to compete at the UFC level.
Ilia ‘El Matador’ Topuria
Ilia Topuria burst onto the UFC scene in the latter part of 2020, after a decision victory over Youseff Zalal and more impressively a vicious finish over Damon Jackson in December. The progression Topuria has made in his striking has been scary, after being primarily a grappler earlier in his career. However he has fallen in love with the knockout in recent times, which is a scary sight for anybody that faces him in the future. El Matador will be looking to keep his perfect 9-0 record intact in 2021 as he faces stiffer competition. Ilia Topuria is for sure someone to look out for even within the completely stacked UFC featherweight division.