With Mike Malott recently making his UFC debut, it’s time to dive into who could be next to represent Canada on MMA’s biggest stage. From last year’s list, Jasmine Jasudavicius, Chad Anheliger and Yohan Lainesse all cracked the UFC roster. Additionally, Aaron Jeffery and Achilles Estremadura made appearances on Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS).
You will see two lists below; the first one is fighters who could be prime candidates to earn their UFC shot right away, while the second list is fighters who may still be a couple wins away from a UFC contract.
***These lists do not include fighters who have already competed in the UFC, fighters who are currently signed to Bellator or ONE Championship, or fighters aged 35 and older.***
***Records for each fighter are accurate as of May 17, 2022 and may not reflect their current record.***
1. Anthony Romero (11-1) – Lightweight, 25 years old
If the majority of the MMA community had their way, Romero would already be in the UFC. Outside of a close split decision loss to JJ Okanovich, Romero has been perfect so far in his career, which includes a dominant unanimous decision win over Mike Breeden on DWCS, a performance many people thought was worthy of a UFC contract. Romero has all the tools and well-roundedness to be successful in the UFC and it should only be a matter of time before he gets the call.
2. Mariusz Ksiazkiewicz (10-1) – Middleweight, 32 years old
Since suffering his only defeat on DWCS in 2020, Ksiazkiewicz has proven why that loss was a one-off, going 2-0 with two first round finishes and becoming the Unified MMA 195-pound champion. Ksiazkiewicz is a natural finisher and is a threat to do so both on the feet and on the mat. He’ll have another opportunity to further prove his case when he takes on Eli Aronov at Unified MMA 45 next weekend. Don’t be surprised to see Ksiazkiewicz in the big show before the end of 2022.
3. Jamey-Lyn Horth Wessels (5-0) – Women’s Flyweight, 32 years old
Horth Wessels is in about as good a position as she can be without being signed to the UFC. Her most recent victory saw her become the new LFA women’s flyweight champion, a title that has proven to lead to a UFC contract in recent years. Yet to taste defeat as a professional or amateur, Horth Wessels can do it all and would be a welcome addition to the flyweight division. An interesting side note as well, she holds two amateur wins over the UFC’s Lupita Godinez.
4. Alex Morgan (11-4) – Featherweight, 31 years old
Morgan has fought the best of the best on the regional scene and has found plenty of success in doing so. His only losses in the last five years have come to Charles Jourdain and Joao Luis Nogueira. Also in that same time frame, Morgan holds two first round knockout wins over now-UFC fighter TJ Laramie. He has won four of his last five contests, which most recently includes becoming the Samourai MMA featherweight champion after defeating Maged Hammo at Samourai MMA 1. Morgan’s experience is off the charts and he would fit right in the featherweight division.
5. Alex Martinez (9-2) – Lightweight, 27 years old
If he were to be signed by the UFC, it wouldn’t happen for awhile as Martinez is currently competing for PFL in their 2022 season. But Martinez needs to be mentioned here as he would be a welcome addition to the UFC’s lightweight division. A relative unknown when he entered the 2021 PFL season, Martinez shocked everyone when he defeated the highly-touted Loik Radzhabov to open the season. Since then, Martinez has also defeated UFC veteran Stevie Ray and took former PFL champion Natan Schulte to a split decision. When and if it happens, Martinez is UFC-ready.
6. Scott Hudson (13-5-1) – Lightweight/Welterweight, 34 years old
The owner of one of the longest active winning streaks on the Canadian regional scene at six wins, Hudson has done almost all he can to prove his worth. Hudson has won eight of his last nine matchups with the only loss coming to UFC veteran Kyle Prepolec. There’s no question Hudson is on the UFC’s radar as he was on the shortlist to replace Sergey Khandozhko against Michel Pereira back at UFC Vancouver. At 34 years old, the time needs to be now for Hudson.
7. Adam Assenza (15-6) – Lightweight, 34 years old
Much like Hudson, Assenza is riding an impressive five-fight winning streak of his own. Throughout this streak, he has continued to take on top-echelon talent on the regional scene and also became the B2 Fighting Series lightweight champion. Known for always bringing an exciting fight, Assenza would be a fun addition to the UFC’s lightweight division, but with age starting to become a factor it needs to happen now.
8. Neal Anderson (11-4) – Featherweight, 34 years old
Anderson’s only loss since 2013 was to Maged Hammo at Unified MMA 40, a fight he was up three rounds heading to the championship rounds only to be submitted in the fourth frame. Luckily, Anderson has a chance to avenge that loss at Unified MMA 45 next weekend in a rematch with Hammo. Outside of that slip up, Anderson has looked unstoppable for nearly a decade, also defeating top prospect Lucas Neufeld in his most recent outing at Unified MMA 43. At 34 years old, though, the clock is ticking for Anderson to have his well-deserved crack at the big stage.
9. Corinne Laframboise (8-4) – Women’s Flyweight, 32 years old
Since suffering a third round TKO loss to now-UFC fighter Manon Fiorot, Laframboise has been on quite the tear in the UAE Warriors cage. Since the loss, she has gone 3-0, which was capped off by winning the UAE Warriors women’s flyweight title after submitting Carolina Jimenez in the first round. While she’s no slouch on the feet, on the ground is where Laframboise is most dangerous and does her best work. With 12 fights under her belt and her dangerous jiu-jitsu game, Laframboise would pose a lot of problems for many UFC women’s flyweights.
10. Tom O’Connor (10-2) – Featherweight/Lightweight, 29 years old
O’Connor had his insane nine-fight winning streak snapped by Damonte Robinson at XFC 44. Fortunately, he jumped right back in the win column at Unified MMA 44 when he took out another top prospect in John Nguyen. Known for his toughness and relentless pace, O’Connor is rarely in a boring fight and would be an exciting addition to an already stacked UFC featherweight division.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Michael Dufort (9-4), Craig Shintani (10-4), Michael Imperato (9-4), Louie Sanoudakis (9-3), Christian Larsen (6-2)
A Win or Two Away
1. Caio Machado (6-1-1) – Heavyweight, 27 years old
Machado has been rolling through his competition in the BFL cage and defending his BFL heavyweight title with regularity, with his most recent title defence being a first round submission win over Lee Mein at BFL 69. In a heavyweight division always in need of new, young talent, Machado would be a perfect fit. To make his case even more compelling, he already has a fight confirmed on DWCS as he will take on Paulo Renato on Aug. 9. He truly is one win away from a UFC contract now.
2. Zack Powell (6-1) – Lightweight, 25 years old
If not for an extremely controversial split decision loss to Dario Sinagoga at BFL 67, Powell’s record would still be unblemished. With an elite wrestling base that has proven to give his opponents fits, Powell rounds out his game with a solid striking skill set as well. Now signed on with First Round Management for representation, Powell is in the perfect position for his career and would be an ideal fit to showcase his skills on DWCS this summer.
3. Serhiy Sidey (7-1) – Bantamweight, 25 years old
After making his BFL debut at BFL 68 in Sept. 2021, Sidey has since gone on to become the BFL bantamweight champion and also successfully defend his belt. He has a well-rounded skill set as well as a big frame for the bantamweight division. He’s definitely due for a step up in competition, which could be that one win he needs to punch his ticket to the big show. Whether that win comes on DWCS or his next BFL title defence, Sidey is close.
4. Dario Sinagoga (6-0) – Lightweight, 33 years old
With just six professional fights under his belt and at 33 years old, the time is now for Sinagoga to rattle off a couple more big wins. His fighting style speaks for itself as he’s explosive and always in an entertaining fight. If he could earn a shot on DWCS, he would most definitely stand out in victory to the UFC brass as he fits the show’s criteria perfectly.
5. Mateo Vogel (6-2) – Bantamweight/Featherweight, 26 years old
Vogel’s only two losses have come to the best of the best on regional scene in Da’Mon Blackshear and Xavier Alaoui. A true jiu-jitsu specialist, Vogel can hang with almost any opponent on the ground. To make his resume even better, he just became the BFL featherweight champion after defeating another jiu-jitsu ace in Nicolas Ouellet. With another win or two, Vogel will absolutely be knocking on the UFC’s door.
6. Tony Laramie (6-2) – Flyweight, 23 years old
If not for a low level of activity over the past few years, Laramie may very well already be in the UFC. At just 23 years old, Laramie got his start in MMA very early, which bodes well for experience level. A win or two more may be ideal given his youth, but Laramie has shown his skills are far beyond his years. He would be a perfect fit for DWCS and would provide a youthful injection to the flyweight division when the time comes.
7. James Clarke (6-3) – Flyweight, 28 years old
The record might not be the shiniest at the moment, but with the way Clarke is rolling that will change quickly. After starting his career off 1-3, Clarke has now won five straight to resurrect his career. Another fighter with an elite wrestling attack, Clarke can pose problems for the majority of flyweights. Currently the flyweight champion for both BTC Fight Promotions and B2 Fighting Series, Clarke is no stranger to tough competition. A win or two more, and possibly a DWCS opportunity, and Clarke will be a strong addition to the UFC’s flyweight division.
8. Melissa Croden (3-1) – Women’s Bantamweight, 31 years old
It’s rare to see a women’s bantamweight that’s a true knockout threat, but Croden is exactly that. In her 5-0 amateur career, all five wins came via knockout or TKO. She also added another two TKO wins to start her professional career, plus a submission win. She’s a pure finisher and would be a deadly addition to the UFC roster. With only four fights under her belt, though, she may need a win or two more to get her shot.
9. Lucas Neufeld (6-2) – Featherweight, 29 years old
Inactivity has been the enemy for Neufeld over the past few years. Over the past four years, he has competed just five times. The potential and talent is all there for Neufeld, so if he can string together a couple wins in quick order, his management team at Iridium Sports Agency will no doubt have him in a position to earn that UFC shot.
10. Teddy Ash (14-5) – Middleweight/Light Heavyweight, 32 years old
Ash hasn’t competed since his DWCS loss to Dusko Todorvic, which is now almost three years ago. It’s unknown if he intends on fighting again, but if he does he’s only a win or two away from the big show. His resume on the regional scene can’t be beat as he’s defeated multiple UFC veterans and top prospects. Hopefully we will see Ash back in the cage soon and make one last run at the big show.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Thomas Richardson (6-1), Christien Savoie (8-1), Achilles Estremadura (7-1), Graham Park (8-3), Xavier Alaoui (12-4)