With Lupita Godinez recently having made her UFC debut, it’s time to take a look at who may be next to represent Canada on MMA’s biggest stage. From last year’s list, Godinez was joined in the UFC by TJ Laramie, KB Bhullar and Malcolm Gordon. Additionally, Mariusz Ksiazkiewicz and Anthony Romero 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.***
1. Aaron Jeffery (10-2) – Middleweight, 28 Years Old
A no-brainer here. After falling to Brendan Allen in his DWCS appearance in 2019, Jeffery has won four straight, finishing three of those bouts and winning the CFFC middleweight title in his most recent victory over Collin Huckbody. Training out of one of Canada’s top gyms in Niagara Top Team, Jeffery has proven to be as well-rounded as they come and he will have another chance to stamp his ticket to the big show on Sept. 28 when he gets a well-deserved second shot on DWCS. It’s time to debut that mullet in the UFC.
2. Anthony Romero (9-0) – Lightweight, 24 Years Old
If not for an odd decision by UFC boss Dana White, Romero would and should already be in the UFC after a dominant unanimous decision win over Mike Breeden on DWCS last summer. Nonetheless, at only 24 years old, Romero still has his entire career ahead of him and already added another win to the resume at LFA 96 following his DWCS triumph. A teammate of the aforementioned Jeffery at Niagara Top Team, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Romero with another opportunity on DWCS this year. Regardless, with Romero, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
3. Alex Martinez (8-0) – Lightweight, 26 Years Old
Fresh off a victory in his PFL debut, Martinez is set to remain on the roster for the foreseeable future, at least until the 2021 PFL season concludes. But his win over a very stiff test in Loik Radzhabov proves he is ready for that next step. While precise and technical on the feet, Martinez also poses a serious threat on the ground. In addition to his undefeated eight-fight professional career, Martinez also boasts an impressive 15-4 record as an amateur. Although PFL is his immediate future, there’s no question Martinez is in the UFC’s sights.
4. Achilles Estremadura (7-0) – Lightweight, 28 Years Old
In the words of UFC fighter Tristan Connelly, “Achilles has some of the fastest hands I’ve ever seen.” Estremadura put that hand speed on full display in his most recent BFL lightweight title defence at BFL 66, knocking out Curtis Demarce in the first round. Estremadura was originally expected to compete on DWCS this past summer, but a matchup never came to fruition. Although known most for his knockout power, he also boasts an underrated wrestling game. Whether it’s proving himself on DWCS this year or a straight ticket to the big show, Estremadura is ready for the big stage.
5. Scott Hudson (12-5-1) – Lightweight/Welterweight, 33 Years Old
After a 5-4-1 start to his career, Hudson has gone 7-1 since, including his most recent victory over D’Juan Owens in the XFC lightweight tournament quarterfinals. Hudson is already on the UFC’s radar, reportedly having been on the short list of fighters to step in on short notice to face Michel Pereira at UFC Vancouver, a slot eventually claimed by Tristan Connelly. Hudson has the experience and skillset to find success in the UFC and in the event he goes on to win the XFC lightweight tournament in 2021, it would be tough to deny him his shot.
6. Jasmine Jasudavicius (5-1) – Women’s Flyweight, 32 Years Old
Other than a controversial split decision loss to Elise Reed at CFFC 83, Jasudavicius has been perfect in both her professional and amateur careers. Standing at 5’7″, she tends to hold a height and reach advantage over the majority of her opponents, and definitely knows how to use it. Training out of the esteemed Niagara Top Team with Jeffery and Romero, Jasudavicius boasts a well-rounded skillset, and will get to put that on display Sept. 14 when she makes her DWCS debut against Julia Polastri. If victorious over Polastri, Jasudavicius should be a shoo-in for a UFC contract.
7. Neal Anderson (10-3) – Lightweight, 33 Years Old
Riding a six-fight win streak and having won eight of his last nine bouts, Anderson is one of the hottest prospects in Canada. A technical striker with underrated power, Anderson put that power on full display in his last bout, knocking out Craig Shintani in the first round at Unified MMA 37. Not having fought for almost two years now, the inactivity may be a deterring factor for an immediate signing, but an opportunity to put on a show on DWCS this year is very much in the realm of possibility.
8. Chad Anheliger (10-5) – Flyweight/Bantamweight, 34 Years Old
The owner of one of the longest win streaks on the Canadian regional scene at eight fights, Anheliger needs his opportunity on the big stage. A bout with Cameron Else was in the works for DWCS last season before Else signed with UFC outright, so Anheliger is certainly on the radar. Currently a double champ for Rise FC at flyweight and bantamweight, Anheliger would be a welcome addition to the UFC’s flyweight division, which can always use an injection of new talent.
9. Jamey-Lyn Horth Wessels (4-0) – Women’s Flyweight, 31 Years Old
If not for unfortunate circumstances, there’s a strong chance Horth Wessels would already be in the UFC. She was scheduled to face Chelsea Hackett on last season of DWCS, but was forced out due to visa issues. Yet to taste defeat as a professional or amateur, Horth Wessels possesses a suffocating style that could pose problems for many UFC flyweights. Additionally, she holds two amateur wins over current UFC fighter Lupita Godinez. Horth Wessels is a perfect candidate for a DWCS shot again this season and is sure to impress, given the opportunity.
10. Tom O’Connor (9-1) – Lightweight, 28 Years Old
After falling in his professional debut, O’Connor has stepped on the gas and never let off. It’s been over six years since O’Connor last tasted defeat and he’s amassed seven finishes in his nine wins in that time. After defeating Jose Caceres in the XFC lightweight tournament quarterfinals, O’Connor is now scheduled to face Damonte Robinson in the semi-finals, so his immediate future remains under the XFC banner. However, with an impressive showing in the tournament, O’Connor will no doubt be a front-runner to earn a UFC contract in the aftermath.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Jamie Siraj (8-2), Graham Park (7-2), Christian Larsen (5-1), Michael Imperato (9-4), Shawn Wallace (8-2)
A Win or Two Away
1. Xavier Alaoui (12-4) – Bantamweight, 29 Years Old
If not for the UFC not signing fighters coming off a loss, Alaoui would be near the top of the above list. Alaoui had his four-fight winning streak snapped in his first UAE Warriors bantamweight title defence at the hands of Vinicius de Oliveira. Aside from the TKO defeat to de Oliveira, Alaoui’s only other three losses have come by split or majority decision to high-calibre opponents. Training out of the renowned Tristar Gym in Montreal, Alaoui is just one win away from being firmly back on the UFC’s radar.
2. Teddy Ash (14-5) – Middleweight, 31 Years Old
Much like Alaoui, Ash would be near the top of the above list if not for coming off a loss, a defeat that came at the hands of Dusko Todorovic on DWCS in 2019. Ash holds wins over the best of the best on the regional scene, including multiple UFC veterans. He was also the middleweight and light heavyweight champion for Unified MMA before vacating for his DWCS bout. Ash’s regional scene accolades are off the charts and he could be just one win away from another DWCS opportunity.
3. Tony Laramie (5-2) – Flyweight, 22 Years Old
The younger brother of UFC featherweight TJ Laramie, the talent and potential is all there. In just his seventh professional fight, Laramie defeated a 24-fight veteran in Claudio Ledesma to become the Prospect FC flyweight champion. Being just 22 years old and only having seven fights under his belt, Laramie may need another win or two to make his way onto the UFC’s radar. However, an invitation to compete on DWCS this season wouldn’t be a surprise and he certainly brings the style tailor-made for that platform.
4. Christien Savoie (8-1) – Welterweight, 28 Years Old
Heading into 2020, Savoie was one of Canada’s most promising prospects. And if not for coming up short to Bassil Hafez in his CFFC welterweight title bid at CFFC 89, Savoie would’ve been well on his way to a UFC call. But, even with the defeat, Savoie’s resume is still among the best at welterweight in Canada and he will be firmly back on track with a rebound win. Always eager to put on a good show, Savoie has all the traits the UFC brass want.
5. Louie Sanoudakis (8-2) – Bantamweight, 31 Years Old
Training out of Tristar Gym, Sanoudakis is working with killers on a daily basis. And it shows in the cage. Sanoudakis is coming off a loss to Stephen Loman at Brave CF 30 in his attempt to become the Brave CF bantamweight champion. Fortunately, he is scheduled to face Beno Adamia in the inaugural Levels Fight League event at the end of May. With a victory over Adamia, Sanoudakis will be in prime position for a DWCS opportunity this season, or potentially a short notice UFC call.
6. Yohan Lainesse (6-0) – Welterweight, 28 Years Old
While 2020 was a tough year for many fighters in Canada, it was a coming-out party for Lainesse. With back-to-back first round knockout wins under the CFFC banner, including a highlight-reel flying knee, Lainesse truly made a name for himself. Now sitting at 6-0, Lainesse is ready to receive a step-up in competition. And given his exciting, action-packed style, DWCS seems like the perfect stage for him to receive that next-level test.
7. Kyran Cameron (5-0) – Welterweight, 28 Years Old
A threat to finish the fight wherever it goes, Cameron is the real deal. Although perfect so far in his professional career, the combined record of his opponents for his five wins is just 7-3, so he’s due for a big test. He’s rumoured to be scheduled to compete on the upcoming BFL 67 card, so perhaps he’ll receive that test there. If not, he’d be a perfect addition to one of the DWCS cards in the fall. Either way, Cameron is one to keep an eye on.
8. Mariusz Ksiazkiewicz (8-1) – Middleweight, 31 Years Old
Ksiazkiewicz was already knocking on the door of the UFC last summer when he made his DWCS debut. Unfortunately, the bout didn’t go his way as he dropped a unanimous decision to Mario Sousa. Prior to his DWCS bout, the only thing holding back Ksiazkiewicz was inactivity, and not at his own fault. If he can secure a fight and a win within the next couple months, a chance for redemption on DWCS could be in the cards for the natural finisher.
9. Lucas Neufeld (5-1) – Featherweight, 27 Years Old
Having just signed with Iridium Sports Agency a few months ago, Neufeld is going to be given every opportunity to earn his shot on the big stage. Neufeld’s lone loss came to now-UFC fighter Jordan Leavitt, and was one of only two fighters not to be finished by Leavitt. With the combined record of his opponents in his wins being 9-5, Neufeuld has yet to be truly tested. But that changes June 4 when he will take on Josh Kwiatkowski at BFL 67. With a victory over Kwiatkowski and his new partnership with Iridium, Neufeld could be a prime candidate for a DWCS opportunity.
10. Yoni Sherbatov (8-2-1) – Flyweight, 32 Years Old
It’s rare to see a flyweight with true knockout power, but that’s exactly what Sherbatov possesses with four knockout wins in under one minute. Dropping two of his last three bouts, Sherbatov will likely need to right the ship with a couple victories, but the TUF 24-alumnus is someone the UFC is already familiar with and he could be back on their radar if he does so in typical Sherbatov style.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Michael Dufort (7-3), Caio Machado (4-1-1), Thomas Richardson (6-1), Zack Powell (4-0), Mateo Vogel (5-1)