With 2020 now in the rear-view, it’s time to look ahead at what 2021 has to offer.
Canada has no shortage of young, up-and-coming prospects looking to make their mark in the MMA world. You just may not have heard of them yet.
The 10 fighters listed below are all still young and early in their professional careers, but are all names to keep tabs on as we kick off 2021.
Steven Mac Donald (4-0) – 27 years old, light heavyweight
Mac Donald burst onto the professional scene in Canada back in 2018 with a nasty knockout victory in enemy territory over Kyle Francotti. Since then, he’s continued to do nothing but impress, adding two unanimous decisions and another knockout to his resume. A product of Toshido MMA in Kelowna, B.C., Mac Donald signed on with Bellator MMA late in 2020 and is expected to make his debut early this year. With his striking power and acumen, don’t be surprised to see Mac Donald make waves in Bellator MMA and show why he’s one of Canada’s top light heavyweight prospects.
Zackery Powell (4-0) – 23 years old, lightweight
Powell was one of the few Canadians who managed to stay active in 2020, going 2-0 on the year, including a victory of Yemi Oduwole at SHP 56, the biggest victory of his career. Now training out of Niagara Top Team in Ontario, Powell is surrounded by coaches and training partners who will continue to bring out the best in him. Already 4-0 and just 23 years old, Powell is in prime position to make a big run in the sport. With a big 2021, there’s a strong chance we see Powell on one of the bigger stages sooner rather than later.
Saeid Mirzaei (2-0-1) – 28 years old, welterweight
If it weren’t for a run of bad luck with fight cancellations over the past year, Mirzaei could easily be 6-0-1 right now. After a 16-3 amateur career, which saw him become a IMMAF world champion, Mirzaei went on to defeat top American prospect Killian Estes and a tough veteran in Nicolae Cury to open up his professional career. Mirzaei is the complete package, and has all the skills to make it to the top of the sport. Prior to his last scheduled fight, Mirzaei said he hopes to compete more outside of Canada going forward. If all goes as planned, keep an eye out for a big 2021 for Mirzaei.
Mateo Vogel (4-1) – 24 years old, bantamweight
Vogel was fortunate enough to get one fight in before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which was a unanimous decision over Serhiy Sidey at BTC 9. His only defeat, due an illegal upkick, was to top bantamweight prospect Xavier Alaoui. Vogel holds one of the strongest jiu-jitsu games in the bantamweight division across Canada, backed by his three submission victories. Vogel’s next outing in the cage has yet to be set, but regardless of who the opponent is, Vogel is in prime position to have a career-changing 2021.
Josh Kwiatkowski (4-2) – 27 years old, featherweight
After a 1-2 start to his professional career, Kwiatkowski flipped a switch in a big way, rattling off three straight victories. Kwiatkowski is part of the team at Checkmat Vancouver, a gym where many of B.C.’s top fighters continue to flock to. Despite many efforts to secure a fight in the United States throughout 2020, Kwiatkowski was unsuccessful. However, Kwiatkowski isn’t someone who likes to sit on the sidelines for long, so expect an active 2021 from the well-rounded and tough Checkmat product.
Louis Jourdain (5-2) – 23 years old, bantamweight
The younger brother of UFC featherweight Charles Jourdain hasn’t competed in an MMA fight since 2018, but it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. Jourdain has been in the corner of his brother for all four of his UFC fights in hopes of possibly getting on the card himself as a short notice option. Jourdain does possess some of the flash in the striking department like his brother, but also boasts a strong ground game. With his brother turning heads in the UFC already, Jourdain could benefit significantly from a couple big wins to open up 2021. If all goes well, the Jourdain brothers could be reunited in the UFC, just as they were in TKO MMA.
Melissa Croden (2-0) – 29 years old, bantamweight
It’s rare to see a female fighter with all wins via knockout or TKO, but Croden is a different breed. Including her 5-0 amateur career, Croden has finished all seven of her opponents via strikes, earning her most recent victory over Elizabeth Schroder early in 2020 at Fight Night 12. Croden’s striking is on another level compared to the majority of the regional scene, and would also cause problems for many fighters on the UFC roster. If it weren’t for having just two professional fights under her belt, there’s a strong chance she’d already be in the big show. Look for her to possibly make that leap with a successful 2021 campaign.
Kyran Cameron (4-0) – 28 years old, welterweight
A regular in the BTC Fight Promotions cage and yet to taste defeat, Cameron has all the tools. His most recent victory, and most impressive, was a first round submission win over Rafael Palomeque via brabo choke. Just entering his prime now, a big 2021 could land Cameron firmly on the radar of one of the big shows, and he can start that run in his confirmed matchup with Keanan Kellar at BFL 66 in March.
Lucas Neufeld (5-1) – 27 years old, featherweight
Neufeld’s lone defeat came at the hands of now UFC fighter Jordan Leavitt, a unanimous decision loss, but has otherwise been perfect. At just 27 years old, Neufeld is one of Canada’s brightest prospects in the featherweight division. Prior to the event being cancelled due to COVID-19, Neufeld was set to take on Dana White’s Contender Series veteran Lance Lawrence at Fight Night 13 for the featherweight title. Whether that specific matchup gets rebooked or not, Neufeld’s next bout will likely be for the Z-Promotions Fight Night featherweight title. A big 2021 could have Neufeld knocking on the door of a big promotion by year’s end.
Yohan Lainesse (5-0) – 28 years old, welterweight
Lainesse has always been a well-known name on the Canadian MMA scene, but he made an even bigger name for himself worldwide with his viral flying knee knockout of Lirim Rufati at CFFC 86 in October. That marked Lainesse’s second victory inside the CFFC cage, and likely earned him a call back for a fight in the near future. Whether his next fight is in the CFFC cage or back in his home country of Canada, Lainesse will have plenty of eyes on him going forward.