Rising Stars: The Next Generation of MMA Fighters to Watch in 2023

April 11, 2023
From: Spartacus
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Identifying new talent in MMA is crucial for the continued growth and success of the sport. It keeps things fresh and exciting for fans, and provides opportunities for up-and-coming fighters to make a name for themselves. Additionally, discovering new talent is important for the long-term sustainability of the sport, as it ensures that there will always be new stars to watch and new rivalries to follow. Without new talent, MMA could become stagnant and lose its appeal to fans. So, keeping an eye out for promising new fighters is essential for the health and vitality of the sport.

We will highlight up-and-coming MMA fighters who we believe are poised to make a big impact on the sport in 2023 and beyond. So, whether you’re a die-hard MMA fan or just curious about the sport, we hope this article will give you some exciting new fighters to watch out for and provide you with some insights into what makes MMA such a thrilling and dynamic sport.

Islam Makhachev


Makhachev was born in the Republic of Dagestan, a region in southern Russia known for producing top-tier MMA fighters. He grew up in the village of Makhachkala, which is also the hometown of his teammate and friend, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Makhachev began training in combat sports at the age of eight, starting with judo and sambo. He continued to train in these disciplines throughout his childhood and teenage years, eventually adding wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to his skillset.

Makhachev made his professional MMA debut in 2010 at the age of 18, winning his first three fights by submission. He quickly gained a reputation as a fearsome grappler, and began to attract attention from top MMA promotions.

In 2014, Makhachev signed with the UFC and made his debut at UFC 192, where he defeated Leo Kuntz by unanimous decision. He has since gone on to rack up wins over tough opponents like Gleison Tibau, Kajan Johnson, and Davi Ramos.

In addition to his MMA career, Makhachev has also competed in grappling tournaments in both Russia and the US. He is a two-time Combat Sambo World Champion, and has won multiple ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships.

Makhachev trains at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, alongside top UFC fighters like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Daniel Cormier, and Cain Velasquez. He is known for his work ethic and dedication to the sport, and has been praised by his coaches and teammates for his skills and potential.

Makhachev has a professional record of 23-1, with his only loss coming early in his career. He has notable wins over fighters such as Drew Dober, Thiago Moises, and Arman Tsarukyan. He has also won multiple grappling championships in Russia and the US.

One potential weakness for Makhachev is his cardio. He has gassed out in some fights, which could be a problem if he faces a high-paced opponent who can push the pace. Additionally, he hasn’t faced many top-ranked opponents yet, so it remains to be seen how he’ll fare against the very best in the sport.

Makhachev has been touted as the next big thing in the lightweight division, and for good reason. His grappling skills are elite, and he’s improved his striking to the point where he can be dangerous on the feet as well. If he continues to develop and face tougher competition, he could become a legitimate contender for the UFC lightweight title in the near future.

Cory Sandhagen


Sandhagen started his MMA training at the Elevation Fight Team in Colorado, where he trained alongside notable fighters like Neil Magny and Drew Dober. He quickly established himself as a top prospect in the bantamweight division, and earned a contract with the UFC in 2018.

Since joining the UFC, Sandhagen has put together an impressive resume, with wins over some of the division’s top contenders. He has also earned a reputation as one of the most exciting fighters to watch, thanks to his dynamic striking and aggressive style.

Cory Sandhagen is a fighter with a diverse set of skills, but he is particularly known for his striking prowess. His long reach, technical footwork, and powerful kicks are some of the attributes that make him a formidable opponent in the octagon. In addition to his striking, Sandhagen also has solid grappling skills, as evidenced by his brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

With a professional record of 16-4, Sandhagen has earned victories over several established fighters in the bantamweight division. Notably, he defeated Marlon Moraes with a spectacular spinning wheel kick knockout that earned him the “Performance of the Night” honours. He has also defeated the likes of Frankie Edgar and Raphael Assuncao, showcasing his skillset against high-level competition.

One potential weakness for Sandhagen is his susceptibility to leg kicks. In his fight against T.J. Dillashaw was hit with numerous leg kicks that slowed down his movement and gave Dillashaw control of the pace of the fight. Additionally, Sandhagen can sometimes be too aggressive and leave himself open to counter strikes.

Despite his weaknesses, Sandhagen is considered one of the top contenders in the bantamweight division, and his impressive performances have earned him widespread recognition as one of the most exciting fighters to watch in the UFC. If he continues to improve his striking and address his weaknesses, he could become a serious threat to the current bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling. With his diverse skill set and exciting fighting style, Sandhagen is undoubtedly a fighter to watch in the years to come.

Khamzat Chimaev


Chimaev was born and raised in Chechnya, but his family moved to Sweden when he was a child. He grew up in the city of Sundsvall, where he began training in combat sports at a young age. He initially focused on boxing, but later transitioned to wrestling and eventually MMA.

Chimaev’s dedication to his craft was evident from a young age. He would often travel long distances to train with the best coaches and fighters in the region, and was known for his intense work ethic and drive to improve.

Before making his professional debut, Chimaev had already established himself as one of the top amateur fighters in Sweden. He won several amateur titles and was regarded as a rising star in the sport.

After turning pro in 2018, Chimaev quickly began making a name for himself on the regional MMA circuit. He won his first six fights in dominating fashion, with all but one ending in either a submission or a knockout.

In 2020, Chimaev signed with the UFC and made his debut in July of that year. He quickly made an impression with his dominant victory over John Phillips, and followed that up with a record-setting 10-day turnaround between fights, where he scored a knockout victory over Rhys McKee.

Chimaev’s rise to stardom has been nothing short of meteoric, and he is considered one of the top prospects in MMA today. His blend of wrestling and striking, combined with his aggressive style and relentless work ethic, have made him a fan favourite and a fighter to watch in the years to come.

Chimaev’s background in wrestling is evident in his fighting style, as he possesses excellent takedown skills and grappling ability. He has a tendency to overwhelm his opponents with his relentless pressure and high work rate, often finishing fights with strikes from the top position. In addition to his grappling prowess, Chimaev is also proficient in striking and has shown an ability to finish fights with his hands as well.

With a professional record of 12-0, Chimaev has quickly risen through the ranks of the UFC. His impressive victories over established fighters like Gerald Meerschaert, Rhys McKee, and John Phillips have earned him recognition as one of the most exciting prospects in MMA. In fact, in 2020, he was awarded “Performance of the Night” honours for his stunning first-round knockout of Gerald Meerschaert.

Despite his impressive record and dominant performances, Chimaev’s lack of experience against top-level opposition could be considered a potential weakness. He has yet to face a top-ranked opponent in his division, and his aggressive style can sometimes leave him vulnerable to counter strikes.

Despite this, many MMA analysts and fans believe that Chimaev has the potential to become a future champion in the sport. His dominant performances and impressive skill set have earned him a legion of fans, and he has already made waves in the UFC with his impressive performances. If he continues to improve and faces tougher opposition, there is no doubt that he could become one of the top fighters in the sport.

Ciryl Gane


Ciryl Gane is a French heavyweight mixed martial artist who was born on April 12, 1990, in La Roche-sur-Yon, France. Before he became an MMA fighter, Gane trained and competed in Muay Thai, where he had a successful amateur career.

Gane began his professional MMA career in 2018, fighting in various regional promotions in France and Belgium. He quickly gained attention for his impressive striking skills and well-rounded game, winning his first four fights by either knockout or submission.

In 2019, Gane signed with the UFC and made his debut in August of that year, where he defeated Raphael Pessoa Nunes by submission in the first round. He went on to win his next three fights, including a dominant victory over former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos in December 2020.

Prior to his MMA career, Gane also worked as a security guard and trained in other combat sports, including boxing and kickboxing. His striking skills are a testament to his experience in these sports, as he is known for his precise and powerful striking.

Ciryl Gane is a rising star in the UFC heavyweight division, known for his impressive striking skills and well-rounded fighting style. Gane has a background in Muay Thai and is a highly skilled striker, able to deliver powerful and precise strikes from a distance. He also possesses strong grappling skills, as evidenced by his submission victories in the octagon.

One of Gane’s biggest strengths is his athleticism and mobility, despite his imposing 6’5” frame. He moves fluidly in the octagon and has shown an ability to evade his opponents’ attacks while delivering his own strikes with precision. Gane’s striking abilities are particularly impressive, as he is able to land accurate and powerful strikes from range, keeping his opponents at bay with his superior footwork and movement.

Gane’s record in MMA is currently undefeated, with a record of 11-2, including notable victories over experienced fighters like Junior dos Santos and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. His success in the UFC has been a result of his well-rounded skill set, which allows him to adapt to different opponents and styles.

One area for improvement for Gane could be his lack of experience against top-level competition. Although he has defeated some experienced fighters, he has yet to face off against the top-ranked heavyweights in the world. Additionally, his ground and pound game could use some improvement, as he tends to rely heavily on his striking and submissions.

Despite these potential weaknesses, Gane’s impressive skill set and undefeated record make him a promising prospect in the heavyweight division. He has the potential to become a dominant force in the UFC, with his athleticism, striking, and grappling abilities making him a dangerous opponent for any fighter. However, he will need to continue to improve and face tougher competition to truly establish himself as a top-level fighter in the sport.

Giga Chikadze


Giga Chikadze is a Georgian mixed martial artist who was born on October 26, 1988, in Tbilisi, Georgia. He started training in martial arts at a young age, initially focusing on karate before transitioning to kickboxing and later to MMA.

Chikadze began his professional MMA career in 2015, fighting in various regional promotions in his home country of Georgia. He quickly established himself as a promising prospect, winning his first five fights in dominant fashion. In 2016, he moved to the United States to pursue his MMA career and signed with the Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA).

Chikadze’s first fight in the LFA was a success, as he defeated Tommie Britton by knockout in the first round. He continued to impress in his next two fights, finishing his opponents by TKO and submission. In 2018, he signed with the UFC, where he continues to compete today.

Giga Chikadze’s fighting style is a sight to behold, with his background in karate and kickboxing giving him a unique approach to the sport of MMA. His movement in the octagon is fluid and elegant, with his strikes often resembling the techniques seen in traditional martial arts. Chikadze has an impressive professional record of 14-3, and has won his last six fights in a row, which includes notable victories over Jamey Simmons and Cub Swanson.

What makes Chikadze stand out from other fighters is his striking ability. He is one of the most active strikers in the featherweight division, throwing a high volume of strikes that are delivered with pinpoint accuracy. Chikadze is particularly adept at targeting his opponent’s body and legs, which can quickly wear down even the toughest of opponents. He also has excellent footwork, which allows him to move around the octagon and keep his opponents at range.

Chikadze’s grappling skills are nothing to scoff at either. He has shown that he is a capable grappler, with solid takedown defence and an ability to work from his back when he is taken down. This makes him a well-rounded fighter, as he is not solely reliant on his striking skills.

However, Chikadze is not without his weaknesses. One area where he could improve is his takedown defence. He has been taken down and controlled on the ground in some of his fights, which could be a potential area for opponents to exploit. Additionally, he could work on his power, as he has only recorded two knockout victories in his career thus far.

Despite his weaknesses, Chikadze has the potential to become a top contender in the featherweight division. His unique striking style and solid grappling skills make him a difficult opponent for anyone to face. If he continues to improve his takedown defence and power, he could potentially challenge for the title in the future. For now, fans of the sport eagerly await his next performance in the octagon.

Brady Hiestand


Brady Hiestand is a promising American mixed martial artist born on December 29, 1998, in Spokane, Washington. He started wrestling at the age of six, which led him to compete in various wrestling tournaments throughout his childhood and high school years.

After graduating from high school, Hiestand joined the United States Marine Corps, where he served as an infantryman for four years. During his time in the military, he continued to train in wrestling and began to transition to mixed martial arts.

In 2019, Hiestand made his amateur MMA debut and quickly amassed an impressive record of 7-2. He then turned professional in 2020 and signed with the Professional Fighters League (PFL).

Brady Hiestand is a rising star in the world of MMA with a fighting style heavily centred around his wrestling background. He utilises his grappling skills to control his opponents on the ground and set up his striking, which he is also proficient in, throwing powerful hooks and combinations. With a professional record of 2-0, Hiestand most recently won his PFL debut fight in June 2021, showing the MMA world that he is a force to be reckoned with.

One of Hiestand’s biggest strengths is his wrestling, which is evident in his ability to take his opponents down and control them on the ground. He has excellent cardio, allowing him to maintain a high pace throughout the fight, and he has a good sense of timing, which he uses to capitalise on his opponents’ mistakes. Hiestand’s grappling skills make him a tough opponent for anyone to face in the bantamweight division.

However, Hiestand’s striking defence is a potential weakness, as he has been hit with significant strikes in his previous fights. To become a more well-rounded fighter, he may need to work on his striking accuracy and volume, so he can hold his own on the feet and in the clinch.

Despite being relatively new to the professional MMA scene, Hiestand’s potential for future success is undeniable. With his impressive wrestling skills and well-rounded game, he has the potential to become a top contender in the bantamweight division. If he can continue to develop his striking and defence, he could potentially challenge for the title in the future. As Hiestand continues to grow and evolve as a fighter, MMA fans can expect to see him make a big impact in the sport for years to come.

Alexa Grasso


Alexa Grasso is a Mexican mixed martial artist who was born on August 9, 1993, in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. She began training in martial arts at the age of five, starting with taekwondo and then moving on to boxing at the age of thirteen.

Grasso made her professional MMA debut in 2012 and quickly established herself as a top prospect in the sport. She amassed a record of 5-0 fighting for the Invicta FC promotion before making her UFC debut in November 2016.

March of this year marked a historic moment in the world of mixed martial arts, particularly for women’s flyweight division, as Alexa Grasso pulled off an upset victory against the then-champion, Valentina Shevchenko, at UFC 285. What made the victory all the more impressive was the manner in which Grasso secured the win: a rear-naked choke submission in the fourth round of the title fight.

Shevchenko, who had been undefeated in the flyweight division, had previously defeated a host of top-tier fighters, including Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Liz Carmouche, and Jessica Eye. Her dominant performances in the octagon had cemented her as one of the greatest female fighters in MMA history, making Grasso’s win all the more significant. Some of her other notable victories include wins over fighters like Heather Clark, Randa Markos, and Karolina Kowalkiewicz.

Grasso is known for her striking skills, particularly her boxing, which she has used to great effect throughout her career. She is also a skilled grappler and has a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

In addition to her MMA career, Grasso has also competed in boxing, kickboxing, and Muay Thai. She won a national championship in boxing in Mexico in 2011 and has competed in various kickboxing and Muay Thai tournaments throughout her career.

Grasso’s fighting style is primarily based on her boxing background, which allows her to throw crisp and accurate punches with speed and precision. She also has excellent footwork and movement, which she uses to evade her opponents’ attacks and create openings for counterstrikes. In addition, Grasso has developed a well-rounded grappling game, including a strong clinch game, takedowns, and submission skills.

One of Grasso’s most notable achievements was her victory over former UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza in February 2021. The win solidified her position as a top contender in the division and marked a significant milestone in her career.

As for her strengths, Grasso has a well-rounded skill set, with solid striking and grappling abilities. She is also very athletic and possesses excellent movement and footwork, which allows her to effectively control the pace of the fight. Grasso is also known for her toughness and durability, which have helped her weather tough opponents and tough situations.

However, Grasso’s weaknesses include a tendency to struggle with opponents who are particularly strong or physical, as well as a somewhat inconsistent performance in her fights. She has also had trouble with cutting weight in the past, which could potentially affect her performance in the long run.

In terms of future success, Grasso has shown significant improvement in recent years and has the potential to continue to develop her skills and become a top contender in the division. However, she will need to work on improving her consistency and addressing her weaknesses in order to reach her full potential in the sport.

Grasso is considered one of the top prospects in the women’s strawweight division, her record stands at 16-3 and has the potential to become a future champion in the sport. She is known for her exciting fighting style and her ability to put on entertaining fights for fans.

young mma fighters


The world of combat sports is always evolving, and 2023 promises to be an exciting year for fans. With new up-and-coming fighters ready to make their mark, we can’t wait to see what the future holds for the sport. From the explosive power of the heavyweights to the lightning-fast moves of the featherweights, there is something for everyone. Keep your eyes peeled for these rising stars, and get ready to witness the next generation of champions. The future of combat sports looks bright, and we can’t wait to see what these fighters have in store for us in the coming year!

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