10 Prospects that Seem Poised for Greatness in 2020 (Part Two)
With the first event of the year just weeks away, MMA fans eagerly await what surprises the sport may bring in 2020. Last year, we witnessed the rise of breakout fighters such as Israel Adesanya, Alexander Volkanovski, Cory Sandhagen, Dominick Reyes, and numerous others. Now, however, we turn our attention to 2020 and shine the spotlight on the fighters looking to become household names in the next calendar year. With that being said, let us venture into part two of the 10 prospects that seem poised for greatness in the UFC
Arnold Allen (15-1; 6-0 UFC)
There was once an era when going 6-0 in the UFC certainly meant you were in line for a title shot. Now, the over-500 fighter roster means that reaching the upper echelon of your respective division requires quite a bit more handywork. Nonetheless, the 25-year-old Suffolk, England native has steadily been making a name for himself in the Featherweight division, closing out 2019 as the #15 ranked contender. He began his UFC career in 2016 with a Performance of The Night guillotine choke against Alan Omer, and subsequently earning decisions over Yaotzin Meza and Makwan Amirkhani. His lone fight in 2018 saw him submit current Cage Warriors champion, Mads Burnell, with a front choke. In 2019, he earned a decision victory over Jordan Rinaldi, before facing his toughest foe to date — former Strikeforce lightweight champion and former two-time UFC lightweight title contender, Gilbert Melendez. In the most high-profile bout of his young career, Allen utterly dominated the veteran, proving to be the speedier and craftier combatant. Allen is currently scheduled to face hard-hitting top-ten Featherweight Josh Emmett in late-January. If Allen can overcome his most difficult opponent to date, 2020 may very well be the year in which “Almighty” becomes a top five 145-pounder.
Maycee Barber (8-0; 3-0 UFC)
When Maycee Barber was victorious on Dana White’s Contender Series, she made her goal abundantly clear: dethrone Jon Jones as the youngest ever UFC champion. Just 21 years of age and already the #9 ranked women’s flyweight contender, Barber has until May of 2022 to beat Jones’ outstanding feat. Nicknamed “The Future,” Barber has finished seven of her eight victories, including three TKOs since joining the UFC. Lauded for her devastating power, Barber made her debut in 2018, stopping Hannah Cifers with strikes in the second round. In 2019, she earned a come-from-behind stoppage over JJ Aldrich, before facing fellow rising contender Gillian Robertson. Many thought the grappling ace Roberston would expose major holes in Barber’s overall game, but she was never given the chance. Just three minutes into the bout, a flurry of strikes against the cage saw the referee halt the action, declaring Barber the victor. Barber is currently scheduled to face #7 ranked contender and former title challenger Roxanne Modafferi. A potent grappler, Modafferi will look to bring the rising prospect into deep waters. Barber vs Modafferi is scheduled as the featured prelim for UFC 246: McGregor vs Cowboy.
Edmen Shahbazyan (11-0; 4-0 UFC)
If you were to critique Edmen Shahbazyan, you would likely say that he has been finishing opponents so quickly that we cannot accurately gauge his overall skillset, and you would be right. The 22-year-old protégé of former Ronda Rousey trainer Edmond Tarverdyan, Shabazyan has been hailed as a future contender since he first appeared on Dana White’s Contender Series, ousting his opponent in 40 seconds. He is a big, lanky Middleweight with crushing knockout power and a developing grappling game. After a split decision victory over Darren Stewart, the Arizonian has seemingly been unstoppable, finishing three fights in an amount of time totaling less than one full round. Most recently, he scored a brutal knockout over veteran Brad Tavares at UFC 244. While many critics have questioned his decision to train with Tarverdyan, who was the subject of much controversy regarding the handling of Rousey’s career, Shahbazyan shows no signs of slowing down. Currently ranked #9 in the Middleweight division, perhaps a fight with Derek Brunson or Omari Akhmedov makes the most sense moving forward.
Jack Shore (12-0; 1-0 UFC)
Jack Shore, the former Cage Warriors Bantamweight champion, made his long-awaited UFC debut in September, dominating and submitting Nohelin Hernandez in the third round. At 12-0, Shore has only been to a decision once, scoring seven submissions and four knockouts and indicating his well-rounded abilities. The only man to survive Shore’s game was UFC veteran Vaughan Lee, despite being controlled for much of the bout. It was this victory over a UFC-caliber fighter which alerted pundits that Shore was indeed ready for the big leagues. A product of Tillery Combat MMA Academy in Wales, the 24-year-old has more experience than meets the eye, going 11-0 as an amateur before transitioning to professional. In 2020, expect Shore to make some waves in the Bantamweight division, perhaps cracking the top 15 before years end.
Nathaniel Wood (16-3; 3-0 UFC)
Aptly nicknamed “The Prospect,” this protégé of UK fighting legend Brad Pickett has been nothing short of dominant in the UFC. The former Cage Warriors Bantamweight champion, Wood made his UFC debut against the always-dangerous Johnny Eduardo. Despite getting bloodied on the feet in the first round, Wood was able to corral the Brazilian to the ground and secure a D’arce choke victory. In his next two bouts, Wood submitted Andre Ewell and Jose Alberto Quinonez with relative ease, cementing his position as a surging contender in the division. In 2020, Wood is wasting no time, catapulting himself into the top 15 as he takes on former two-time flyweight title challenger in John Dodson in February. Should Wood emerge victorious, he will be in prime position for a fight with a top 10 opponent.
Overall, each contender discussed thus far has the potential to make a tremendous splash in his/her respective division. Of course, though, this is MMA, and it is the craziest sport on Earth. Just as quickly as someone can emerge a “promising prospect,” they can fade away into obscurity as a “never was.” As 2020 progresses, let’s keep a watchful eye on these contenders and determine which of them are truly destined for greatness.