This series has spotlighted a number of elite competitors over the years, including past and current champions, countless contenders, and a bunch of up-and-comers that very much remain in the thick of the chase in their respective divisions right now.
While it’s never difficult to find three athletes to single out in this space at the start of each week, it’s not often that the triumvirate are all at relatively the same place in their careers and are on the same kind of trajectory, but here were are.
This week’s installment features three fighters that are all coming off very good wins that solidified their standing as emerging threats, putting them on course for the step up in competition each has received this time around and establishing each of them as athletes that needed to be discussed in this space.
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Here’s a closer look at those competitors.
This is the July 17 edition of Fighters on the Rise.
After landing on the wrong side of the scorecards in two of his first three UFC appearances, Thiago Moises has put together three straight victories to climb into the Top 15 in the talent-rich lightweight division and land opposite Islam Makhachev in this weekend’s main event.
The 26-year-old Brazilian was a standout on the regional circuit before graduating to the biggest stage in the sport, building a name for himself under the RFA banner before logging a pair of appearances in LFA and securing a UFC contract with a first-round stoppage win on the All-Brazilian edition of the Contender Series in the summer of 2018. Difficult assignments against Beneil Dariush and Damir Ismagulov bookended a solid victory over Kurt Holobaugh, but since then, the long-time American Top Team representative has rattled off impressive performances against Michael Johnson, Bobby Green, and Alexander Hernandez to establish himself as one of the top young talents in the 155-pound weight class.
Moises arrived at ATT when he was 17 years old, learning the ropes and sharpening his craft alongside of host of standouts like Edson Barboza, Thiago Alves, Renato Moicano, and Dustin Poirier. The lessons learned in the gym and his initial battles against Dariush and Ismagulov helped expedite his development, and this weekend, he has the opportunity to make major waves in the lightweight division as he squares off with Makhachev.
Cast as the heir to Khabib Nurmagomedov’s throne as a dominant force from Dagestan, the 29-year-old extended his winning streak to seven earlier this year, wrapping up the victory by wrapping up the neck of Drew Dober early in the third round.
Given Makhachev’s standing as one of the top emerging fighters in the division, a win for Moises would allow him to claim that title for himself and take another step forward in the ultra-competitive lightweight ranks, potentially setting up an even bigger opportunity in the fall or winter.
Mateusz Gamrot was an undefeated, two-division champion under the KSW banner before venturing to the UFC, earning victories over familiar names like Andre Winner and Norman Parke, as well as ultra-talented, but lesser known foes like Mansour Barnaoui and Kleber Koike Erbst.
The 30-year-old Polish lightweight dropped his promotional debut by split decision to fellow newcomer Guram Kutateladze last fall on UFC Fight Island in a verdict that even the victorious Georgian wasn’t completely convinced was correct. Rather than get stuck in a funk about his first career loss coming in a razor-thin decision, “Gamer” got back in the gym, accepted another tough assignment, and made it so the judges weren’t needed in his sophomore effort.
Back in April, Gamrot secured a second-round stoppage win over Scott Holtzman, dropping “Hot Sauce” with a laser-like one-two right down the pipe before sealing the deal with a quick flurry of follow-up punches on the canvas. He crafted a masterful performance during their six minutes and change in the Octagon, mixing in well-timed takedowns and slick grappling to showcase the full gamut of his arsenal against a dangerous veteran.
This weekend, Gamrot welcomes Jeremy Stephens back to the lightweight division for the first time in eight years, squaring off with the long-time featherweight staple as he looks to halt a five-fight run without a victory. While the results haven’t been there for Stephens of late, it’s not like he’s been losing to scrubs, as his string of setbacks and stumbles all came against fighters stationed in the Top 5 in the 145-pound weight class.
If Gamrot can follow up his effort against Holtzman with a similar showing opposite one of the most experienced fighters on the roster in Stephens, the former KSW standout could get catapulted into the mix in the 155-pound ranks and land himself an even bigger name next time out.
Amanda Lemos has been an absolute terror since returning to the UFC and dropping to strawweight at the close of 2019.
After losing her debut to Leslie Smith at bantamweight in the summer of 2017 and serving a two-year suspension for an anti-doping violation, the 34-year-old Brazilian moved down two weight classes once she was finally cleared to compete, stepping into the Octagon against Miranda Granger on the final fight card of the 2019 campaign in Busan, South Korea. The Marajo Brothers representative earned a first-round technical submission win over the American, and followed it up with a unanimous decision triumph over former Mizuki eight months later.
At UFC 259, Lemos made it three-in-a-row with a first-round stoppage win over former Invicta FC champ Livinha Souza, battering her fellow Brazilian from the outset and establishing herself as a potential force to be reckoned with in the 115-pound weight class going forward.
Saturday night, Lemos makes her third consecutive start in Las Vegas, squaring off with Montserrat Conejo, who out-grappled Cheyanne Buys in a testy clash of newcomers in March. The win over Souza elevated her into the Top 15 and a fourth consecutive victory, particularly one coming against a tough, game opponent like Ruiz, could give Lemos the momentum she needs to land a date with one of the higher-ranked names in the division next time out.