UFC FIGHT PASS athletes made for some of the biggest UFC moments in 2021. Whether it was Alex Pereira’s debut, Paddy Pimblett finally coming over to the UFC, or Chris Barnett’s wheel kick and front flip celebration, they all made a name for themselves on FIGHT PASS long before impressing the masses in the Octagon.
With so many homegrown names now in the UFC, does FIGHT PASS have any big names left?
Oh yeah. We’re barely scratching the surface. Here are some more fighters to watch for in 2022!
Kody Steele – Fury FC
After a CJJ championship, a handful of SUG appearances, a stop at Polaris and a strong showing at The FIGHT PASS Invitational, it’s about time for Kody Steele to bring his black belt to MMA.
As dominant as Steele is on the ground, he has already finished two amateur fights by KO and his professional MMA debut is set for February at Fury FC 56.
As of now he’ll be taking on 6-9 Jessee Gengler to get his feet wet. Will it be off to the races for Steele after dipping his toes in?
It’s worth finding out!
Nick Piccininni – XFN
After pocketing four Big 12 championships, what could possibly give an Oklahoma State grad the adrenaline rush of standing across the mat from some of the biggest names in NCAA? Well for Nick Piccininni, it’s MMA.
Between his NCAA wrestling background, assistant coach status at Gilroy High School wrestling and the AKA gym behind himm it’s no wonder Piccininni has sealed his first two wins in under two minutes each.
He can obviously wrestle, but his ground-and-pound is Khabib-level dangerous, as well. He hasn’t been tested too much on his feet, but if he gets you to the ground expect the darkest of black eyes.
2022 will likely open Piccininni’s arsenal up even further. Smart money says Piccininni holds XFN gold by the end of 2022 if he stays active with them.
Josh Kuhne – Eternal MMA
He’s the talk of the Australian regional scene, and pretty soon, American fight fans are going to be just as hyped for him as they are Down Under.
Kuhne throws every punch with “shut the lights off” speed and power and it’s worked so far. Kuhne is 3-0 with three first round finishes, two of which didn’t last 60 seconds.
He’s torn it up with relative ease but is his ground game as solid as his striking and tattoo game?
There are still a few questions we can’t wait to have answered, but it won’t be long before he’s fighting prime time in the Pacific Standard Time.
Sidney Trillo – LFA
Another budding star makes the list!
“Sid Vicious” went from 0-0 to 2-0 in 2021 and while she’s the youngest “fighter to watch” for 2022, she already seems to have her fighting style down, and boy, is it fan friendly.
Trillo is a technically sound striker that prefers to throw brawling shots. She is comfortable wrestling but would prefer her striking takes the fight to the ground. If you can’t anticipate her shots, many fighters will involuntarily take the fight to the ground.
Few strawweights outside of the UFC have the finishing touch that Trillo does. She’s somehow already a star in SoCal but expect to see the rest of the country familiarize themselves with her in 2022.
Alfonso Leyva – UWC
Alfonso Leyva went professional at the end of 2020 and has already put together a record of 5-0. More importantly, he’s finished every fight.
With a 2021 record of 3-0 and viral KOs like crazy, there’s a chance the heavy-handed Entram representative will be flirting with the Male Fighter of the Year nomination in 2022.
He’s got the patience and trust in his striking to land big shots without having to over-extend himself to land them. His fights tend to stay on the feet, but if they went to the ground, his Olympic wrestling experience would take real good care of him.
At 28 years old, he’s in his fighting prime, and with a recent declaration that he would be leaving wrestling behind to focus full time on MMA, Leyva is only going to get more dangerous, and 2022 has his name written all over it.
Paul Hughes – Cage Warriors
Hughes had one hell of a 2021, going 2-0 with an upset victory over Morgan Charriere, and Ireland’s youngest fighting son put himself on the map in a huge way, winning Cage Warriors gold and UFC FIGHT PASS Fight of the Year in 2021.
He has more than established himself in Cage Warriors, but even if the UFC called tomorrow there’s unfinished business of epic proportions on the horizon at Cage Warriors.
Hughes has a Q1 date with Cage Warriors featherweight champion Jordan Vucenic.
Not only is gold on the line, Hughes has a chance to take back the one loss he’s suffered.
Hughes’ one knock is that his knack for finishing has gone cold lately. It’s been well over a year since he’s finished an opponent, but he makes up for this with Fight of the Year-level action.
Will Hughes repeat Fight of the Year honors in his rematch with Jordan Vucenic? Will he end the year in the UFC? Ireland seems to have a way of giving the people what they want!
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