UFC Fight Pass athletes made for some of the biggest moments in 2022. Whether it was Jack Della Maddalena stealing the show not once, twice but three times, Raul Rosas Jr. winning his mom a car he’s barely old enough to drive, or Bo Nickal clutching the MMA world in the palm of his hand for almost the entire year, they all called UFC FIGHT PASS home.
With so many homegrown names now in the UFC, does UFC FIGHT PASS have any big names left?
Oh yeah. We’re barely scratching the surface. Here are the fighters to watch for in 2023!
Pat Shahgholi – Grappling
It’s hard to go from “good grappler” to “famous grappler” but at only 16 years old, Pat Shahgholi has done it. Granted, it came at a very polarizing cost when he submitted David Vieira at EBI 20 without exactly giving him a chance to tap.
A large amount of the grappling community voiced their displeasure with the act while the others pointed out the money on the line and the name of the game in BJJ. Regardless of what side of the fence you fall on, it’s hard to argue Shahgholi has taken it in stride and handled the criticism well. Every day he gets more and more skilled while trolling haters more and more.
He parlayed the newfound attention immediately into a spot at the FIGHT PASS Invitational, where he put up a fight but fell in the first round to eventual winner Mason Fowler.
He may not have taken home the number one spot at FPI 3, but at only 16 years old and with already enough skill to infuriate social media, expect to see Shahgholi’s hand raised many, many times for years to come.
Anthony Cassar – iKon FC
If Bo Nickal’s 2022 rise wasn’t enough for you, we’ve got the answer.
Penn State Nittany Lion National Champion Anthony Cassar picked up right where roommate turned friend turned corner Nickal left off. After being alongside one of the most thunderous years in MMA, Cassar made his pro MMA debut at iKON FC 6 to dominant results. Not even expected to make his professional debut in 2022, Cassar’s difficulty finding opponents and his National Championship wrestling pedigree thrust him into the professional ranks, and 2023 is his year to take over the heavyweight division.
Bryce Meredith – LFA
His professional career hasn’t been moving as quickly as others, but make no mistake about it, Meredith is bound for some of the highest highs of the sport.
The former Wyoming Cowboys wrestler was a fan favorite in his NCAA days for the same reasons that are likely to make him a star in MMA: Personality, skill, grit and a hell of a work ethic. He doesn’t strike, “like a wrestler” but he’ll dominate on the ground and he’s never been afraid to go against the grain. Be on the lookout for Meredith’s name to come across your social media timeline many times this year.
Kaleb Rideout – Eternal MMA
Historically speaking, a guy named “Krazy Horse” has never let the fans down.
Eternal MMA might fall off the radar of US fight fans because of the time zone difference with the Australian promotion, but after landing a clear cut 2022 FIGHT PASS Fight of the Year with many other barnburners behind it, as well, we’re here to tell you, it’s worth the late night.
25-year-old Kaleb Rideout is already 7-2 with an additional seven amateur fights. He’s not afraid of a dogfight, with three of his seven wins coming by way of “deep waters wars” and four others by way of KO. He’s not looking to hold you down, he’s not looking for a quick submission; instead, Krazy Horse walks into the cage to give hell, even if it means he’s bound to receive some in return.
In the last two years, Eternal MMA fighters have provided the UFC with Rookie of the Year winners, and with fighters like Rideout, it’s safe to say the Eternal crew are never short of showstoppers.
Bella Mir – iKon FC
Bella “Lady” Mir appears to only be a few fights away from not being simply “Frank Mir’s daughter” anymore.
At only 19 years old and only a part-time fighter, Mir already has the same amount or more wins than a lot of the “must see fighters” of 2023. She’s got better wrestling than most fighters even in the UFC, the BJJ you’d expect her to have, and striking that improves every fight. Mir does see herself as a wrestler before a fighter, so don’t hold your breath on an active year from Mir due to commitments to the University of Iowa women’s wrestling team, but when Mir does make it to the cage, do not skip it.
She’s already a rising star in her own right, and it won’t be long before she’s headlining cards and fighting for belts.
Kody Steele – Fury FC
Kody Steele is another fighter aging out his record. With ambitions of making it even bigger than he already is, look for Steele to have a very busy, very exciting year. With two wins in his rookie year, including a main event finish at the first Fury Challenger Series, Kody Steele is beginning to bring the fans over from his highly-touted grappling career and turn the heads of diehard MMA fans.
He already possesses the intangibles to be a star and is chipping away at elite prospect status. Don’t be surprised if you see Kody Steele headlining a Fury FC card before year’s end.
Callum Walsh – Hollywood Fight Night
“King” Callum Walsh has begun a takeover in a sport that will never die but definitely needs help. A throwback to the ‘70s and ‘80s pugilists, Walsh has vowed time and time again that he will fight anybody who calls his name. Never will somebody “need to get more wins” or “need to get more followers.” Walsh is taking us back to the days where calling somebody’s name came with consequences.
He’s only 5-0 in his early boxing career, but he’s sprinted to that mark with just over a year of fighting under his belt and he’s not planning on slowing down in 2023.
He regularly packs the house, and it won’t be long before the entire world discovers why. This is your last chance to be here before it’s cool to be here.
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