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!
Makoto Takahashi – Cage Fury FC
22 years old, Submission of the Year and 17 fights under his belt. No idea where Makoto Takahashi finds the time or energy, but sure enough, he does.
He fights a lot, he wins a lot and despite how much of his playbook is out there, he’s still next to impossible to figure out. Takahashi made his CFFC debut riding an eight-fight winning streak, and snatched Diego Paiva’s neck and the CFFC flyweight title in spectacular fashion.
He’s got the look and the style that’s hard for fans to turn away from. If you’re in Cage Fury country, make sure you get in to see his next fight because it won’t be long before the same tickets will become much, much more expensive.
Ben Eddy – Grappling
Forget what you’re told about “all high-level grapplers.” Sure, there are always going to be grapplers who value position over finishing, but Ben Eddy is not one of them.
Eddy is exactly the kind of grappler that casual fans can get behind. You’ll either see him pull off moves and techniques that even the diehards applaud, or he goes down trying one. He’s the type of grappler that may one day invent a submission on a whim because he’s thrown his body into a position most would avoid.
Don’t let the age fool you, Ben Eddy is entertaining every time he’s on the mat.
Solomon Renfro – iKon FC
2022 was the best of times and the worst of times for Solomon Renfro. After losing on DWCS in 2021, Renfro looked to make his bounce-back fight in front of his home fans at LFA 125 but was finished by Adam Fugitt in 2022’s Upset of the Year. Renfro erased every bit of that in the remainder of 2022.
Renfro rode back into UFC FIGHT PASS on the back of a bounce-back win and put such a beating on Michael Irizarry Ortiz that he was disappointed about it. He vowed to fight one more time to take home Male Fighter of the Year honors but had to pull out of the iKon FC 6 main event due to injury.
Renfro is likely a win or two away from the big time, and with even more polished skills than ever before and a hunger he hasn’t had for years, it’s safe to bet 2023 is going to be the year of “The Black Dragon.”
Tobias Harila – Cage Warriors
He may be 3-2 in his past five fights, but it isn’t due to lack of skill. Tobias Harila has a “kill or be killed” fighting style that will take fight fans back to the prime days of Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown.
At 28 years old and with an aggressive style, there’s a good chance he can find himself on this list for the next five years. When he loses, he loses fun fights; when he wins, it’s the most memorable win of the card.
Cage Warriors is loaded with addicting fighters, and Tobias Harila is a must-see on everybody’s top five.
Jacobe Smith – Fury FC
He’s one half of the two-headed Oklahoma State MMA prospect dragon. What may come as a surprise is that thus far, he may be more aggressive than fellow Cowboy Nick Piccininni.
Smith has already proven himself to be a born fighter with, not only his 4-0 record, but performances like his Fury FC debut, where he accepted a fight with Tommie Britton who sported nearly an entire weight class advantage in weight. After laying on one of the harshest beatings in Fury FC history, Smith showed off his mic skills and proved to the fight world that he was here to make waves.
Raheam Forest – Cage Fury FC
At only 26 years old, Raheam “Rambo” Forest has put up a perfect 6-0 professional MMA record, headlined a CFFC show and took home the CFFC welterweight title. He’s another exciting fighter that has either Fight of the Night decisions or show-stopping finishes that shake the house.
Now that he’s the king of the CFFC welterweight division, there’s likely to be no shortage of opponents coming for him, which means we may be lucky enough to see a good handful of “Rambo” fights in 2023. Prepare for viral tweets!
Gordon Ryan – Grappling
They call him “The King” for a reason. Gordon Ryan has been a part of the FIGHT PASS family for years now, but there was something about his presence at the FPI 3 that showed the world he’s done with the “best grappler” title; instead, he’s one of the biggest stars in combat sports.
He’s seemed to have lapped the field and if he’s not your favorite grappler it’s because he’s beat your favorite multiple times. He’s comfortable in any position and especially comfortable behind a microphone. If you know anybody who would give him an exciting match, feel free to reach out because for quite a while now it’s been on Gordon to keep the matches exciting; not because he’s not skilled, but because he’s too skilled.
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