As the sport of MMA is constantly evolving, so is the younger generation of MMA fighters who bring new excitement to the sport. 2019 looks to be a promising year for both the UFC and MMA as a whole. The new partnership with the UFC and ESPN brings a whole new excitement to the sport of MMA, this new era of worldwide viewership also brings a whole new era of MMA fighters.
There has never been more talent in professional fighting than there is right now. There are many factors involving this electric growth within the sport, the UFC’s growth through popular fighters such as Conor McGregor, partnered with the broadcasting deal with ESPN. The sport is also growing because many athletes are also starting to realize just how much money MMA fighters can make in the sport. Overall, 2019 looks like a great time to be an MMA fighter, especially for these talented young superstars.
Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya is one of the most exciting fighters in all of MMA. With a great start to his MMA career, The Last Stylebender has amassed a 16-0 record. With impressive wins of Anderson Silva and Derek Brunson, Adesanya has earned the opportunity to fight for the middleweight title. The most interesting thing about Adesanya is his unique kickboxing style and the fact that he manages to avoid bad situations (such as grappling and takedowns).
His next fight, an interim title matchup against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236 should be the ultimate test for Adesanya. Will The Last Stylebender be able to finesse and impress his way to another victory? I believe he will quiet all of the non-believers and secure the inevitable title unification fight against Robert Whittaker down-under. Expect to see a lot more from The Last Stylebender in the future.
Being a Taekwondo master with an Olympic resume all before your 21st birthday isn’t exactly considered average by many, but then again, there is nothing average about Valerie Loureda. Before her spectacular first round finish at Bellator 216, Valerie Loureda was relatively unknown in the MMA community. All of that has now changed with the excitement surrounding not only her talent inside the octagon, but also the swagger she carries outside of it as well.
Of course, anyone who follows MMA knows that your performance inside the octagon is only half of the battle. The overall marketability of a fighter is also what pushes the PPV numbers, and organizations like the UFC and Bellator love when a fighter can promote their own fights. Loureda is more than capable of promoting her fights and is a natural behind the camera. Expect to see more of this Taekwondo turned future MMA superstar in the octagon soon.
Kron Gracie, the son of the legendary Rickson Gracie, impressed many onlookers in his UFC debut on ESPN with a first round finish of Alex Caceres. I think it goes without saying that Kron’s grappling is second to none. He has already amassed a professional MMA record of 5-0 and it will be interesting to see just how high his ceiling goes.
It goes without saying that carrying the Gracie name holds a lot of pressure, and also makes Kron an interesting fighter to watch in the future. There will always be certain expectations when fighting inside an octagon with the Gracie name. If Kron Gracie can dominate in the currently stacked featherweight division I believe he will be a massive superstar.
Sean O’ Malley
“Sugar” Sean O’ Malley is a future superstar who already has a massive following thanks to his creative striking inside the octagon and his organic personality outside of it.
O’ Malley is a 5 foot 11 bantamweight fighter (who has competed in flyweight somehow) with a unique personality that is a breath of fresh air for the sport. Sugar has amassed an impressive 10-0 record inside of the cage and continues to garner fans through his antics outside of the octagon.
Believe it or not O’ Malley is a marijuana and Nate Diaz enthusiast (somehow those two things work flawlessly together). O’ Malley also is an avid gamer who has joined OpTic gaming and is a regular streaming on twitch. Sugar is a name to look out for in the future, that is after he serves his 6 month suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.
Zabit Magomedsharipov (bonus points if you can pronounce that correctly the first time) is one of the most talented MMA fighters in the world, let alone most talented on this list. Zabit is a Russian mixed martial artist competing in the featherweight division of the UFC. He currently has a 16-1 record and shows absolutely no weaknesses in his game. He is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the UFC.
Zabit is currently scheduled to face Jeremy Stevens on the STACKED UFC 235 card. This will be his first real test in the UFC, I believe he will show all the doubters that he belongs in the top 5, and I also believe he will eventually earn a title shot by the end of 2019. Zabit is a future “silent” superstar, similar to Khabib, where his value to the UFC involves him mauling people in the octagon, not talking or promoting fights.
Paulo “The Eraser” Costa, is an undefeated MMA fighter who competes in the UFC. Costa has superstar written all over him, and Dana White knows it. When Costa first appeared in the UFC octagon, Dana White instantly saw dollar signs in his eyes and now believes he’s found his future Brazilian MMA star. All four fights in the UFC have resulted in TKO victories for Costa, who has also amassed impressive wins over Uriah Hall and former title holder Johny Hendricks.
Costa is gaining popularity quickly for his good looks and impressive showing inside the octagon. He is also becoming a fan favorite among the Brazilian MMA community. Costa is scheduled to fight Yoel Romero in April on ESPN, this should be a true test for Costa, who many believe is the future of the Middleweight division. If all goes successful for both Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa, we may see them sharing an octagon in the near future, for the middleweight championship that is.
Many MMA fans didn’t know of Tatiana Suarez until she dominated former champion Carla Esparza at the end of 2018. Her dominant grappling and rare physical strength has put everyone competing in the strawweight division on notice.
I believe Tatiana Suarez will soon become the face of the division in 2019. The next thing for Suarez will be waiting to see the result of Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade as they duke it out at UFC 237.
I believe Suarez matches up against both favorably and will most likely have her chance at the belt by the end of 2019. Tatiana Suarez is definitely a name that you should look out for so that you can witness women’s mixed martial arts greatness.
Although Alexander is the oldest fighter on this list, he is still relatively new to the MMA world and has the capabilities of becoming a massive star in the near future.
Coming off his win against Chad Mendes at UFC 232 via TKO in the second round, Alexander looks prime to compete for title contention in a stacked featherweight division.
Want to know the crazy part about Volkanovski competing in the featherweight (145lb/65kg) division? He used to weigh (210lb/95kg) when he played rugby in Australia. Which leads me up to this question, what’s the deal with all these rising superstars in Australia and Brazil? Must be something in the water because they are a surplus of MMA talent in 2019.
Darren Till is the most established fighter on this list, and probably a name you’ve already heard of. Till fought for his first world title against Tyron Woodley at UFC 228, a fight in which he lost by second round submission. Up until that point, Darren Till’s UFC career was similar to Conor McGregor’s storybook rise. Although losing typically isn’t ideal for MMA fighters, I believe Till will grow from his first title loss to a well rounded Tyron Woodley.
Next up for Darren Till is Jorge Masvidal at UFC fight night 147 in April. Darren Till will be the home-crowd favorite once again as he fights in London, England this time. Will Till be able to bounce back from his disappointed loss at UFC 228? I believe he will, and I also believe Darren Till will get another title shot by the end of 2019.
Neiman Gracie is a fighter we just couldn’t avoid placing on our future MMA superstars list. Neiman is an undefeated (9-0) professional MMA fighter competing in Bellator. He has an impressive eight wins by submission, and the list is continually growing (his last five wins were all by submission).
Gracie is currently in the Bellator welterweight grand prix which is a massive tournament to decide a welterweight champion. If Gracie can win the grand prix tournament he will solidify superstar status once again for the Gracie name. I think I’m with everyone when I say we’re all rooting for either Neiman or Kron Gracie to excite the world with some Gracie Jiu-Jitsu again.
Which Future MMA Superstars Will Become a Champion?
It’s hard to predict the future, especially in MMA. For every future superstar turned champion, there are hundreds more that failed somewhere along the journey. However, I believe that every fighter on this list is more than capable of becoming a champion in their respective division.
Will any of these fighters earn their chance at a title shot by the end of 2019? That’s another question that will only be answered in time. Fighters such as Israel Adesanya and Darren Till have already earned an opportunity, while others such as Valerie Loureda and Kron Gracie still have a lot to prove before they even crack the top 10. One thing is for certain however, 2019 is a great time to become a MMA fighter.