Five UFC Fighters Who Could Make An Impact In 2021
By Jack Maher
With the UFC finally closing the book on 2020, the focus has now moved to next year.
With a new year comes a chance for a new wave of fighters to make a big impact on MMA’s biggest stage. Making an impact could be as simple as consistently winning fights, or as rewarding as winning a UFC championship, so with that, here are five UFC fighters who could make a big impact in 2021:
Dvalishvili is a massive problem for any bantamweight with sub par takedown defence. The #12 ranked bantamweight has been consistent in both his record and fighting style during his UFC tenure so far.
Dvalishvili’s biggest strength is his takedown’s, quickly transitioning from a striking position to a double-leg several times a fight.
The Georgian chases takedowns like his life depends on it, and can call upon double-legs, clinch trips and big slams to bring his opponents down to the canvas.
Confidence on the feet can also be noted, with Dvalishvili throwing several spinning attacks through his last few fights, and a willingness to trade punches with UFC veteran John Dodson in his last win.
Riding an impressive five-fight win streak, Dvalishvili is a dark horse and could easily be considered among the best at bantamweight this time next year.
Keeping the dominant wrestler theme, Chimaev has had one of the most meteoric rises in UFC history, looking dominant across two weight classes in his short UFC career.
Only joining the UFC back in July, the 26-year-old has barely absorbed a single strike across his three outings with the promotion so far.
Dominant wins over John Phillips at middleweight and Rhys Mckee at welterweight seen both of the Swede’s opponents spend nearly the entire fight pinned to the ground absorbing strikes, with both fights taking place inside a10-day period.
A lightning-fast knockout of Gerald Meerschaert came next, and now Chimaev will move on to his scheduled bout with top welterweight contender Leon Edwards in January.
Edwards is a big step up for someone with only three UFC fights, and it’s a booking that shows how much confidence the top brass has in its potential new star.
One of many new contenders bringing life back to the light-heavyweight division, Ankalaev has the aggressive grappling ability you would expect from an MMA fighter from Dagestan.
But so far through his UFC run it is on the feet where the Russian has looked most dangerous, with two head kick knockouts to his name. If not for a last-second submission loss to Paul Craig in his UFC debut, then Ankalaev would have a perfect 15-0 record.
The 28-year-old is riding a five-fight win streak, topped off by his most recent stoppage of Ion Cutelaba, a barrage of ground and pound that left one of the divisions best prospects unconscious.
The light-heavyweight division was blown wide open by Jon Jones’ departure, and Ankalaev will look to continue his charge to the top next year.
Despite his impressive start to life in the UFC, Fiziev appears to remain one of lightweights best kept secrets.
Fiziev found success on Fight Island, beating Marc Diakese in an impressive stand-up battle. A win over Renato Moicano, someone the UFC have been high on for some time, was Fiziev’s last appearance, knocking the Brazilian out in the first round when they met at UFC 256.
Fighting out of Tiger Muay Thai, Fiziev combines excellent reflexes with combinations that are equally dangerous and effortless. Against Moicano he showed sharp takedown defence to keep the fight standing. If he can maintain this against better opposition, then the Kyrgyzstan (9-1) fighter has all the tools to gatecrash the sports most crowded division.
Undefeated in the UFC, Yan looks like a fighter on the verge of a strawweight title fight, and she has no problem with stripping away the division’s old guard to get there.
Wins over Angela Hill, Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Claudia Gadelha have lifted the Chinese strawweight to #3 in the division.
In her win over Kowalkiewicz, Yan broke the former title challengers eye socket, an injury that has kept her out of the cage since they met in February. Yan has the longest UFC win streak in the division, and at most is likely one win away from a fight with champion Weili Zhang.