Brazil had mixed emotions on the big MMA stages in 2015, with fighters like Jose Aldo and Douglas Lima losing titles in major organizations like the UFC and Bellator, while Rafael dos Anjos and Fabricio Werdum put the country on top in other divisions.
As a new year starts, MMA Fighting lists 10 fighters that will likely burst onto the scene in 2016. Check it out:
Guilherme Faria (15-5) has won 11 of his past 12 bouts, and will likely have the chance to redeem himself in his first fight of the year. Winner of the last XFC featherweight tournament, Faria is expected to face UFC veteran Junior Assuncao next for the title. Outside of his loss to Assuncao in 2013, Faria has knocked out seven of his last 11 opponents in the first round
Bruna Ellen (2-0) collected several titles in Sanshou before making her transition to mixed martial arts in 2015. Training at Team Nogueira in Sao Paulo, the 19-year-old scored back-to-back wins at Max Fight in her first year as a professional MMA fighter.
Amanda Lemos (5-0) is the current Jungle Fight bantamweight champion. Fighting out of the Marajo island, and training alongside UFC bantamweight Iuri Alcantara, "Amandinha" started her MMA career in 2014 and went 3-0 in 2015, winning the Jungle Fight gold with a first-round guillotine over Carol Cunha. Lemos is scheduled to defend her title versus Mayra Cantuaria on Jan. 23.
Willian Cilli (11-3) is another promising talent born at Diego Lima’s Chute Boxe team in Sao Paulo. A teammate of Thomas Almeida, 28-year-old Cilli finished 10 of his last 11 opponents, winning the XFC lightweight tournament in 2015 with a couple first-round submissions. Cilli will now face Natan Schulte (10-2) for the XFC 155-pound crown.
Adriano Capitulino (3-0, 1 NC) is one of the stars of Milton Vieira’s Rio Fighters gym in Rio de Janeiro. After a no-contest in his MMA debut in 2014, Capitulino displayed his skills in his three wins in 2015, including an upset victory over the experienced Luis Gustavo Dutra.
Viviane Pereira (11-0) is a former Bitetti Combat flyweight champion and current XFC strawweight champion. Unbeaten in mixed martial arts, "Sucuri" had a perfect year in 2015, winning the XFC 115-pound tournament and capturing the title in a thrilling contest with Vanessa Guimaraes.
Poliana Botelho (5-1) suffered the only loss of her MMA career against "Sucuri" fighting for the Bitetti Combat title in 2014, but bounced back with three stoppages in 12 months under the XFC banner, capturing the promotion’s flyweight championship with fourth-round win over previously unbeaten Silvana Gomez.
Handesson Ferreira (8-0) started his MMA career in 2013, and needed less than three years to reach the top of his division in Brazil and win the Jungle Fight 170-pound title and Max Fight interim welterweight belt.
Luan Chagas (14-1) ran through everyone he has faced over the past few years. Fighting out of Curitiba, "Tarzan" capped off a nine-fight finishing streak with a first-round rear-naked choke over Eduardo Garvon, whose only previous loss was to MMA veteran Akihiro Gono.
Felipe Froes (13-2-1) is the current Shooto Brazil featherweight titleholder. Representing Rio de Janeiro’s Nova Uniao, "Saiyajin" has lost only one of his past 12 bouts, dropping a decision to UFC bantamweight Douglas Andrade. Froes has won six straight since 2013 with three finishes.