With so many Europeans on the verge of title shots within the UFC in 2020, it’s exciting times for the continent.
Established names like Petr Yan, Leon Edwards, Zabit Magomedsharipov and Jan Blachowicz made a beeline for their respective divisions’ titles over the last 12 months. As well as that, Joanna Jedrzejczyk has an opportunity to reclaim her strawweight title in March to bolster the continent’s international plaudits.
Half of 2019’s European Prospects to Watch went on to secure deals with major promotions as Roman Kopylov, Ciryl Gane and Liana Jojua put pen to paper with the UFC. Karl Albrektsson and Soren Bak also agreed terms with Bellator after appearing in the feature. Six of the ten names listed in 2018’s European Prospects to Watch have secured major deals. Nathaniel Wood, Jack Shore and Askar Askarov all inked deals with the UFC and Fabian Edwards, Karl Moore and Richie Smullen committed their futures to Bellator.
Here are ten names to keep on your radar in 2020.
Jai Herbert (10-1-0) had the best year of his career in 2019, bagging the Cage Warriors lightweight title against surging favorite Jack Grant before successfully defending it against UFC veteran Cain Carrizosa. “The Black Country Banger” hails from the same gym as Leon Edwards, Team Renegade, and his patent for knockouts and exciting displays has forced him to the top of fan and media wish lists for the next U.K. fighter to be signed to the UFC ahead of March’s London event. Herbert also showcased massive improvements to his grappling skill set over the course of the year, especially in his performances against celebrated grapplers Grant and Steve O’Keefe.
Svetlana Gotsyk (13-4-0) cemented her status on the international radar with a submission win over one of MMA Fighting’s 2019 prospects to watch, Magdalena Sormova, when they met for a second time for the WWFC strawweight title in September. At just 20 years old, the Ukrainian faced off with current UFC champion, Zhang Weili, losing by second-round TKO. With a few more scalps in 2019, “The Phoenix” might get herself on track to a rematch if the UFC comes calling.
Khamzat Chimaev (6-0-0) is the most talked-about prospect coming out of Sweden at the moment. In 2019, he added two more Ws to his undefeated record, getting the the ball rolling with an underrated contender for knockout of the year – a brutal uppercut of fellow highly touted pro, Ikram Aliskerov. The Allstars fighter showcased another side to his game with a submission win over Mzwandile Hlongwa later in 2019. The young Swede has proven himself to be proficient at both welterweight and middleweight and isn’t ruling out competing in a third weight class as his career continues to unfold. According to the reporters at MMANytt.com—who have covered Chimaev’s career closer than anyone—the Swede could be gearing up for a shot at Brave’s welterweight champion Jarrah Hussein Al-Silawi in Stockholm for his next outing.
Morgan Charriere (15-7-1) proved his worth to the European masses when he forced Soren Bak to go the distance when they met for the Cage Warriors interim title last March. Following the defeat, he got the nod over title contender Lewis Monarch before putting an exclamation point on his year with a finish of U.K. MMA stalwart and former Cage Warriors featherweight champion, Dean Trueman. With MMA likely to be made legal in France in 2020, and due to his abundant fan base, Charriere could be an ideal signing for one of the major promotions in 2020. However, it will be no easy task to claim the Cage Warriors title—considered a golden ticket to the Octagon—with Mads Burnell in scintillating form at the top of the bracket.
Cezary Kesik (11-0-0) returned to MMA competition for the first time in almost two years in 2019 and his decision proved to be a good one as he added four wins to his undefeated record in the calendar year. Kesik scored two wins under the KSW banner last year, but it was his submission over Aleksandar Ilic at the promotion’s inaugural trip to Croatia that cemented his spot on this year’s list of outstanding prospects. With champion Scott Askham running short on challengers to his middleweight crown, Kesik could find himself thrust into the KSW title fray in 2020.
Khusein Askhabov (20-0-0) has one of the best undefeated records in all of mixed martial arts and having recently added a second WWFC title to his trophy cabinet with his capture of the bantamweight title, it might not be long until we see him compete for one of the major MMA promotions. The Luxembourg native has previously trained at Team Alpha Male and his twin brother Khasan Askhabov also boasts a healthy record of (20-2-1). While he already holds a win over Cage Warriors title contender Donovan Desmae, he may need a marquee win over a name with big international stock to prompt a contract offer from a major promotion in 2020.
Mandy Bohm (6-0-0, 1 NC) might have only competed once in 2019, but it was enough to secure her a flyweight title with Canadian promotion TKO, which she earned with a third-round submission of previously undefeated Jade Masson-Wong. Masson-Wong represented the most stringent test of the German’s career up until that point and she will likely need to prove herself again before the big leagues come calling. That being said, the last European TKO champion to be named on MMA Fighting’s prospects list, Ciryl Gane, was one of the first listed fighters signed to a major promotion from last year’s feature.
Modestas Bukauskas (10-2-0) swept aside any doubts about his caliber with three stellar wins in 2019. After taking out KSW veteran Marcin Wojcik, Bukaukus upset the apple cart in tremendous fashion to claim the Cage Warriors light heavyweight title against wrestling standout and previously undefeated Norwegian, Marthin Hamlett, at last summer’s Night of Champions event. Following a first-round finish of Riccardo Nosiglia to finish out the year, Cage Warriors president Graham Boylan insisted that the Lithuanian-born Londoner is ready for the UFC.
Mansur Khatuev (8-0-0) has a chance to get his hands on the ACA (formerly ACB) title once held by Askar Askarov—another Russian flyweight who featured on MMA Fighting’s 2018 European Prospects list—when he faces off against another undefeated prospect, Azamat Kerefov, on Feb. 21. The Russian flyweight competed in MMA just once in 2019 and was forced to showcase his stellar grappling defense when he found himself locked in an armbar attack from Brazil’s Felipe Silva en route to a decision win. At just 24 years old, Khatuev could be a perfect addition to the UFC’s reemerging flyweight division in 2020.
Stephanie Egger (4-1-0) has only had five fights in four years as a professional fighter, but some big moments in 2019 have thrust her into the spotlight. The Swiss featherweight took a marquee win over Japanese sensation “King” Reina Miura at RIZIN 17 in the summer, and despite not winning the match, the judo specialist claimed a “Best Throw” award for the seoi nage she hit on Brazilian grappling powerhouse Gabi Garcia at ADCC 2019. Egger has also recently struck up a relationship with emerging promotion ARES Fighting Championship. Despite her first fight with the promotion falling through, ARES could be the perfect promotion for Egger to bank valuable wins en route to the world’s biggest stages.