No country has more UFC belts than Brazil as we enter 2023.
In the meantime, a hungry pack of prospects are lining up in wait for their shots at major promotions outside their native Brazil. And for the 10th straight year, MMA Fighting is counting down the brightest talents and biggest names that may get the call in 2023.
Our most recent lists featured a slew of athletes who made their way to the big leagues: UFC debutants Ismael Bonfim and Vitor Petrino, PFL’s Carlos Leal, ONE’s Dayane Souza, plus 2022 Rookie of the Year winner Jailton Almeida and top-5 finalist Caio Borralho.
As always, this list only features athletes that are under the age of 30 and haven’t competed in major promotions in the past, nor are currently signed to fight outside of Brazil.
Bruno Fontes (7-0) made his MMA debut in 2018 but only returned for good in 2022, winning six fights in a span of seven months, then capping off the year with the first defense of his Jungle Fight featherweight title with a fifth-round submission in December. The 27-year-old fights out of Dragon Fight team in Fortaleza, Brazil.
Marco Tulio Silva (8-1) kicked off the year with an impressive victory over Glaico Franca, knocking out the TUF Brazil 4 winner and former Pancrase champion in Curitiba. “Robocop”, a 28-year-old middleweight and teammate of Charles Oliveira at Chute Boxe Diego Lima, picked up a couple other wins, including a sub-minute knockout, to boost his winning streak to four.
Jean Matsumoto (12-0) won flyweight and bantamweight belts over the past two years in Brazil, and recently won a decision over fellow prospect Inaildo Santos in his LFA debut. The 21-year-old Muay Thai specialist has with a finishing rate of 58 percent in MMA, with three knockouts and four submissions.
Jean Matsumoto (9-0)— Dusty Andrews (@Fight_Expert) August 6, 2021
Great back and forth fight. Better test for him as he goes up in weight to win a 2nd regional title. Definitely a promising future for him if he shores up defensively. Looks great for being only 21. #SFT28 pic.twitter.com/B5mRwRW9fu
Bruno Lopes (11-0) spent six years away from the sport between 2015 and 2021, but has impressed ever since. The 29-year-old talent from China Team went 3-0 in five months under the Thunder Fight banner before joining LFA and clinching the 205-pound championship with back-to-back finishes less than three months apart.
Jose Delano (12-2) is one of the best featherweights out of Brazil today. The Shooto Brazil champion would have won the LFA title already, had he not missed weight in his both opportunities against Jonas Bilharinho and Michael Stack. The 26-year-old Brazilian Top Team prospect will get another chance on Jan. 28, facing undefeated Gabriel Santos.
Thor Silva (0-0) is the son of Wanderlei Silva and that’s the sole reason why he’s featured so early on this list. The 19-year-old won his amateur MMA debut this past September, stopping bantamweight Gabriel Bonfim with ground-and-pound in under three minutes. That win came four months after Silva won a kickboxing match.
Marciley Alves (11-3) bounced back from a May loss to UFC 283 debutant Luan Lacerda with a pair of violent knockouts inside the Jungle Fight cage, claiming the 135-pound championship in the process. The 23-year-old talent trains at Chute Boxe Bauru and has won nine fights by way of knockout.
Milson Castro (14-3) hasn’t lost since 2017, capping off his 13-fight unbeaten streak with a trio of victories in Russia between 2019 and 2021. His 1-3 start as a professional included a decision loss to UFC and Bellator veteran John Teixeira, who was 19-1-2 at the time. The 29-year-old was absent in 2022, but returns this month against Roosevelt Roberts in a lightweight tilt at LFA 151 in Sao Paulo.
Evolução Thai MMA— Violent Money TV (@VM_TV_) August 14, 2021
Earlier today in Yekaterinburg, Russia at RCC Intro 15:
Eduardo Rufino scored a stunning KO win over Roman Mukhamedshin.
Milson Castro picked up the decision win over Arkhangel Mikhail standout Timur Nagibin. #ViolentMoney #VMTV #RCC #MMA pic.twitter.com/4NBw1881GV
Fernando Laurenco (16-3) snapped long skids when he won and defended the SFT bantamweight title in 2022. A black belt in jiu-jitsu at 28 years of age, “Ben 10” is victorious in 10 straight bouts on the regional scene after coming up short in his sole appearance under the Brave CF banner in 2018.
Matheus da Silva (11-3) went 3-0 under the Jungle Fight banner in 2022, including a violent first-round knockout. “Calabresa,” a 25-year-old flyweight who represents Chute Boxe Bauru, has won six of his past eight bouts since 2018, with both losses stemming from doctor stoppages.