The State of MMA’s Flyweight Prospects Worldwide

Azamat Kerefov
Azamat Kerefov Credit: ACA

In 2012, the flyweight division was brought into the fold by the UFC. After the longtime dominance of Demetrious Johnson failed to “move the needle,” years later in 2018, there were reports that the division was getting cut.

It came close to happening. The promotion released a ton of flyweight talents, like Dustin Ortiz, Jose Torres, and Jarred Brooks. They even went on to trade the greatest flyweight of all time, Demetrious Johnson, to ONE Championship for Ben Askren.

Even with all that, the division picked up steam and to this day is going strong. The fights in the 125lb division are arguably the most enjoyable to watch with their speed, pace, and endurance. Nearing the year 2022 the flyweight division is stacked inside and outside the UFC. There are numerous talented 125’ers fighting all over the world.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a flyweight prospect encyclopedia of sorts on what to expect in the coming years.

When it comes to the top prospects of the division there are two that really stand out. In a talent-rich division, the top of the pack would be Russia’s Azamat Kerefov (15-0) and England’s Muhammad Mokaev. Earlier this month, Mokaev signed on with the big show and is now the newest name on the UFC’s flyweight roster.

Azamat Kerefov is the current Absolute Championship Akhmat (ACA) champion. He won the title in February of 2020 and has two title defenses. A 15-0 record is impressive, in Russia it is even more impressive, and the level of opposition has been on hard mode. Kerefov is the real deal and it’s hard to argue against him being the best flyweight prospect worldwide.

Of prospects that are near the top, three of them are Kazakhstan-born fighters. Azat Maksum (13-0) from Kaskelen, Arman Ashimov (12-3-1) from Almaty, and Asu Almabaev (13-2) from Almaty as well.

Azat Maksum, with his unblemished record, sits at the top of the Brave CF flyweight division. He’s had two big wins for Brave and now is in line for a possible title opportunity. He’s a former Octagon Global champion — a promotion out of Kazakhstan. Maksum is a talented pin-point striker with an underrated ground game.

Arman Ashimov is a staple of the M-1 Challenge promotion going 5-1 for them. His sole loss was to Aleksander Doskalchuk for the M-1 title. Ashimov has held gold, however, as he was the M-1 interim champion though. Since that, Ashimov hasn’t lost. Ashimov is a combat jiu-jitsu master of sports but is a primarily a striker.

Asu Almabaev, like Ashimov, has fought for M-1 Challenge. He won their interim title in 2019 beating former UFC fighter Chris Kelades. Almabaev has a background in freestyle wrestling, was a national champion in jiu-jitsu, and has a BJJ world cup. He’s on a current nine-fight win streak taking out solid competition.

Kazakhstan is home to a slew of excellent flyweight prospects. Outside of the main three listed above, there are two more to keep an eye on. Damir Tolenov (7-0) and Aktore Batyrbek (4-0) are two young pros still early in their career.

Damir Tolenov started fighting as a bantamweight but later moved down to 125. Last June Tolenov won with Octagon MMA flyweight title. Octagon MMA is a major promotion out of Kazakhstan. Tolenov is a good striker but an even more skilled grappling holding three submission wins.

Aktore Batyrbek, like Tolenov, is a staple of Octagon MMA. Both debuted for Brave CF last August. Batyrbek is inexperienced but has looked good. He has a 100% finish rate and his last three wins are by a triangle.