Yearly MMA Prospect Awards: 2022 in Review, Part 1

Dakota Ditcheva PFL
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 25: Dakota Ditcheva, 2022 PFL Championships at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 25, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

For the first time ever, we’re handing out year-end awards to the best MMA prospects, giving credit to fighters on the regional scene. These awards will spotlight deserving prospects who put their time and body on the line in the year of 2022.

In part one we are handing out awards to the best representative of each division this year. For each division we’ll highlight one prospect that we felt has had the best year inside of the cage.

Heavyweight prospect of the year: Slim Trabelsi (5-0)

Heavyweight didn’t have a strong year. Most of the fighters that stood out were signed up by a major promotion. Heavyweight is like that, so as soon as there is someone that starts to stand outz, they immediately get snatched up. That includes Slim Trabelsi. Trabelsi was reported to sign with the UFC and was set to make his debut on October 22 on UFC 280. Unfortunately, Trabelsi was still under contract with Ares FC and after the promotion balked on letting him out of the contract, the UFC debut couldn’t happen. This year he went 3-0 beating John Winter who was 4-0, former UFC veteran Luis Henrique, and then Azamat Nuftillaev who was 12-0. In that Nuftillaev fight, Trabelsi won the Ares FC title.

Light Heavyweight prospect of the year: Bruno Lopes (11-0)

Light heavyweight had a better year than heavyweight, but Bruno Lopes was the clear winner among them all. This year he went 3-0 and made his debut for LFA going 2-0. Lopes is coming off the biggest win in his career after winning the vacant LFA 205-pound title in September. Lopes was away from the sport for six years until he made his comeback last year, and has gone on a tear since. Years ago, Lopes fought at welterweight and was the Jungle Fight champion. Now, he’s at light heavyweight where he’s right at home. Lopes already might be signed to a major promotion but we don’t know it yet.