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 three, the final part of this series, we are giving out some supplementary awards along with the awards of the best female and male prospect of the year.
Breakthrough prospect of the year: Kevin Vallejos (9-0)
In this award, we decided to highlight one prospect that had a breakout year in 2022. Someone we thought was irrelevant coming into the year but made a name for himself by the end of the year. Kevin Vallejos fits that description perfectly. Coming into the year Vallejos was 2-0 and now he’s 8-0. That means he fought six times in one year. Vallejos did go 6-0 in ten months. He’s been fighting in his home country of Argentina and captured the Samurai Fight House title. Six wins in ten months is impressive no matter how you look at it.
Transitioned MMA prospect of the year: Junior Tafa (3-0)
Here we decided to highlight the best prospect that made the transition to MMA from another sport this year. Surprisingly, there were a lot of options but Junior Tafa had to be the choice. He came into MMA from kickboxing as his record was 23-5 and most notably fought in Glory. Tafa went 3-0 in MMA this year and is fighting on the RIZIN 40 card at the end of the year so 4-0 is a real possibility. He’s jumped into MMA head first and has won all his fights finishing all his opponents.
Comeback prospect of the year: Solomon Renfro (10-3)
Renfro ended 2021 with a split-decision loss on the Contender Series. It was a fight he really should’ve won but the judges saw it the other way. He then started off this year getting knocked out by Adam Fugitt. That’s a fight he wins more times than not. Renfro has rebounded and closes out the year with two good wins. From being 0-2 in February he rebounded to win his next two fights. Renfro is one of the best welterweights and is prime for a big opportunity in 2023.