MMA Prospect Roundtable 2023: Which Up-and-Comers Are UFC-Ready?

Fatima Kline
Fatima Kline and Sidney Trillo, Invicta FC 47 Credit: Dave Mandel/Invicta FC

I decided to go last because I wanted to give five different prospects nobody else talked about.

Welterweight, Isaac Moreno (6-0): I didn’t become a big fan of Moreno until earlier this year. I went from not even thinking he’s UFC level to thinking he’s top 25 in the UFC’s welterweight division right now. I even view him as a top 20 MMA prospect globally today. He fights for Fury FC and has been since he’s been competing as an amateur. Moreno is a former Fury FC amateur welterweight champion. He’s scheduled to fight again next month and a win should send him to the UFC or the Contender Series.

Moreno has excellent footwork and is really good at maintaining distance control. Moreno throws a lot of sidekicks. He will use his jab and oblique kicks to set the tone. He’ll explode in with short combinations and move back out of the pocket. Moreno has a high ceiling.

Strawweight, Fatima Kline (4-0): Kline has blown me away with her performances since coming to MMA. Kline came to MMA with an extensive jiu-jitsu background. Kline is a BJJ black belt with much success in the sport. She may be new to MMA bet she’s looked great. Only 4-0 but Kline will be in the UFC one way or another so why not do it through Dana White’s Contender Series? Beating Sidney Trillo, Laura Gallardo, and Natasha Kuziutina are all dang good wins for a young pro.

It’s good to see a jiu-jitsu fighter have good wrestling. Not saying it’s exactly where it needs to be but it’s checked out. Kline is a high-level grappler. From the control, transitions, and submission attack she’s top-notch. You have to mention the damaging ground and pound she batters her opponents with as well. Not only is her BJJ good her striking has checked a lot of boxes as well. Kline has championship material all over her.

Featherweight, Paul Hughes (9-1): Hughes is the current Cage Warriors featherweight champion. Hughes’s only loss was to Jordan Vucenic in 2020. It was a fight he got revenge on last November taking the title away from him. Before that rematch, Hughes beat Morgan Charriere, a fan favorite, for the interim Cage Warriors title.

Hughes has looked stellar and although he’s still young he has the skills of an established fighter. Hughes has three TKO’s and three submissions showing he’s very well-rounded. On the feet, Hughes has good boxing. The accuracy and shot selection are there and so is some big power. He’s an even better wrestler and has exceptional grappling. Hughes is the real deal and the UFC would be wise to scoop him up.

Bantamweight, Vinicius de Oliveira (18-3): With an impressive MMA resume, Oliveira is also a black belt in Muay Thai and a purple belt in jiu-jitsu. His only loss in four years was to Ali Taleb. That was a fight he was winning until he got clipped and put away. He rebounded since then getting a first-round stoppage last March.

Oliveira is an all-action freestyle-type athlete who will always put on a show. Being the diverse athlete he is, the Brazilian loves to go for broke throwing a lot of switch kicks, wheel kicks, going off the cage, and flying knees. He really brings that Brazilian capoeira style.

Bantamweight, David Martinez (10-1): 2021 Martinez competed in Combate Global’s one-night eight-man bantamweight tournament. In the tournament were former UFC fighters Francisco Rivera Jr and Nohelin Hernandez. Martinez won three fights that night including knocking out Rivera in the final. Last year he won the promotions bantamweight title and made his first title defense a few weeks ago.

Martinez is solely a striker/kickboxer. Many times in his career he’s been able to find quick finishes. That being said, Martinez has the endurance to go three rounds and with the same pace throughout. Martinez usually fights in volume. He puts together combinations from different angles and mixes in his kicks behind his punches. He will throw a lot of hard outside leg kicks to set the tone of the fight. Martinez is pretty active on the outside with his kicks throwing to the legs, body, head, and throwing sidekicks. In fact, Martinez was a former standout WAKO kickboxer. Martinez has basically shown little to zero holes in his game.

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