Welcome to year eight of the annual “Prospects the UFC Should Sign” series, in which we’ll examine five MMA prospects per division the UFC should sign this year.
This series started during my time as a writer for Bleacher Report, continued through my tenures at Today’s Knockout and FanSided and now it stays alive this year at Combat Press.
Let’s examine the women’s featherweight division, a weight class that is almost uninhabited in the UFC right now.
In picking these prospects, I’ll try my hardest to stay away from fighters who are currently in top organizations, such as Bellator or the Professional Fighters League, but a couple may pop up. In the past, I’ve had some great picks on the list and some that haven’t worked out. Below are the previous year’s selections, followed by the five women the UFC should offer roster spots to this year.
2017: Cindy Dandois, Megan Anderson, Marina Mokhnatkina*, Kayla Harrison, Bobbi Jo Dalziel
2018: Felicia Spencer, Duda Santana, Pam Sorenson, Ediane Gomes, Martyna Czech
Note: Bold denotes fighter was signed by UFC; * denotes fighter ineligible due to two years on list.
A pro mixed martial artist since 2013, Fairn is one of the longer-tenured featherweights not in the UFC or Bellator right now. The French fighter did not compete in 2018, although she was scheduled to fight. Her lack of activity might make it a tad harder for her to get into the UFC right away, but she’s signed with Invicta, which means she’s always one fight away.
Fairn is a pretty well-rounded fighter. She likes to strike and has enough power to end fights with just a couple punches. She’s not bad on the ground, either. Fairn has solid takedowns and a good game from top position. She fought three times in 2017, including a fight in which she scored a first-round knockout over UFC veteran Izabela Badurek.
Fairn likely needs at least one more win to get the call from the UFC, so a quick booking on an Invicta card is key. She has the style and skill to compete with the best featherweights in the world, and it’s now time to show a wider audience what she has to offer.
The nation of Kazakhstan is just getting on the map in terms of MMA talent, and Fayzallanova stands as one of the fighters looking to continue building the nation’s reputation. The 5-foot-7 fighter has proven to be one of the best in the Russian regional scene. She has stayed busy, too, since debuting in 2015.
Fayzallanova is a strong, big, powerful fighter with a knack for finishes. She’s stopped five of her six opponents, including two by knockout and three by submission (all armbars). She won two big fights in 2018, including knockouts of nine-fight veteran Zlata Sheftor and Alena Gorchinskaya. The latter of those finishes came under the Fight Nights Global banner. Those wins have solidified her as a featherweight to beat.
Fayzallanova has one of the best records of a non-UFC/Bellator featherweight. She is a large, rugged fighter with a style that could be quite pleasing to UFC audiences. Given that she has competed with Fight Nights Global, the UFC scouts likely have her on their radar.
Harrison has yet to fight at 145 pounds — she’s fought all three of her career bouts at lightweight — but she needs to find a way to cut to featherweight to get into the UFC. The Olympic gold medalist judoka is an absolute savage and a true world-class athlete.
Harrison’s bread and butter is obviously her ground game. She easily attains takedowns when she closes the distance. She doesn’t allow her opponents to get up easily, either. Harrison throws heavy leather from top position while looking for submissions. She finally debuted this year and fought three times, scoring finishes over Brittney Elkin, Jozette Cotton and Moriel Charneski.
Harrison has a ton of hype behind her, and for good reason. She needs to continue to gain experience and start working on a way to get to 145 pounds. Otherwise, the UFC probably won’t take a look at her.
Though she has fought at bantamweight, Sandora has also competed as a featherweight and would be a good fit in a division that desperately needs bodies. She represents the highly underrated Brazilian camp Parana Vale Tudo, which has produced some savage female fighters. The undefeated Sandora could be another one.
The 5-foot-8 Brazilian wouldn’t be small at featherweight. She likes to bang on the feet, even though she hasn’t really shown the one-shot power that can end a fight in the blink of an eye. In fact, her two finishes came via a doctor’s stoppage and a stoppage between rounds. Her competition hasn’t been the greatest, but her fights have been pretty one-sided affairs.
Sandora is definitely still a work in progress, but so is the featherweight division. Her two fights in 2018 ended in victory, providing the Brazilian with good momentum heading into 2019. She may be a long shot at this point to get signed by the UFC, but she should be up for consideration if the company decides it needs more featherweight bodies.
The best featherweight not currently in the UFC or Bellator, Spencer has made herself a highly valuable prospect who deserves a call to the big show.. The 28-year-old “Feenom” is the Invicta featherweight champion, a title she took home with her in her most recent outing. Spencer definitely could be the next fighter that comes over to the UFC in this division.
Spencer’s background is in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. She usually closes the distance in fights and looks to get her opponent to the ground. Once there, she is very heavy on top and uses ground striking to soften up her foe. Once the opponent shields and gives up position, Spencer quickly advances and finishes with a submission. In 2018, she went 3-0, earning a hard-fought decision over Akeela al-Hameed before submitting both Yelena Kolesnyk and Pam Sorenson via rear-naked choke.
Bellator has most of the women’s featherweight talent in terms of numbers, while the UFC has newly crowned champ Amanda Nunes, the recently dethroned Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, Megan Anderson, Macy Chiasson and Pannie Kianzad. Adding Spencer to this mix would be smart. She could fight Chiasson, with the winner taking on Nunes for the featherweight championship. It’s really the only way to go right now.