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 in the upcoming 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 another year here at Combat Press.
Let’s examine the women’s strawweight division, the second women’s weight class to be added to the UFC. It’s been thinned out due to the recent addition of the women’s flyweight division, so the UFC needs to look to replenish its talent.
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 in the coming year.
2014: Justine Kish, Kalindra Faria, Aisling Daly, Mizuki Inoue, Stephanie Eggink
2015: Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Alexa Grasso, Livia Renata Souza, Mizuki Inoue, Zoila Frausto
2016: DeAnna Bennett, Alexa Grasso, Livia Renata Souza, Viviane Pereira, Angela Lee*
2017: Mackenzie Dern, Weili Zhang, Virna Jandiroba, Angela Lee*, Kinberly Novaes
2018: Weili Zhang, Marina Rodriguez, Virna Jandiroba, Ariane Carnelossi, Kali Robbins
2019: Ariane Carnelossi, Miranda Granger, Melissa Martinez*, Magdalena Sormova, Alesha Zappitella
2020: Kanako Murata, Melissa Martinez*, Svetlana Gotsyk, Pauline Macias, Julia Polastri
Note: Bold denotes fighter was signed by UFC; * denotes fighter ineligible due to two years on list.
When it comes to MMA, fighters that want to make it to the UFC have to be skilled. However, marketability is important as well. Not only is di Segni a good fighter, but the Italian is a model. She won the AFL Valkyries title in 2020, which should be enough to allow her to punch her ticket to the UFC roster.
Had it not been for travel restrictions, Di Segni likely would have been signed by the UFC in 2020 during the slew of late-replacement fights added to UFC cards due to the pandemic. Those restrictions made it impossible for her to come back to New Mexico and train for a fight in Las Vegas. After a Dana White’s Contender Series loss in 2019, the rounded Italian fought Audrey Kerouche for the AFL Championship and won by way of TKO due to ground-and-pound.
It would be an absolute shock if this fighter isn’t inked soon.
Don’t judge her on her record alone. The 26-year-old is a well-traveled vet who doesn’t know what an easy fight feels like. Even at her young age, Ducote has already competed in title fights for multiple top organizations. She’s battle tested and well regarded.
Ducote is a well-rounded fighter and a jack of all trades. She doesn’t stand out in one area more than another, but this is not an insult. She’s good at everything. After a failed title bid in 2019, Ducote came back in 2020 and bested UFC veteran Juliana Lima to earn another shot at the Invicta title. Unfortunately, that fight was postponed.
Ducote will fight for the Invicta title, likely in January. If she scores the win, she’ll land a UFC contract before she can defend the strap even once. She is the type of experienced, tough-as-nails fighter that the UFC could use on the roster.
The UFC likes fighters with great backstories. Of course, they have to have the fighting skills to go along with the story. Luckily, that’s not a problem for Godinez, who moved to Canada from Mexico as a teenager. She’s fluent in Spanish and English, which makes her marketable both north and south of the border.
Godinez fought just once in 2020, but it resulted in a huge victory. She scored gold when she took the Legacy Fighting Alliance title from Vanessa Demopoulos in dominant fashion. Godinez is a good athlete with strong boxing skills. Her takedown defense also proved handy in the win over Demopoulos, a skilled grappler.
The LFA women’s strawweight title should be all it takes for Godinez to get an offer from the UFC. It was a surprise when Sam Hughes, rather than Godinez, was signed to take a late-notice UFC 256 bout.
For the second straight year, Brazil’s Polastri graces this list. She is one of the top female prospects out of Brazil and continues to impress from fight to fight. She’s also an exciting fighter, which is another reason the UFC will want to get her on the roster.
Polastri is an excellent Muay Thai kickboxer who has a combination of technique and power. This has been on display in her recent bouts against Jessica Delboni and Geisa Veloso. Polastri put down both ladies with strikes. She scored a career first with a submission win in her most recent fight against 10-fight veteran Jessica Cunha.
Polastri’s stock has been on the rise for a while now. Her exciting style and a six-fight winning streak should be more than enough to get her into the UFC, where she can then begin her ascent up the ladder.
Zappitella makes her second appearance on this list in three years. The Invicta atomweight champ continues to get better with every fight. She looks like she’s approaching her prime. Even though she’s an atomweight, she makes up for her lack of size by fighting big.
After a rough 2019, Zappitella took three fights in 2020 and scored wins in all of them. She notched decisions over Lindsey VanZandt and Kelly D’Angelo, which earned her a shot at the Invicta belt. In that title tilt, she choked out The Ultimate Fighter alum Ashley Cummins. Zappitella is just 4-foot-11, but the wrestling-based fighter is excellent at closing distance and getting her arms around her opponent. Her ground game is especially nasty.
It will be extremely easy for Zappitella to make the cut to 115 pounds. When you combine her wrestling background, her desire to stay busy, and her great track record thus far, she has UFC written all over her, even if it is up one weight class.