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 ONE Championship 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 men the UFC should offer roster spots to in the coming year.
Note: Bold denotes fighter was signed by UFC; * denotes fighter ineligible due to two years on list.
Katharina Dalisda (10-3, Germany)
Possessing the championship belt of a top regional MMA promotion is always something that catches the matchmakers eye, and hopefully that is the case for Katharina Dalisda. The OKTAGON strawweight champion has established herself as a top female European prospect at any weight class.
Dalisda has a Judo background, which shows in her fights. She likes to close the distance and throw her opponent to the mat. Once on the mat, she shows a dominant grappling ability from the top, using a combination of strong ground-and-pound and top-notch submission skills. Since her last loss in 2021, she has rattled off five-straight wins, including two wins in 2023 over UFC vet Isabela de Padua by knockout and top Australian prospect Jacinta Austin by rear-naked choke.
The time to sign Dalisda is now, as she’s obviously hitting her stride and she’s already 32 years old. Her window is closing faster than younger prospects, and given her experience and skill, she is somebody that deserves a shot in the UFC.
Seika Izawa (11-0, Japan)
For the second consecutive year, the best atomweight in the world joins this prospect series as a strawweight. That is because there is, and likely ever will be, a UFC atomweight division. That said, Izawa could move up to 115 and be successful.
Izawa is a RIZIN and Deep Jewels Champion over in Japan, and has been quite dominant in her MMA career. She has a Judo and wrestling background, which makes sense as her fights generally occur on the mat and five of her six finishes come by way of submission. These techniques include a ninja choke, triangle choke, front choke and two armbars. She also has pro grappling experience, where she’s been successful as well. Her 2023 saw her submit both Suwanan Boonsorn and Claire Lopez, continuing her winning ways.
There are not many Japanese fighters on the UFC roster anymore, but it’s a market that has long supported various martial arts. Izawa is the best atomweight in the world and could make a serious run at strawweight, so the UFC should nab her up.
Fatima Kline (5-0, USA)
Fatima Kline is a prospect that has really stormed the prospect rankings the last two years and proven she’s a talent to keep an eye on. The Invicta FC and CFFC veteran is constantly improving and appears poised to be a major talent in the future.
Kline is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace who has competed professionally in submission grappling in addition to being a mixed martial artist. She’s the CFFC strawweight champion, an achievement she obtained in 2023 by scoring a knockout with her vastly improved striking over Sara Cova. In addition to that feat, she also had Invicta wins over Ultimate Fighter veteran Laura Gallardo and prospect Natasha Kuziutina.
Kline is 23 and definitely somebody that could eventually become a UFC title contender when it’s all said and done. She’s this good at a young age and she’s only going to get better, especially seeing how she’s improved since turning pro. She has UFC written all over her.
Danni McCormack (8-2, Ireland)
Invicta FC has provided many champions to the UFC who have found success in the company. Another one of those fighters should be Danni McCormack, the Invicta strawweight champion and Irish veteran who appears to be UFC-ready.
McCormack is a well-rounded fighter with good boxing and solid submission grappling. She runs with SBG Ireland, which means she’s getting good training and working with solid training partners. She has had high-level experience in that she’s fought five times for Bellator and three in Invicta. In 2023, McCormack won the Invicta title by defeating Valesca Machado and defended that title in submitting Karolina Wojcik.
The UFC obviously loves having Irish talent on their roster, especially one with credentials like McCormack. Also consider that she’ll turn 34 in March, they should look to get her as soon as humanly possible, as she’s already getting up their in age, especially in terms of MMA years.
Maria Silva (10-1, Brazil)
Making her second appearance on this list in three years, Brazil’s Maria Silva continues to be a top strawweight not under the UFC umbrella. “Vuvia Negra” has established herself as a top competitor in KSW, which may prevent her contractually from heading to the UFC immediately, but she should be a fighter that the UFC is hunting for to strengthen the 115-pound division.
Silva is familiar to UFC fans due to her two bouts on Dana White’s Contender Series. The well-rounded submission artist scored an impressive victory over Kathryn Paprocki in the 2021 Contender Series, but failed to secure a contract. She was invited back in 2022, but ultimately fell to now-UFC fighter Viktoriya Dudakova. Since that loss, she has put on a two-fight winning streak under the KSW banner, with both fights coming in 2023. She choked out Sofia Bagishvili before scoring an impressive decision win over power puncher Anita Bekus.
Silva is 27 years old and approaching her prime. She has proven in her career that she is major league level, and despite her aforementioned falter against Dudakova, Silva is somebody who can compete in the UFC strawweight division right now.
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