Opinion | 5 rising MMA stars to watch out for in 2023

Five MMA Prospects

Mixed Martial Arts is forever growing and improving as a sport, from the promotions that provide this to us, to the stars and future contenders who make it exactly what it is. Longstanding champions were overthrown by current stars and future prospects announced themselves to the world.

Contenders such as Muhammad Mokaev, Jack Della Maddalena, and Sergei Pavlovich were just a few of the brightest stars that emerged in 2022. This year has allowed many prospects to announce themselves into the mixed martial arts world, and 2023 will be no different.

Therefore, let us take a look at five prospects you should definitely be keeping your eye on throughout 2023.

MMA Prospects To Watch In 2023

Salahdine Parnasse

This one should come as no surprise for the avid MMA fan. Ranked on our ‘Top 10 MMA Prospects To Watch in 2022’ list, Salahdine Parnasse is an extremely talented mixed martial artist.

Parnasse is the current KSW Featherweight champion and interim lightweight champion. Amassing an impressive 17-1 record at just 25, including a defense of the full featherweight title, the Moroccan French fighter has achieved a great amount already. Signing with KSW in 2017, Parnasse would secure three victories inside the promotion before claiming the interim featherweight title, defeating Roman Szymanski via TKO. A defense of the interim belt would follow before Parnasse would face his first professional defeat being knocked out by Daniel Torres.

Parnasse would bounce back from his defeat and secure a submission victory over Filip Pejic like a true champion. Following this up, the 25-year-old would then successfully defeat the only man to beat him inside a cage when he reclaimed the featherweight title from Daniel Torres.

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He would close his year out by claiming double champion status after he defeated Sebastian Rajewski at KSW 76 to win the KSW Lightweight title. Four wins in a row now for Parnasse puts him in a good position to continue his fine form heading into 2023.

Lerone Murphy

‘The Miracle’ may be one of the more known names on our list but that doesn’t prevent him from being a true prospect heading into 2023. Murphy was signed to the UFC after going 8-0 on the UK regional scene. A disappointing debut that resulted in a draw left fans unable to realize the 31-year-olds full potential.

However, he quickly showed them exactly who he was when he returned to the octagon. A first-round knockout of Ricardo Ramos came back in 2020 which he would then follow up with a dominant decision victory over the extremely tough, Douglas Silva De Andrade.

Murphy was not in competition for almost ten months following that victory but returned at UFC 267 to face Makwan Amirkhani. Closing the year out in style the Manchester Top Team fighter landed a devastating knee to put Amirkhani out cold and record his seventh stoppage victory since turning professional.

No octagon appearances in 2022 left admirers of the British fighter devastated, but we are hopeful we will get to see this talent return to the cage in 2023.

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Christian Leroy Duncan

Christian Leroy Duncan may be one of the next top contenders to emerge from Cage Warriors. Currently championing their middleweight division, Duncan has looked better with every single outing.

The 27-year-old currently sits 7-0 as a professional and will be looking to extend that undefeated record even further when he takes on American veteran, Jesse Taylor at Cage Warriors 148. A lick striker on the feet has seen five of Duncan’s seven professional bouts end inside the distance, most recently landing a beautiful spinning elbow and combination of punches when he defeated Marain Dimitrov at Cage Warriors 146.

Should Duncan notch another defense in impressive fashion at CW 148, do not be surprised in the UFC comes knocking for this extremely talented prospect.

Tatiana Suarez

Tatiana Suarez is one of the top prospects in WMMA and thankfully, she looks set to return to competition in 2023. Having not competed since 2019 it is understandable for news fans to not be familiar with her name, but for those of us who have been following the sport longer we know just how talented Suarez is. Undefeated at 8-0, the American fighter is a serious threat to the strawweight champion, Zhang Weili.

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UFC Fight Night 129 in 2018 saw Suarez take out one of the top contenders in the division when she submitted Alexa Grasso in the very first round. Following up on this Suarez would face former title holder, Carla Esparza, in what was her biggest challenge to date. She passed this test with flying colors when she was able to TKO the former champion in the third round. One outing in 2019 when she defeated Nina Nunes via unanimous decision would be the last time Suarez was seen in competition.

Should the rumors be true of her return in 2023, the strawweight division will certainly be put on notice.

Michael Morales

22-year-old Michael Morales is most definitely one MMA prospect to keep your eye on in 2023. A perfect 14-0, Morales carries devastating power which has seen him stop 12 of his 14 opponents so far in his career. Competing across multiple regional promotions, Morales signed with the UFC following a victory on Dana White’s Contender Series 2021, since signing he has not looked back.

A first-round devastating finish of Trevin Giles helped announce Morales to the mixed martial arts community. He would then follow up on this impressive victory when he stopped short-notice opponent, Adam Fugitt, at UFC 277.

The Ecuadorian fighter has a bright future ahead, still, early on in his career, you can only expect Morales to improve and build a well-rounded style that will help see him climb to the very top of the welterweight division.

Are there any MMA prospects you would have liked to see included in this list? Leave them in the comments below!