This year has seen the emergence of a slew of contenders across the board and multiple divisions in the UFC — from almost top-to-bottom.
From the likes of unbeaten starlet, Bo Nickal, to Japanese up and comer, Tatsuro Taira, an even PFL prospect, Dakota Ditcheva, the above trio have stood out leaps and bounds ahead of the rest in terms for bang for your buck for their respective organizations — with each possessing massive career ceilings by the looks of things. However, as far as standouts are concerned, amateur wrestling phenom, Bo Nickal has received the majority of votes by staff at LowKick MMA — crowning him as our Prospect of the Year for 2023.
Prospect of the Year – Bo Nickal – UFC – 2-0-0 (5 votes)
Reveared ahead of his eventual move to the UFC following a pair of bouts on Dana White’s Contender Series, Colorado-born grappling ace, Bo Nickal has already received billing as a surefire top-contender at the middleweight limit in the future — if not a future gold holder.
Nickal, 27, improved his unbeaten professional record to first 4-0 then 5-0 by the end of the summer, landing consecutive victories by submission over Jamie Pickett, and then Val Woodburn with a hasty first round knockout, respectively.
Honorable Mentions –
Shavkat Rakhmonov – UFC – 2-0-0 (1 vote)
Likely just making the cut-off point to be considering an out-and-out prospect — unbeaten Uzbekistan finishing machine, Shavkat Rakhmonov demonstrated why many have tipped him to win welterweight gold before the end of next year — laying waste to perennial contender, Stephen Thompson in one-sided fashion last weekend.
The 18-0 fighter landed his whopping eighteenth consecutive stoppage win at UFC 296 earlier this month with his second round rear-naked choke win over Thompson, having stopped Geoff Neal with a brutal third round standing rear-naked choke back in March.
Earning the number three rank with his win over Thompson, Rakhmonov has been touted to challenge Leon Edwards for welterweight gold potentially as soon as his next outing.
Tatsuro Taira – UFC – 3-0-0 (1 vote)
Turning in an unbeaten three-fight tenure in the UFC this year, surging Japanese prospect, Tatusro Taira ended the year with a top-15 cracking display against Carlos Hernandez at the beginning of the month, landing in the ranks at the flyweight limit — as well as improving to 15-0 as a professional. This year alone, Taira, 23, has beaten the aforenoted, Hernandez to go with a win over Edgar Chairez, and Jesus Santos Aguilar.
Dakota Ditcheva – PFL – 3-0-0 (1 vote)
British flyweight striker, Dakota Ditcheva not only brought an end to her 2023 schedule boasting an impressive 10-0 undefeated record, but also landed the PFL (Professional Fighters League) Europe flyweight tournament success at the flyweight limit, amid a run of three consecutive finishes.
Ditcheva, 25, has been revered for her impressive striking ability, landing eight career stoppages via knockout so far — the most recent of which in her TKO success against Valentina Scattizi in Dublin earlier this month — minting herself as the PFL flyweight champion of Europe.
Full list of the LowKick MMA 2023 Prospect of the Year votes:
- Ross Markey: Bo Nickal
- Ian Shutts: Bo Nickal
- Craig Pekios: Bo Nickal
- Makoa Goble: Shavkat Rakhmonov
- Tony King: Bo Nickal
- Red Pill MMA: Bo Nickal
- Michael Owens: Dakota Ditcheva
- Danny Podolsky: Tatsuro Taira