Abdul Razak Alhassan: Abdul Razak Alhassan is a name not too many MMA fans know, nor found on anyone else’s list of fighters to watch in 2018; but if you’re a fan of the knockout this is a fighter to pay attention to. Many analysts haven’t brought his name up a lot, but I think it is important to mention his name in 2018. Alhassan is currently 9-1 in MMA. All 9 of his wins are by knockout. Alhassan made his UFC debut back in 2016 where he knocked out Charlie Ward in 53 seconds. This year he made some noise at UFC 220, where he fought Sabah Homasi. Alhassan previously faced off against Homasi at UFC 218 and Alhassan won via a controversial TKO. Alhassan put all the controversy to rest at UFC 220 where he knocked Homasi out cold in round 1. It will be interesting to see if Homasi can keep his winning ways going in 2018.
Curtis Blaydes: Blades is a young heavyweight, and is currently in the top 10 of the heavyweight division. He is coming off a win against veteran Mark Hunt via decision back at UFC 221. In the fight Blaydes was rocked multiple times but he kept his composure and stayed in the fight. This young heavyweight’s striking has been improving, but the thing to watch with Blaydes is his wrestling. Blaydes took down Mark Hunt multiple times and made it look easy. His next fight is at UFC 225 in Chicago. This fight will be against UFC veteran Allistar Overeem. If Blaydes beats Overeem it could set him up for a title shot, or it could set him up for a rematch against Francis Ngannou. Ngannou is the only man to have beaten Blaydes, and Blaydes said that’s a rematch he wants. If Ngannou and Blaydes fight again it will be interesting to see if Blaydes sticks to his wrestling more in this fight. Since Ngannou showed that the biggest hole in his game is his wrestling.
Paulo Henrique Costa: When you first look at Paulo Costa the first question that comes to your mind is how does this guy make the 185 pound limit of middleweight? The young Brazilian power house is 6 feet tall, but the most impressive thing about Costa is his body build. Costa looks like he’s 185 pounds of pure muscle. He is currently 11-0 in MMA and is currently ranked 14th in the UFC middleweight division. Costa’s last fight was against Johnny Hendricks. In the fight Costa dominated Hendricks. After every kick Costa threw to Hendricks’s body, Hendricks was wincing in pain. Costa eventually finished the fight in round 2 via TKO. Costa is one of those fighters UFC president Dana White is really excited about, and a fighter that seems like he could be a big name in the UFC. Paulo Costa is Brazilian and Brazilian fans get excited every time he steps into the octagon. It’ll be interesting to see what Costa’s next matchup is, and if he can keep his dominate winning ways going in 2018.
Darren Till: Darren Till is one of the fighters the UFC is very high on. Darren Till looks like he should be fighting at light heavyweight, but instead fights in the welterweight division. Till is currently ranked number 7 in the division and looks like he’ll get a top 5 five very soon. He is 16-0 in MMA and has some of the best striking in the UFC. His striking was on full display at UFC fight night Gdansk where he fought UFC veteran and fan favorite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. Till ran through Cowboy in only one round and looked absolutely dominant. Till isn’t a one trick pony either as he also has 2 wins via submission. The thing that has fascinated everyone the most about Till is his confidence. He has said on multiple occasions he wants to hold titles in the welterweight division, the middleweight division, and the light heavyweight division. Till is only 25 and has a lot of time left in the UFC, so holding 3 titles is certainly a possibility for him. Till has recently called out number 2 ranked welterweight Rafael Dos Anjos, for a matchup at UFC 224 in Brazil. If Dos Anjos accepts and Till beats Dos Anjos, it’ll set Till up for a title fight most likely by the end of 2018.
Brian Ortega: Brian Ortega is already a big name and he has already set himself up for a giant 2018. Ortega is currently 14-0 in MMA, and is already a fan favorite. Ortega has already shown he is one of the most dangerous submission specialists in MMA as 7 of his 14 wins have come via submission. His most impressive win via submission came against Cub Swanson at UFC fight night Fresno as he won with a standing Guillotine choke. His first fight of 2018 was by far his most impressive in the UFC. At UFC 222 Ortega accepted a fight against UFC veteran Frankie Edgar. Ortega accepted this fight on short notice and was a pretty big underdog coming into this fight. Everyone thought if Ortega was going to win it would be by submission, but he proved everyone wrong and knocked out Edgar with an uppercut in round one. No one has ever finished Edgar inside the octagon and Ortega became the first man in history to do so. Not only did he finish Edgar but it only took him one round. This sets up Ortega for a matchup against current champion Max Holloway. If Ortega wins this fight against Holloway he is pretty much guaranteed to win fighter of the year in 2018.
Written by. Stephen Caloggero (@Steveo_calo)