There have been several great fighters who have come from the Down Under in recent memory. Some of the most notable names include Mark Hunt, Israel Adesyanya and Alexander Volkanovski. Let us look at some of the most interesting prospects to keep an eye in the UFC that call the Down Under their home!
I wonder how many people are starting to call Justin Tafa the next Mark Hunt? Based on his last performance, it certainly feels that way! The New Zealand native is only 26 years old and still very green in his mixed martial career. However, he has quickly gained momentum and popularity after beginning his mixed martial arts career with a 4-1 record and with all his wins coming by way of knockout. Like Hunt, the 6’1 Tafa is considered undersized for a heavyweight but makes up for size with thunderous power in his hands. After suffering a first round knockout loss to Yorgan de Castro in his UFC career, Tafa returned to the Octagon at UFC 247 to face a much bigger opponent in Juan Adams. Staying calm and composed, Tafa stalked Adams before landing a looping right hook that staggered Adams immediately. He followed up with a short right uppercut which sent Adams to the canvas and the referee stopping the bout shortly after. “Bad Man” has put his fellow heavyweights on notice by displaying his incredible power and will likely receive a top 25 opponent for his next bout. The UFC Heavyweight division is in desperate need of new talent and Tafa is certainly one of the more interesting prospects from the Down Under to follow going into the back half of 2020.
Fun fact: Jake Matthews has 13 UFC bouts, compiled a 9-4 UFC record and is only 25 years old! Matthews made his UFC debut back in 2014 where he submitted Dashon Johnson in the third round, and he was not even 21 years old. The Australia native is currently riding a two-fight win streak and has compiled 5-1 UFC record in his last six appearances. Matthews strength is his ground game where he boasts a 2.27 takedown average per 15 minutes and is a blackbelt in BJJ under Carlos Portugues Viera. He began 2020 with a unanimous decision over Emil Weber Meek. According to World MMA Rankings, Matthews is currently #27 ranked UFC Welterweight and has no bout scheduled as May 30, 2020. Perhaps a dance with Li Jingliang or Elizeu Zaleksi is just what he needs to continue his win streak and march his way toward a top 15 ranking representing the Down Under!
Brad Riddell is an Auckland native and one of the more recent additions to the UFC lightweight roster. Riddell made his debut back at UFC 243 where he defeated Jamie Mullarkey via unanimous decision. He followed up his successful UFC debut with a split decision win over Magomed Mustafaev in February 2020 and has compiled an 8-1 record in his professional mixed martial career. Riddell comes from a kickboxing background which has allowed him to average an impressive 6.07 significant strikers per minute while also averaging a takedown per 15 minutes. “Quake” is currently ranked at #18 by MMA World Rankings and has set himself up for a top 20 opponent for his next UFC appearance. Expect Riddell to come out guns blazing and ready to climb the most talented division in the UFC today!
It is no easy task making your UFC debut on short notice against the very dangerous Alexander Volkanovski. That is what Shane Young was tasked to do on November 18, 2018 when he faced the current featherweight champion after getting the last minute call. Although he was defeated handedly, Young showed his resilience and willingness to compete which earned him a spot in the UFC featherweight division. Since then, Young has further shown he belongs in the UFC by following up his UFC debut loss with two back to back wins where he knocked out Rolando Dy and dominated Austin Arnett for a unanimous decision. The New Zealand native has compiled a 13-4 professional record, is averaging 4.95 significant strikers per bout and 1.22 takedowns per 15 minutes. Look for Young to get a step up in competition in his next UFC appearance where he will continue to improve and gain octagon experience. Perhaps an eventual rematch with Alexander Volkanovski down the line? You never know!
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