Since its inception, the UFC has been the flagship enterprise for MMA fighters across the world. There have been debates and arguments over what the best martial arts is; Karate or Kung Fu, Boxing or Wrestling. UFC allowed fans and martial artists to challenge themselves against the best fighters from various disciplines.
Throughout the meteoric rise of the UFC, countries from all over the world created world-class fighters and champions. Before Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya, never though, has any fighter from Africa has been crowned, nor fighters representing Africa been champion. Fighters representing Africa in the UFC have been unheard of, many people weren’t even aware that there was a growing MMA interest in the motherland.
Recently though, as the UFC aims to expand their brand, many new faces were seen in the UFC. From Dagestan, Poland, Australia, and New Zealand, never before have there been a more diverse group of competitors. The rise of the Extreme Fighting Championship in South Africa has shown a light on many young prospects from the continent, and the world has taken notice and welcomed African fighters in UFC.
Africa has been well represented by the likes of Francis Ngannou, Israel Adesanya, and Kamaru Usman, but who else comes from the relatively unknown continent? Below, I discuss some of the rising prospects in the UFC that have roots in Africa and analyze their careers, as well as their ambitions to reach the very top.
The Champs are here – Rise of African Fighters in UFC
When Kamaru Usman won the belt from Tyrone Woodley, many fans and enthusiasts didn’t expect the result. He also became the first African-born champion in the UFC and cemented his legacy as one to remember. A complete dominant display followed up by two title defenses maintains his unbeaten streak in the UFC. Nigerian born Kamaru Usman is a nightmare for opponents. An African Fighter in UFC with intense wrestling, tremendous power, and hands that aren’t afraid to let loose. Usman is scheduled to face Gilbert Burns at UFC 258 in what would be an exciting welterweight clash.
The rise and dominance of Usman are one of pure grit, talent, and hard work. Kamaru Usman has phenomenal skill in the octagon and just smothers opponents with his power and finesse. He isn’t the most skilled striker and isn’t flashy in the pressers, but he definitely is a problem for anyone in the octagon. He tops my list of African fighters in UFC.
Usman aims to become the greatest welterweight of all time, and definitely is on his way to surpassing GSP’s record of consecutive title defenses. He has a long way to go, but at the moment he’s like a wrecking train and he doesn’t plan on stopping for anyone. Another superstar and champion that represents African fighters in UFC are Middleweight king Israel Adesanya. Unbeaten and looking to become a two-weight division champion at UFC 259, Adesanya is just levels above everyone at the moment.
Israel Adesanya came into the UFC in 2018 and has shaken the middleweight division to its core. Nigerian born, with Kiwi citizenship, Adesanya has put both Africa and New Zealand on the MMA map. He has looked phenomenal, and his most challenging fight came at the hands-on Kelvin Gastellum in a five-round war for the interim middleweight championship. Adesanya possesses meticulous striking, technique, and octagon IQ and despite many saying that he has no groundwork, Izzy has never been taken to the ground. He steps into the octagon at UFC 259 against Jan Błachowicz for the Light Heavyweight crown.
Adesanya aims to become the fastest champ-champ in UFC history and to add salt to the wound of Jones, he’d be the LHW champ. Not taking anything away from the polish powerhouse, but Izzy is looking to gear up for a Jon Jones super fight, but at the moment Jones has at least 2 fights scheduled at Heavyweight. Izzy would be the first African Fighter in UFC to be crowned champions in multiple divisions.
Abdul Razak Alhassan
Next up on the list of African Fighters in UFC is the Ghananian phenomenon in Abdul Razak Alhassan. A Judo black belt fighter that competes in Middleweight and currently fights out of Texas, USA. He has 10 wins, all of them (T)KO’s, and just 3 losses. He recently suffered a first-round KO defeat to Kalinn Williams at Fight Night 182 and is currently on a 2 fight losing streak.
The Judo Thunder has sublime grappling skill, but devastating knockout power when he lets his hands fly. He will definitely want to get back on the winning column and move up the rankings in a stacked middleweight division. Could a top 5 contender bout be in his sights for 2021? If he continues working hard and using his skill in the octagon, he might well be next in line to be the next African Fighter in UFC knocking on the top 5 doors.
Another middleweight contender from Africa reigns from the beautiful sands of Morocco. Abu Azaitar fights out of Germany and was on a 9 fight win streak. However, he has had two bouts canceled in 2020, making his last fight in the octagon all the way back to 2018. An African fighter in UFC with talent and skill no doubt, and could’ve been a serious contender in the middleweight division, had it not been for his recent controversy.
USADA recently suspended Azaitar for 7 months due to multiple drug test failures, and even though he claims that he was prescribed drugs for health reasons, will still be illegible to compete until at least August 2021. Following his brothers COVID-19 rule breach in Abu Dhabi, it is unclear whether we’ll be seeing any of the Azaitar brothers in the UFC in the near future.
Dalcha “Champion” Lungiambula is a Congolese powerhouse that fights out of Cape Town, South Africa. Dalcha tore through EFC Africa, where he won both the Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Championships. He was then invited to compete in the UFC and won on debut with powerful ground and pound. He then faced Magomed Ankalaev in an anticipated battle but lost due to a devastating front kick. He had 3 more bouts canceled due to Covid-19 but recently fought at UFC Fight Night and took the decision against Markus Perez. He is definitely a great fighter to watch out for and is clearly in line to represent African fighters in UFC.
He started off 2021 in great fashion and will surely look to be getting back into the octagon again and cement his name as a serious contender in the middleweight division. Dalcha has the experience and a championship mentality, to complement his power and Judo finesse. He will only grow in confidence and skill set and will definitely make his mark in the UFC.
Another South African on the list is Don Madge. Madge has a 2-0 win streak in the UFC and definitely has the confidence to back up his impressive MMA record. He recently fought in 2019 in a decision win over Fares Ziam and has been gunning to get back in the octagon again. Madge got his wish as he was added to a stellar Fight Night card on March 18 where he faces Guram Kutateladze. Madge would want to continue performing impressively and aim to be the first South African born champion, and definitely would be proudly representing the African continent as the first African fighters in UFC to win the Lightweight Championship.
The Lightweight division is currently the most stacked division and sits without an active champion. Madge will want to cement his name as a serious contender in the division and book a spot against a top 15 contender as he makes his way up the rankings. Having already seen the peak at Africa’s EFC championship, Don Madge no doubt aims to take the UFC by storm and put South Africa on the map.
Madge has incredible power, pressure, and octagon IQ. He possesses good groundwork and definitely is a threat to anyone in the division. How far off from the likes of Gaetjhe, Poirier, and Conor is he though? We’ll just have to wait and see as 2021 could be an exciting year for African fighters in UFC.
No doubt as we kick off the year, lots of eyes will be on big-name fighters. One thing that Covid has done was allowed the UFC to pull off an incredible amount of fights, and young prospects have been getting lots of opportunities to compete. Dana White’s looking for a fight recently resumed, and the contender series is also due to return. No doubt, if current African fighters in UFC can impress, then the door will be open for more stars from Africa to make the jump into the UFC and become a staple for talent.
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