As 2023 draws close, we can reflect on the year’s events and the fighters who made a name for themselves across all promotions. With all that said and done, it is time to look forward to 2024. This article lists five words from which you should expect to hear big things this upcoming year. Some are unsigned prospects to any significant organization, and some are already champions in their own right. What links them all together is that they all have the potential to make a substantial impact in 2024. 

5 Fighters Who Could Have a Massive 2024

Number 5 – Paul Hughes 

Considered one of the most exciting fighters out of Ireland, Irish fight fans have long wondered why Paul Hughes has yet to receive his call-up to the UFC. A Cage Warriors Featherweight champion possessing wins over Jordan Vucenic and current UFC fighter Morgan Charriere, Hughes has established himself as the best 145er in Europe and recently made the jump up to lightweight, proving victorious. With a 10-1 record and a confident yet likable personality, Hughes indeed has what it takes to make it into the UFC, and it would be shocking if he did not make an appearance for the organization within the next year and cements himself as a top divisional prospect at 145 lbs. 

Number 4 – Cedric Doumbe 

Doumbe is one of the most accomplished kickboxers in the sport’s history. Cedric Doumbe has switched to MMA and has taken to it like a duck to water. Making his debut in 2021, Doumbe was soon signed to the UFC but could not appear due to medical issues and was released from his contract. He has since been making a name for himself on the regional circuit before being picked up by the PFL for his last fight. Doumbe would pick up a KO victory nine seconds into the first round, extending his perfect record to 5-0. Each win comes by knockout. Now signed with the PFL and already possessing a striking skill set superior to any fighter on the planet, Doumbe is certainly a fighter to watch out for, and expect to hear big things from him in 2024. 

Number 3 – Jason Jackson 

Jason Jackson fought only once in 2023, last month in November. Still, it was undoubtedly his biggest career win as he became the first man to ever beat Yaroslav Amosov (who many considered to be the best welterweight outside of the UFC with a record of 27-0) via Knockout in the 3rd round to win the Bellator Welterweight World Championship. Jackson’s CV now reads extremely impressive, with wins over Amosov, Douglas Lima, Paul Daley, Neiman Gracie, and Benson Henderson, to name a few. Undefeated since 2019 and currently on a seven-fight winning streak, Jackson’s new status as a champion will allow him to face the best Bellator offers along with their new owners, the PFL. If he continues to win and establishes himself as the best 170-pounder on the new Bellator/PFL super roster, he will likely become a well-known name among MMA fans globally. 

Number 2 – Shamil Gaziev

Certainly not as well known as other fighters on this list, expect Shamil Gaziev to break out into the MMA mainstream sooner rather than later. A heavyweight fighting out of Dagestan, Gaziev has demolished every opponent he has come up against, possessing a picturesque 12-0 record. First appearing with the UFC in September of this year, making quick work of Greg Velasco on Dana White’s Contender Series, Gaziev showed immediately that he is a threat in this heavyweight division. That belief was only solidified last weekend at UFC 296, where he quickly dispatched Martin Buday—a man who, in his own right, was considered to be a top prospect for the division. Buday was on a four-fight win streak in the UFC and had not been beaten in over six years. Heavyweight is a division somewhat lacking in depth, and any severe wave of momentum can allow a fighter to push toward the rankings. With Gaziev’s two performances under the UFC being so dominant and beating someone such as Buday, expect him to arrive at the top-15 in one or two more fights, provided he keeps on winning. Fighting in September and then December, it appears that Gaziev wishes to stay active, and this will only allow him to reach the top rankings faster—certainly someone who could have a massive 2024. 

Number 1 – Vadim Nemkov

While it may be considered odd to put Nemkov on this list given that many outlets, such as Sherdog, already rank him as the number one Light Heavyweight on the planet, the list is not necessarily covering prospects, just fighters that can have a massive 2024 and dramatically increase their profile. Nemkov is undoubtedly capable of that; known to the MMA hardcore for years now, Nemkov has reigned as Bellator’s Light Heavyweight champion for some time, fending off challengers such as Corey Anderson and Ryan Bader to do so. With the PFL buying out Bellator and likely amalgamating its roster, the organization will have a super roster that undoubtedly boasts the best talent outside of the UFC and probably will even have quite a few fighters on par with their UFC counterparts. Nemkov will be one of those fighters, and if he remains as dominant as he has done, with the PFL continuously signing big names to fight him, such as Thiago Santos for an immediate example, then it would not be surprising to see his star increase dramatically. There may even be a widespread acceptance that the UFC does not possess the best light heavyweight champion on the planet. 

Shamil Gaziev – UFC’s Newest Heavyweight Prospect

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