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5 lesser-known UFC fighters who could move into title contention in 2022

Could middleweight prospect Phil Hawes move into UFC title contention in 2022?
Could middleweight prospect Phil Hawes move into UFC title contention in 2022?
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST

The UFC is renowned for being a wildly unpredictable place at times. Over the years, we’ve seen a number of surprising fighters end up challenging for UFC titles.

Right now, everyone knows about high-level UFC title contenders such as Weili Zhang and Colby Covington, but could some other, more unheralded fighters make a run for a title shot in 2022?

👑 @KingCaseyMMA put the flyweight division on NOTICE after her statement victory at #UFCVegas38. https://t.co/yUYQxNJHcM

The answer is yes. It’s hardly surprising given that the UFC has a roster consisting of literally hundreds of fighters. The fact is that many of them are flying under the radar right now and probably shouldn’t be.

With that in mind, here are five lesser-known fighters who could move into UFC title contention in 2022.


#5. Casey O’Neill – UFC women's flyweight contender

Casey O'Nell may move in line for a shot at UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko in 2022
Casey O'Nell may move in line for a shot at UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko in 2022

The UFC’s women’s flyweight division is one of the thinnest that the promotion has to offer. Seemingly, any fighter who can put together a solid win streak can move into title contention.

There’s an obvious reason for this. Reigning UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko is one of the promotion’s most active titleholders. That means top contenders get knocked down the ladder on a regular basis and so the churn to find new ones is seemingly always ongoing. With that considered, despite the fact that she’s currently unranked, it’s hard to imagine Casey O’Neill failing to make it into contention in 2022.

In fact, it’d probably be a shock if ‘King Casey’ isn’t staring ‘Bullet’ down in a UFC title bout before next year is out. Simply put, O’Neill is an absolutely fantastic prospect to watch. The Scottish-born, Australian-based fighter has excellent skills in all areas and has proven herself capable of both knocking out and submitting foes inside the octagon.

Already 3-0 in the UFC and 8-0 overall, O’Neill is still just 23 years old, meaning it’s likely that she hasn’t even reached her athletic prime just yet. When you consider the fact that she most recently destroyed Antonina Shevchenko, the sister of ‘Bullet’, the storyline for a potential title shot for ‘King Casey’ essentially writes itself.

🇦🇺 @KingCaseyMMA improves her perfect record to 8-0.[ Tune in LIVE on @ESPNPlus ] https://t.co/oqrPRg1e7Y

One more win should put O’Neill into contention and may even be enough to net her a shot at the gold, meaning this flyweight prospect is impossible to ignore.

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Edited by Harvey Leonard
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