Along with the UK and Russia, Brazil has some of the best prospects worldwide. As we sit today we have two UFC champions from Brazil and two from Brazil that are Bellator champions. They’re thirty ranked Brazilians in the UFC and nine in Bellator. In this feature, I’ll be naming ten of the best prospects out of Brazil. These ten are saddled up for possibly a big year in 2022.
Ismael Bonfim (16-3) is a lightweight prospect out of Brasilia, Federal District, Brazil. The 25-year-old has a good amount of experience in MMA as well as boxing with a 4-1 pro record and a 24-3 amateur record. His last loss (in MMA) was to UFC fighter Renato Moicano in 2014. Since then he hasn’t lost and has won his next ten fights. His last fight was for LFA 111 beating a good fighter in Rangel de Sá. Bonfim with his legit boxing skills alone will get him to a better point in his career. His striking and boxing background overshadows how worthy his grappling is. Bonfim I expect to be signed to a big promotion by the beginning of next year.
Vinicius de Oliveira (16-2) is an exciting fighter that fights in the bantamweight division. Oliveira claimed the UAE Warriors Bantamweight Championship in his last win. UAE Warriors has become a strong feeder promotion for UFC recently, producing content that gets picked up by them eventually. Oliveira is an absolute wild man when he’s in the cage. He reminds you of a lesser version of fellow Brazilian and UFC fighter Michal Pereira. Oliveira is an all-action freestyle-type athlete who will always put on a show. Being the diverse athlete he is, the Brazilian loves to go for broke throwing a lot of switch kicks, wheel kicks, going off the cage, and flying knees. He really brings that Brazilian capoeira style. He defends his UAE Warriors title against former UFC flyweight title challenger Ray Borg later this month. A win should propel him to the UFC.
Bruno Souza (10-1) shockingly is still not signed to a big promotion. His current run in LFA, his ten-fight win streak, and his recent LFA title win make him one of the most deserving prospects. Souza was a 2015 world Karate champion and a former national and South American champion as well. Being a karate-style fighter his kicks are his most vital weapon, similar to how a boxer primarily uses their hands. But Souza isn’t only a kicker as in fact, he’s a solid striker as well. Mixing in kicks and punches together in combinations is something he does extremely well. The prodigy of MMA legend Lyoto Machida, Bruno Souza is a good prospect. Souza mimics the style of Machida with his Karate approach. Watch for this guy in the next year.
Manoel Sousa (7-0) has always been on the radar but last July he beat Brendo Bispo who I consider a UFC/Bellator-level talent. Not just beating him Sousa finished Bispo by TKO in the first round. He’s an undefeated lightweight with a 100% finish rate. Sousa is a heavy-handed fighter who slings powerful right and left hooks. He does a good job going to the body and throwing kicks behind his strikes. He has good head movement and good footwork as well. The very athletic Sousa also has a strong wrestling attack and is a submission threat. Still underrated but one of the best prospects out of Brazil currently.
Gabriel Bonfim (11-0) is the younger brother of Ismael Bonfim who was mentioned above. The brothers are rising stars coming out of Brasilia, Federal District, Brazil. Bonfim has a pro boxing background and is undefeated at 5-0. He made his return to MMA last July for LFA 112. He beat another good prospect in Brenner Alberth. LFA held a one-night welterweight tournament and although he beat Alberth he couldn’t continue because of failed medicals. If he was to continue Id believe he would’ve been crowned the welterweight champion. Bonfim is a long striker with a beautiful jab and wonderful bodywork. Where he excels more is on the mat using his superior jiu-jitsu. He has eight submission wins all coming by a way of a choke. He and his brother are a must-watch in 2022.
Hugo Cunha (6-0) is a big man at 6’4″ and 260 lbs. Cunha doesn’t have a lot of experience in MMA but is a Brazilian National Team wrestler and a BJJ black belt. He was supposed to fight this season on the contender series but VISA issues canceled that and he was pulled. The bad thing is he may not be signed this year. The good thing is booking him on the contender series shows there is interest there. Cunha has still looked dominant thus far in his career and that’s with a 100% finish rate. Cunha has stopping ability with big ground-and-pound using his size to stay heavy on top. He’s also very good at grabbing the neck. Cunha still needs a lot of work but is someone to watch for this coming year at heavyweight.
Herbeth Sousa (15-1) was a hot prospect in 2019 and early 2020 but his inactivity has caused him to be forgotten a bit. With only one loss, Herbeth Sousa is currently on a five-fight win streak. He’s beat Glyan Alves (RIP) and Alexander Keshtov which are two fighters I was pretty high on at the time. “Indio” is an aggressive grappler who has ten submissions all coming in the first round. His wrestling is solid but obviously, it’s the grappling that’s key. His transitions are smooth and his finishing ability on the submissions is dangerous as he is a black belt in BJJ. If he can get a fight most likely he will get a big opportunity in 2022.
Jean Matsumoto (9-0)is a well-rounded bantamweight who has looked great at the age of just 21. For his age, you can’t ask for a better start to a career and how he’s performed. Jean is always throwing in volume usually throwing a one-two followed by a leg kick. Not just a one-two though — Matsumoto will fire hook after hook while ripping the body. With how good he is on the feet, he’s looked even better on the mat. Matsumoto only has three submissions but is a big threat always looking for them. Especially the anaconda choke, which is one of his go-to’s. He throws very good active ground and pound and that mixed in with solid jiu-jitsu makes him a huge threat. Matsumoto is both the SFT flyweight and bantamweight champion. Someone that can quietly have a huge 2022 coming soon.
Vitor Petrino (6-0) is an undefeated light-heavyweight with a lot of momentum. Just last month he made a big impact beating Gadzhimurad Antigulov. Antigulov was an ACB champion in 2016 and was a six-fight UFC veteran. In what was an eventful fight Petrino knocked out Antigulov in the second round. He is a talented well-rounded fighter capable of finishing the fight anywhere and anytime. On the feet, he can fight backward countering. Going forward he throws tons of output and is both explosive and athletic. He will easily excel in UAE.
Mateus Mendonça (9-0) is an outstanding prospect at bantamweight. Having only fought professionally for three wins he has some good wins especially against a veteran like Pedro Nobre. That proved he is a top 135er out of Brazil. Billed more of a striker it’s the grappling/jiu-jitsu that makes him the special prospect he is. Mendonca trains out of an excellent team in Chute Boxe Diego Lima. He’s a training partner of UFC lightweight contender Charles Oliviera. This young man is only 22-years-old so there is nothing but time on his side. You best bet you’ll be hearing his name a lot in 2022.