Tonya “Triple Threat” Evinger (Invicta FC Bantamweight Champion)
Tonya Evinger is a legend in women’s MMA. At the age of 35 year, there’s not much the Invicta FC Bantamweight champ hasn’t seen since her debut in June 2006. She has not lost an official fight since July 2011 (this excludes her loss on season 18 of the UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter, as fights on the show do not count towards a fighters professional record) and has been an Invicta title holder since July 2015.
A native of Odessa, Mo., Evinger’s aggressive fighting style, impressive cardio, and willingness to say exactly how she feels at anytime has made her a fan favorite in Invitca. She also has earned her moniker by finishing fights in a wide variety of ways. In her 25 career wins, Evinger has 8 knockouts, 7 submissions, and 4 wins by decision. Her high finishing rate and status as an anti-hero has made “Triple Threat” one of the most popular female fighters.
The big question for 2017 is, after a successful title defense against Yana Kunitskaya earlier this month, will Evinger be given the chance to end her career in the UFC? At 35, is she at the tail end of her storied run? With the bantamweight division in upheaval, and the featherweight division lacking in its talent pool, it’s easy to argue Evinger has earned a spot on the roster. Time will only tell if she’s given the shot, but one thing is certain: whoever and wherever Evinger fights next, it will be an exciting and high-paced affair.
Derek “The Black Beast” Lewis (UFC Heavyweight Contender)
New Orleans born Derek Lewis is one of the scariest heavyweight prospects in a long time for the UFC. Lewis is a bad man in the octagon, with incredible power in both hands, and an ability to dig deep and overcome adversity. He showcased every ounce of that ability in his second round come-from-behind knockout of fellow top-ten ranked heavyweight Travis Browne at UFC Fight Night Halifax in February.
Lewis has garnered an impressive record of 18 wins (16 KO, 1 submission, 1 decision) and only 4 losses over his nearly seven year professional career. Every fight he is in has been a treat to watch, win or lose. The impressive thing about “The Black Beast” is that he’s never out of a fight. Whether it’s his comeback knockout against Gabriel Gonzaga, or his rapid recovery against Travis Browne in the second round of his last bout, between his massive power and even larger determination, Lewis is always one punch away from a win.
Derrick Lewis will get a chance to prove himself against Australian veteran and fan favorite Mark Hunt on June 10 in New Zealand. It will be Lewis’ chance to prove that he belongs at the top of the heavyweight division. Lewis is, in most opinions, two big wins away from a chance to fight for the belt, and a win over Hunt would be a huge boost to his resumé.
James “The Stabanimal” Gallagher (Bellator MMA Featherweight Contender)
Ireland’s James Gallagher is only 20 years old, and touts a 6-0 record. What’s even more impressive is that he has finished all but one of his fights by submission, and four of those submissions came in the very first round. Gallagher is already a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jistu under Gracie Black Belt John Kavanagh,
At the age of 15, Gallagher relocated to Dublin from his hometown of Strabane, Northern Ireland, to train at the now legendary SBG Ireland with the likes of Conor McGregor, Artem Lobov, Aisling Daily, and Gunnar Nelson. With such incredible examples of work ethic and marketing know-how training beside him every day, it didn’t take long for the youngster to being turning his potential into results in and out of the cage.
After going 3-0 in his first three professional fights, Gallagher signed to Bellator MMA at the age of 19. He then rattled off three wins, two by submission, in just over seven months. The Irish submission expert is never shy when asked what he thought of an opponent, their style, and their chances of beating him. Much like his some of his more famous teammates, he speaks openly and honestly about what he wants and what he believes he will achieve.
Now, Gallagher will be the second Irish MMA fighter to fight at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden (the other being his teammate and UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor) when he faces off against Chinzo Machida, who is exactly twice his age, and riding a four fight win streak. If “The Strabanimal” can turn Machida into yet another submission victim, there will be little doubt that the future is now for Ireland’s latest potential star.
Dillon Danis (Bellator MMA Welterweight Prospect)
Speaking of Conor McGregor training partners, for those not familiar with the world of jiu-jistu, Dillon Danis is kind of a big deal. At just 23 years of age, Danis is already a BJJ black belt under legendary trainer Marcelo Garcia. To get an idea of Danis’ dominance, below is a list of his major BJJ tournament wins:
- IBJJF World Champion (2014 brown belt)
- UAEJJF Abu Dhabi World Pro Champion (2014 brown belt)
- IBJJF World No-Gi Champion (2014 brown belt)
- IBJJF Pan American Champion (2014/2013 brown belt)
- IBJJF Pan American No-Gi Champion (2016 black belt,
- IBJJF Pan American No-Gi Champion (2014/2013 brown belt)
- IBJJF New York Summer Open Champion (2014 brown belt)
- IBJJF New York Spring Open Champion (2016 black)
- IBJJF New York Spring Open Champion (2015 brown belt)
- IBJJF Boca Raton International Open Champion (2015 black)
Danis also has wins over UFC veteran Joe Lauzon at Metamoris 6, and a win over AJ Agazarm at Submission Underground 3. However, what sets Danis apart isn’t his results, but his style and personality.
Danis has an aggressive, attack-minded style of jiu-jistu which completely matches his personality. In a sport where top match-ups usually only happen at world championships, Danis actively seeks out matches against the best in the world at various events with various rule sets. Add his trademark swagger, and its easy to see why Dillon has become an anomaly in the jiu-jistu world.
Now, Dillon will try his hand at the world of MMA after signing a reportedly lucrative, four-fight deal with Bellator MMA. His debut likely to be this fall, after competing in his final scheduled jiu-jistu tournament. The native New Yorker confirmed that he will split training time between his home gym, Alliance, and SBG Ireland. With such high level training partners, especially strikers such as McGregor and Lobov, it’s hard to see ways that Danis’ style doesn’t translate well to MMA.