On the eve of another momentous year for mixed martial arts, we can look back on a litany of competitors who seized the proverbial brass ring and launched themselves into the sport’s center spotlight.

Talents such as Will Brooks, Kelvin Gastelum, Conor McGregor and Rose Namajunas rose from prospects to champions and perennial title contenders within a few short months, representing the latest wave of well-rounded mixed martial artists to fulfil their potential.

Now, with 2015 on the horizon, we identify 25 new talents who are poised to do great things in the coming year. In alphabetical order, here is part one of five.

Thomas Almeida (Andy Hemingway/Sherdog)

Thomas Almeida (Andy Hemingway/Sherdog)

1) Thomas Almeida

Nickname: Thominas
Age: 23
Weight: 135lbs (Bantamweight)
MMA Career Record: 17-0
Most Notable Victory:
Tim Gorman (UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. St. Preux)

 

 

 

 

Upon joining the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Thomas Almeida wasted no time concerning himself with the famous Octagon jitters that hinder many mixed martial artists’ debuts in the premier organization. The Sao Paulo native took home a $50,000 ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus after defeating Tim Gorman last month.

Almeida’s reputation for exciting fights stretches back throughout his entire career. Of his 17 professonal fights, 13 have come by way of knockout or TKO, including 11 consecutive finishes prior to signing with the UFC (like this one). Outside of active competition, Thominas trains with the Macaco Gold Team, which also includes the dynamic submission artist Charles Oliveira.

Recently, Almeida has called out another animated striker in Sergio Pettis, who is yet to respond after suggesting he may drop to flyweight.

 

Tom Breese (David Lethaby/Sherdog)

Tom Breese (David Lethaby/Sherdog)

2) Tom Breese

Nickname: Fearless
Age: 23
Weight: 170lbs (Welterweight)
MMA Career Record: 7-0
Most Notable Victory:
Thibaud Larchet (CWFC 74, November 2014)

 

 

 

 

A veteran of the United Kingdom’s domestic MMA scene, Tom Breese looks poised for a move to one of MMA’s top organizations. The Birmingham-based fighter has consistently breezed (ahem) through his competition, stopping all seven of his professional fights.

Fearless has primarily developed as a professional under the UK promotion BAMMA, the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts and former home to fellow UFC competitor Tom Watson. Breese has continued follow in his fellow Englishman’s footsteps by training with the Tristar Gym in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Standing at 6’3”, Breese boasts an impisng physique for the weight class, combining his long limbs with a flair for grappling to end four of his victories by rear naked choke, including his most recent win in Cage Warriors Fighting Championship last month.

 

Chris Beal (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Chris Beal (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

3) Chris Beal

Nickname: The Real Deal
Age: 29
Weight: 135lbs (Bantamweight)
MMA Career Record: 10-0
Most Notable Victory:
Tateki Matsuda (UFC Fight Night 50, June 2014)

 

 

 

Chris Beal has successfully emerged from The Ultimate Fighter as an undefeated talent with bantamweight title ambitions intact. The Real Deal earned his way onto the show after amassing an 8-0 professional record on the regional scene, with six appearances under the BAMMA USA promotional banner in southern California.

After losing an exhibition bout to the eventual winner Chris Holdsworth, Beal followed his appearance on the series with back-to-back wins as a member of the UFC. His brightest moment in the Octagon to date was a notable flying knee TKO that put his opponent, Patrick Williams, straight to sleep, earning Beal a ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus in the process.

With a decision victory over Tateki Matsuda also in the books, Beal looks primed for an elevation in competition heading into the New Year.

 

4) Mirsad Bektic

Nickname: N/A
Age: 23
Weight: 145lbs (Featherweight)
MMA Career Record: 8-0
Most Notable Victory:
Chas Skelly (UFC on FOX 11, April 2014)

 

 

Of all the names on this list of 2015 MMA prospects, Mirsad Bektic has perhaps followed the toughest route to prominence. Having endured a tumultuous upbringing, previously featured in an interview with the MMA Corner, the Bosnian-born featherweight now calls the Octagon his home.

A product of Relentless MMA and American Top Team, who earned his way into the UFC after impressive outings in both Titan Fighting Championship and the Resurrection Fight Alliance, Bektic has shown impressive intelligent yet ferocious striking in several of his previous fights. It is a skillset he has combined with displays of in-fight intelligence, like manoeuvring the fight to his own corner, for great success.

Bektic’s debut in the UFC was all the more successful for the Nebraska native’s ability to overcome not one, but two illegal knees on his way to outworking Chas Skelly, handing the Team Takedown project his first defeat in the process.

Bektic is scheduled to face Alan Omer on the UFC on FOX 14 undercard emanating from Stockholm, Sweden.

 

 

Darrion Caldwell (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Darrion Caldwell (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

5) Darrion Caldwell

Nickname: The Wolf
Age: 27
Weight: 145lbs (Featherweight)
MMA Career Record: 6-0
Most Notable Victory:
Anthony Dizy (Bellator 130, October 2014)

 

 

 

Already six fights into his career and yet to taste defeat, Darrion Caldwell is slowly fulfilling the expectations preceded by his amateur wrestling pedigree.

The former NCAA Champion, two time All American of North Carolina State and U.S. Olympic team trialist debuted in the Texas-based Legacy Fighting Championship promotion, where he earned three of his victories. The series of shoulder injuries that had hampered his amateur wrestling ventures seemed to be finally behind him.

At the end of last year, Caldwell signed a long-term agreement with Bellator, as part of the company’s initiative to recruit young talent with outstanding wrestling credentials which also included Shawn Bunch, Chris Honeycutt and most recently Aaron Pico. The Wolf would continue his promising start to mixed martial arts with three more wins, two by way of submission including a rear naked choke of Joe Pingitore, which showcased his ability to transfer grappling skills into the circled cage of Bellator.

Fighting out of Phoenix, Arizona’s Power MMA, Caldwell surrounds himself with other elite wrestlers who have successfully migrated to MMA, including UFC top ten talents Ryan Bader and C.B. Dollaway.

 

Stay tuned for part two of five, as we continue to highlight MMA’s hottest prospects in 2015.