Fatime Kline is the UFC Denver fighter to watch

Fans should keep their eyes peeled for UFC debuting fighter Fatime Kline at UFC Denver.
Fatima Kline at Black Hole Jiu-Jitsu in Wappingers Falls on October 15, 2020. Kline recently signed a contract to become a professional MMA fighter.
Fatima Kline at Black Hole Jiu-Jitsu in Wappingers Falls on October 15, 2020. Kline recently signed a contract to become a professional MMA fighter. / Patrick Oehler/Poughkeepsie Journal via

After a short break from International Fight Week, the UFC returns to Denver, its birthplace, with a card that is light in name value but teeming in star-making potential.

In the main event, former two-time strawweight champion Rose Namajunas looks to win consecutive fights at flyweight for the first time when she faces Tracy Cortez, who is unbeaten in the Octagon so far. Elsewhere, knockout artists Santiago Ponzinibbio and Muslim Sakikhov square off, while Drew Dober returns to his adopted hometown against the fast-rising Jean Silva.

There is, however, one name in particular that fans should keep an eye on. Fatima Kline, the training partner of current top flyweight contender Erin Blanchfield and a promising prospect in her own right will be making her UFC debut.

Making her professional debut in 2021, she was initially rather inactive, fighting only once in that year and in 2022. But that was only a prelude to a highly successful stretch in 2023 that saw her win three fights in Cage Fury and clinch the New Jersey-based promotion's flyweight title, despite having been a career strawweight.

Returning to her original division this February, she added another title to her resume. Such a streak of success turned into her first big opportunity: a Dana White's Contenders Series bout against Alexia Thainara. But little did she know, something better was yet to come.

Fatime Kline is coming in on short notice at UFC Denver

On July 5, just over a week before this event, Viviane Araujo had to pull out of a scheduled fight against Jasmine Jasudavicius. Kline got the call and accepted it, even though the bout will be at 125 pounds.

But win or lose, Kline has made it clear that win or lose, she is returning 10 pounds south. For as long as her friend Blanchfield is a flyweight, she is not competing in the same division as her. It is reminiscent of Daniel Cormier when he first entered the UFC - having won the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, he was considered a top prospect at 265 pounds but dropped to light heavyweight for one simple reason: he did not want to fight his teammate and friend Cain Velasquez.

A very opportune moment awaits Kline in her strawweight return, whenever it happens: right now, the division is somewhat lacking in potential challengers. Ever since champion Weili Zhang reclaimed the title in November 2022, she has defeated two of the division's current top three contenders: Xiaonan Yan and Amanda Lemos. That leaves only Tatiana Suarez left, but her status is still up in the air.

And if Suarez loses, that is the top 5 or so of the division all but cleaned out. Former champion Jessica Andrade and Amanda Ribas are constantly hopping between divisions. Other potential contenders, like Mackenzie Dern, Marina Rodriguez, and Lupita Godinez, keep on losing at inopportune times. Meanwhile, prospects like Iasmin Lucindo, Yazmin Jauregui, and Josefine Lindgren Knutsson are still too early into their stints to be considered at the aforementioned names' level.

There is the possibility that former Invicta queen Virna Jandiroba will get a crack if she defeats Amanda Lemos and Suarez proves not healthy enough to return to fighting, but a loss to Zhang will still set the division back. That is why a quick rise up the rankings for Kline will prove beneficial, especially if Blanchfield eventually becomes champion herself - a pair of teammates and friends hoisting gold, as has happened before (Jose Aldo and Renan Barao at Nova Uniao, for instance), makes for great marketing.

It will, however, be remiss to ignore Jasudavicius. Even though her planned bout with Araujo has fallen through, she still has the same goal: rise through the ranks, albeit at 125. Coming off a very brutal and impressive finish of Priscila Cachoeira on home soil (her first in the Octagon) last time out, she will look to build on that momentum against Kline.