50 Top Prospects, 10 Top Free Agents and 10 Top Non-UFC Fighters

In basketball a triple double is a big deal.  For today, a triple double is the top 50 MMA prospect, top 10 MMA free agents and the top 10 non-UFC fighters that I would sign if contracts were no object (they are).  While the UFC roster is growing, I still can find reason to argue in favor of adding more fighters.  There is lots of talent outside the UFC and some of the talent really is deserving of a shot in the world’s premiere MMA organization.

Top 50 Prospects

  1. Leandro Higo
  2. Gleristone Santos
  3. Thomas Almeida
  4. Pietro Menga
  5. Mansour Barnaoui
  6. Holly Holm
  7. Justine Kish
  8. Denis Smoldaraev
  9. Lowen Tynanes
  10. Mizuki Inoue
  11. Scott Askham
  12. Marcin Tybura
  13. Nicols Dalby
  14. Marcin Bandel
  15. Gilbert Burns
  16. Lukasz Sajewski
  17. Dmitriy Sosnovskiy
  18. Henry Cejudo
  19. Brian Ortega
  20. Raoni Barcelos
  21. Alexandre Pantoja
  22. Musa Khamanaev
  23. Marcin Lasota
  24. Marif Piraev
  25. Rin Nakai
  26. Sheymon Moraes
  27. Sean Santella
  28. Larissa Pacheco
  29. Niklas Backstrom
  30. Magomed Malikov
  31. Yuta Sasaki
  32. Ion Cutelaba
  33. Chris Honeycutt
  34. Vlad Popovskiy
  35. Katja Kankaanpaa
  36. Islam Makhachaev
  37. Chris Fishgold
  38. Walter Gahdaza
  39. Ramazan Emeev
  40. Martin Buschkchamp
  41. Maxim Grishin
  42. Andrew Sanchez
  43. Stephanie Eggink
  44. Ryan Scope
  45. Smealinho Rama
  46. Cody East
  47. Scott Holtzman
  48. Frankie Perez
  49. James Brum
  50. Anthony Birchak

Honorable Mention: Brett Johns, Julio Arce, Bekbulat Magomedov, Viktor Nemkov, Magomed Alhasov, Marat Gafurov, Tomasz Narkun, Alex Sandoval, Oleg Borisov and Jake Collier

Top 10 MMA Free Agents

These are fighters that do not fit under the prospect bill because they have already fought for a major promotion, but are still very good additions to any roster.  They would not be defined as “prospect”.  The fighters currently fight for promotions that would most likely let them out of their contracts if UFC would make them an offer.  This is why they are in the “free agent” category”.

  1. Satoshi Ishii
  2. Mamed Khalidov
  3. Jimmie Rivera
  4. Ronnie Mann
  5. Popo Bezerra
  6. Joe Soto
  7. Tim Means
  8. Luis Santos
  9. Anthony Gutierrez
  10. Vyacheslav Vasilevsky

Honorable Mention:

Top 10 Under Contracts Outside UFC

These guys are not eligible to sign with UFC right now because they are in the midst of exclusive deals with their current promotions.  It is unlikely that would change until they complete their current contract and enter free agency.  However, since this is all hypothetical, what guys would you sign if you were the UFC that are under contract with Bellator, World Series of Fighting and OneFC.

  1. Michael Chandler
  2. Eddie Alvarez
  3. Vitaly Minakov
  4. Patricio Pitbull
  5. Justin Gaethje
  6. Ben Askren
  7. Eduardo Dantas
  8. Marlon Moraes
  9. Pat Curran
  10. Douglas Lima

Honorable Mentions: Daniel Strauss, Shinya Aoki, Adriano Moraes, Nick Newell, Tyrone Spong, Cody Bollinger and Alexander Shlemenko

Furthermore, how would the said fighters do in the UFC?  We know from experience that high level success in other promotions does not ensure success in the UFC?  Could Ben Askren’s wrestling be equally as effective against the better wrestlers in the UFC welterweight division?  How would Marlon Moraes and Eduardo Dantas hold up against the top level UFC bantamweights?  Are Chandler and Alvarez really top 5 lightweights?  Are Patricio Pitbull, Pat Curran and Daniel Strauss really top level featherweights?

Defining the Word “Prospect” in MMA

As a site that has found a niche focusing on MMA Prospects, I have found that one of the most misunderstood words in MMA today is the word “prospect.”  Perhaps no word has become more cliche.  Perhaps no word has become more mis-used in the MMA vernacular.   I have heard the term used in such a variety of ways and applied to such a wide variety of fighters.  I have seen fighters ranked in the top 10 in the world hailed a “good prospect”.  I have seen fighters who are thirty-five years old and over referred to as a “prospect”.  I have seen UFC, Strikeforce, and Bellator veterans referred to as prospects.  The reality is that there is some ambiguity here.  I am not trying to sound postmodern, but the world is difficult to clearly define.  I would contend that it is harder to define who is a prospect and who has gone past the “prospect” stage in MMA more than other sports.  When does a fighter stop being a prospect?

When we started making lists of the top prospects in each weight class, we had to make some type of clear cut distinctions between who was a “prospect” and who was not.  For us, we decided that a prospect was a fighter who had never had a contract with a major promotion (UFC, Strikeforce, or Bellator).  Also, we thought that some type of age cap had to be made.  We made that age 33.  The amount that a fighter can improve post-33 is limited.  Admittedly, there are exceptions to these rules.  There are fighters who have really developed post-prime.  However, that is the exception, not the norm.  I have a hard time classifying a guy with 30 fights (even 20 fights) as a prospect.  I have a hard time calling a 35-year old journeyman as a prospect.  It is quite insulting as a matter of fact.  So, when a guy signs with a major promotion, sink or swim, we remove them out of the realm of “prospects” and into the world of “established”.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Being an established fighter is not an insult.  In fact, I would contend it is quite the compliment.  It is saying a fighter is world class.

There will always be people who make prospect lists who include guys in their mid-30′s and have more experience than UFC champions.  There will always be people who classify highly ranked fighters with big named wins on their resumes as “prospects”.  However, I think there needs to be some consistency with terms.  We might be able to argue age and experience.  We might be able to argue ceiling, potential, and upside.  The truth is, a prospect is someone who has the prospect of being on a world class level.  Once they start fighting elite competition on a regular basis, they are no longer have the prospect of being high level…they already are.

Don’t misunderstand “prospect” does not mean someone who is still improving their skills.  If that was the extent of the definition, then everyone would be a “prospect”.  I would wager that 43-year old Dan Henderson would tell you that he is learning and improving as a fighter.  If that was the definition, Jon Jones would be merely a “prospect” because he has yet to reach his athletic prime.  It seems that for most people there is very little space that a fighter can find between “prospect” and “washed up”.  I think there are far more fighters in that middle area than we allow.  i think there are more fighters who fall into the “established” and “world class” category.

So, let’s be careful throwing the term “prospect” around.  Let’s be more willing to admit when a guy moves out of the realm of “prospect” and into the realm of “world class” or “established veteran”.  In the end, we may be arguing semantics.  However, words mean something.  Words are vehicles of thought.  I think it is good to use the right words in the right ways.

MMA Sun Prospects In Action This Weekend (March 21-23)

Here are some of MMA Sun’s Prospects who are in action this weekend…

Sergei Kharitonov vs. Tyler East (#16 HW) Prospect – Tech Krep FC – 3/21
Niklas Backstrom (#12 FW Prospect) vs. Max Coga (#42 FW Prospect) – EuropaMMA 1 – 3/22
Andrew Todhunter (#39 MW Prospect) vs. Art Parker – Legacy FC 29 – 3/21
Pietro Menga (#3 Fly Prospect) vs. Sotir Kichukov Full Contact Contender 9 – 3/22
Nicolas Dalby (#1 WW Prospect) vs. Sergei Churilov – Cage Warriors 66 – 3/22
Mohsen Bahari (#28 WW Prospect) vs. Bruno Caravalho – Cage Warriors 66 – 3/22
Toni Tauru (#39 BW Prospect) vs. Martin Akhtar – Cage Warriors 66 – 3/22
Anzor Azhiev (#26 FW Prospect) vs. Artur Sowinksi – KSW 26 – 3/22
Michal Materla (#9 MW Prospect) vs. Jay Silva – KSW 26 – 3/22
Paul Felder (#49 LW Prospecr) vs. Marc Stevens – CFFC 33 – 3/22
Artur Rofi (#24 FW prospect) vs. Mike Pope -CFFC 33 – 3/22

A few of those fights stand out. One is the Backstrom vs. Coga fight. I would imagine that there is a good chance that the winner of that fight gets a UFC call. Maybe even more likely if Coga wins, since UFC is going to his native Germany soon. Our top welterweight Nicolas Dalby returns to action also. Tyler East comes off of a long lay off, looking for a signature win over Sergei Kharitonov. One of our favorite flyweights, Pietro Menga fights also, expect UFC to sign him if he wins.

2014 MMA Sun Prospect Spotlight Breakdown

We decided to look back through our prospect spotlight to see how it all played out.  We wanted to see a few things.  First, we wanted to see what countries and what established promotions produced the most top level prospects.  Second, we wanted to see how those guys have done since being featured.  Several have been signed to the UFC and many others had opportunities with other promotions since our publication.  Here is how it breaks down.

By Nation:

usflagUnited States – (Cejudo, Urso, Santella, Sandoval, Smolka, Sterling, Arce, Birchak, Alers, Skelly, Ortega, Tynanes, Holtzman, Perez, Heatherly, Strickland, Honeycutt, Reiter, Sanchez, Collier, Marshall, Cummins, Eggink, Center, East) 25
brazilflagBrazil – (Higo, Pantoja, Munhoz, Almeida, Moraes, Santos, Barcelos, Burns, Ferreira, Andrade, Abreu, Souza, Tiburico) 13
RussiaRussia – (Magomedov, Gafurov, Makhachaev, Alhasov, Khamanaev, Piraev, Khanzdzkho, Emeev, Grishin, Nemkov, Magomedov, Sosnovskiy, Smoldaraev, Malikov, Kish) 15
canadianflagCanada – (Bosse, Markos, Rama)  3
ukflagU.K. – (Menga, Fishgold, Breese, Gahadza, Scope, Askham) 6

polandflagPoland -(Lasota, Sajewski, Bandel, Narkun, Blachowicz, Tybura, Kowalkiewicz) 7
japaneseflagJapan – (Yamagami, Tanaka, Sasaki, Inoue) 4
Other – (Alic, Jumabieke, Bektic, Busckchamp, Barnaoui, Dalby, Popovskiy, Nunes, Puetz, Batinic, Drotschie, Ropati, Daly, Cutelaba, Pesta, Delija, Kankaapaana) 17

By Promotion:
RFA: (Ortega, Barcelos, Heatherly, Sanchez, Marshall, Higo, Munhoz, Kish, Markos Thomas, Collier) 10
M-1: (Gafurov, Khamanev,Tybura, Delija,Emeev, Nemkov, Puetz, Makhachev, Smoldaraev, Magomedov) 10
Cage Warriors: (Alers, Fishgold, Breese, Dalby, Lasota, Daly, Cutelaba) 7
Legacy: (Cejudo, Skelly, Almeida, Ferreira, Burns, Holm) 6
Titan: (Bektic, Gleristone, Alic) 3
BAMMA (Askham, Nunes, Barnoui) 3
MFC: Birchak

Signed Since Publish: (Note: Some of the above fighters were already signed to RFA or Titan before publishing)
UFC: Smolka, Sterling, Jumabieke, Munhoz, Blachowicz, Tanaka, Strickland, Cummins, Magomedov, Alers, Abreu (TUF Brazil), Alves (TUF Brazil), Bosse, Pesta
Titan: Gleristone, Mirsad, Alic,
RFA: Heatherly, Higo, Collier
Legacy: Burns
WSOF – Rama

6 German Fighters The UFC Could Add For Their Berlin Card

Today it was learned that the UFC would head back to Germany on May 31st of this year. The same day at TUF Brazil 3 Finale. It was mark he first time the UFC has had events on the same day. The UFC recently signed German Nick Hein, presumably for this card. In addition, they have guys like Pascal Krauss, Denis Siver and Alan Omer on roster. I would imagine that they add a few more German fighters for the show. Here are the most likely candidates.

1. Martin Buschkamp – 7-0 – Featherweight – He is the best German prospect in my opinion.  He is also the most deserving of a chance in the UFC.  I would be surprised if he does not get the chance.

2. Jonas Billstein – 12-3 – Middleweight –  The Bellator veteran is reportedly a free agent and has a fight scheduled.  A win there could mean that UFC picks him up for the May event.

3. Vladimir Sikic – 10-0 – Lightweight

4. Max Coga – 9-1 – Featherweight – Coga has a fight lined up against the very tough Nikolas Backstrom.  I am not sure he will win that fight, but if he does, don’t be surprised if UFC signs him.

5. Nick Penzer – 10-1 – Middleweight

6. Rany Saadeh – 4-1 – Flyweight

Also, do not be surprised some mainland European fighters get signed. There is a lot of talent from surrounding countries that could be nice additions to the roster.

The Ultimate Fighter Brazil Cast

Today, the UFC officially revealed the cast of the Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3.  There are a few interesting names.  I will give you the guys to watch and a few things to help you make predictions for the season.

There are some veterans on the show.  Vitor Miranda is a solid veteran, who I believe is the favorite to win the Heavyweight portion.  He is almost 35-years old though, so he is not exactly a prospect.  Bellator veteran Thiago Santos is on the show as well.  He is known for being kicked in the groin by Eric Prindle.  TUF Brazil 1 competitor Richardso “Rick Monstro” Moreira will get a second chance at his dream of reaching the UFC.  Strikeforce veteran Marcos Rogerio de Lima will also be featured.  Lima is best known for a win over Paulo Filho.

There are few notable prospects as well.  MMA Sun Prospect Spotlight featured Warlley Alves de Andrade as the number 5 welterweight prospect and Ricardo “Demente” Abreu as the number 5 middleweight prospect.  Those are the two biggest standouts. Also, Marcio Alexandre who is 12-0 is on our welterweight prospect list.  Jiu Jitsu ace Antonio Carlos Junior is a very good light heavyweight prospect, who I think is the sleeper to win.

If you are making fight picks or just want to impress your friends at a party I would pick from Miranda, Carlos, de Lima, and Moreira for your heavyweight finals.  I would also look to Warlley Alves, Ricardo Abreu, Marcio Alexandre, and maybe Wendell Oliveira to make the middleweight final.  Of course, there is often a sleeper, but I am thoroughly sold on Antonio Carlos Jr, for that role.

Middleweights
Cristiano Ribeiro Lopes Pontes (4-1)
Douglas Moura Silca (3-1)
Giuliano Brescianini Arante (5-1)
Guilherme Vasconcelos (3-1)
Ismael de Jesus (9-4-1)
Joilton Santos (9-2-1), 21 yrs old
Jose Roberto Rocha (5-0)
Marcio Alexandre Junior (12-0)
Markus Perez Echeimberg (3-0), 25 yrs old
Paulo Henrique Costa (3-0)
Pedro Paulino (3-0), 29 yrs old
Ricardo Abreu (4-0), 29 yrs old
Wagner Silva Gomes (3-0)
Warlley Alves Andrade (6-0), 23 yrs old
Wendell Oliveira Marques (23-7), 30 yrs old
Willian Steindorf (3-0), 24 yrs old
Heavyweights:
Alexandre Machado (6-1)
Antonio Carlos Junior (3-0), 23 yrs old
Antonio Paulo Branjao (3-0), 25 yrs old
Bruno Silva (9-4), 24 yrs old
Edgard Castaldelli Filho (12-4)
Everton Rocha (3-1), 31 yrs old
Felipe Diego Dantas de Oliveira (6-0), 30 yrs old
Fernando Camoles (4-1), 28 yrs old
Goncalo Salgado (7-2)
Guilherme Viana (4-1)
Job Kleber Melo (3-1)
Jollyson Francisco Sosaleta (2-0-2), 30 yrs old
Marcos Rogerio Lima (11-2-1), 28 yrs old
Richardson Moreira (7-1), 29 yrs old
Thiago Santos (11-3-1), 27 yrs old
Vitor Miranda (9-3), 35 yrs old

MMA Sun 2014 Prospect Spotlight: The Female Strawweights – #1– Justine Kish

MMA Sun’s top female strawweight prospect is RFA fighter Justine Kish.  Justine was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, but now resides and Justine-Kishtrains at Blackhouse MMA in California.  She currently has a perfect 4-0 career record, which includes wins over Randa Markos and Munah Holland.  at 25-years old, she has to be regarded as the best prospect in the division, in fact, I think she is top ten right now.

Kish has one of the most impressive resumes of all our prospects.  She began Kenpo Karate when she was young and then transitioned. After into  Muay Thai, Boxing,  and Kickboxing.  She has a 18-2 record in Muay Thai,  a 2-0 record in Boxing,  and 1-0 record in Kickboxing.  She has multiple muay thai titles as well as being a Golden Gloves boxer.  It probably goes without saying that her striking is top level.  There are not many fighters that have her pedigree or technical skills on the feet.  That being said, her division does have some very good muay thai practitioners such as Joanne Calderwood and Tecia Torres.  She really effortlessly strings together her combinations.  Her kicks are really strong.  She likes to throw elbows from the clinch.  It would be difficult to critique any aspect of her technique on her feet.  While she is primarily s stand up fighter, two of her four victories have come by way of submission.  She showed some solid grappling in her fight against Markos.  She landed some takedowns and controlled positioning.  Kish showed that she also has heart and good submission defense.  It would be difficult to imagine a fighter that will out strike Kish.

The truth is I would be absolutely shocked if Justine is not on TUF 20.  She has the potential to not just do well among those really talented girls, but she could win.  If she does not get on the show, RFA is a great place for her to shine until (not if) the UFC comes calling.  It really seems that she is as close as it comes to the sure thing.

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