A Breakdown Of Where MMA Talent Is Coming From?



For years we have maintained that the breeding ground for MMA talent were in USA and in Brazil.  After all, Brazil is home to martial arts in many ways and USA by far has the best training facilities.  I would argue that is still true to a point.  However, my statistics show that Eastern Europe is the fasting growing place for up and coming MMA talent.  There was a moment in MMA history where the best prospects were from USA, Brazil and then Canada.  Perhaps we would include a place like Japan and U.K. in the talk following.  However, those countries have been surpassed by Russia primarily.

Where Did They Rank?

Out of my 393 prospects on my lists from male bantamweight to Heavyweight 70 were Russians.  That means 18% of the top prospects in the sport are Russian.  This does not include Ukrainian or Moldovan prospects either.  The United States still has the most prospects in quantity with 90 in total or 23% of the prospect pool.  Brazil did have the third most MMA prospects at 47 (12%).  Perhaps not surprisingly, the U.K. was next with 25 prospects in total (6%).  In one of the more surprising aspects, Poland rounded out the top 5 with 18 total prospects (5%).  Canada is still making a mark with 14 prospects on our lists.  France is making trending upwards with 13 prospects listed.  Japan comes in with 12 total.  Sweden had a showing of 8 prospects.  Ukraine and Germany follow them with 8 prospects respectively.

About The Lists:

There are several guys out there who do a great job scouting prospects and they might have some names on their radar that we are unaware of.  However, we believe we have a fairly comprehensive list with many weight classes having 50 or more prospects listed.  We also believe that this is an adequate sampling.  Certainty the results could vary slightly depending on what other prospects were listed, but we do not think the findings would change all that much.

For our purposes we have a strict definition of what makes one a “prospect”.  We would not consider one to be a prospect who has fought previously in UFC or Bellator.  Also, we withhold guys who have fought on the main cards of World Series of Fighting and OneFC.  In addition, we limit our prospects to under 33 years old.

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MMA Sun 2015 Prospect Spotlight – The Welterweights – #10 – Borys Mańkowski

The number 10 welterweight this year is Polish fighter and current KSW welterweight champion Borys Mańkowski.  Mańkowski has a 17-5-1borys-mańkowski career record that includes several very solid wins including victories over Mohsen Bahari, Aslambek Saidov and UFC fighter Peter Sobotta.  I really like Mańkowski’s progression.  He is very experienced at a fairly high level and he is still just 25-years old.

Mańkowski is an aggressive striker.  He moves forward constantly.  One of the things that stands out about his striking game is his powerful kicks.  Mańkowski is not really and striker and he has not typically used his strikes to finish fights, but he does have a much improved striking game.  He has shown glimpses of some power, and I believe he has the potential to have really good striking.  His movement is good and I like that he has become a solid counter puncher.  Sometimes he throws punches to wide and over-extends himself.  I believe that if he were to sit down on his punches a little more and throw a little straighter shots his power would increase.  I also would like to see him be a little more cautious.  There were times his striking defense became suspect and it seemed to do so in small waves.

I really like Mankoiwski’s overall grappling game.  He is a threat on the mat with submissions.Six of his victories have come by way of submission and he has done that in a variety of ways.  As a result, we know he has a wide array of submission skills in his arsenal.  He is a threat from top position and from off of his back.  Opponents have to be careful inside his guard.  His transitions on the bottom from submission to submission are very good.   Mankowski has shown thus far in his career the ability to get fights to the ground.  He has an impressive and powerful double leg takedown.

While I do not think the UFC can pluck him away from his exclusive deal with KSW, I do think that he is a fighter that will soon emerge on the big stage.  I would imagine that when his contract is fulfilled he will get big time offers from big promotions.  I think Mankowski could not only get to a place like the UFC, but I think he could win some fights there.

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Who Is A REAL Threat To Ronda Rousey?

Ronda Rousey is far ahead of her time. Some want to downplay her performance. Some want to say the women’s division is just weak. I FITRX-RONDA-ROUSEY-ins5-204x300don’t think it is. She has beat some formidable foes and done so in impressive fashion. Tate, McMann, Carmouche, Davis and now Zingano. Quite impressive. The question is who is next? The most popular answer is Cyborg. I like that fight too. I am just thinking that is further down the road…if it even happens. She would need a tune up fight at 135 pounds before that fight could even be made. So if not Cyborg…who?

1. Holly Holm - Pump the brakes. She didn’t convince me last night she could handle Rousey’s aggressiveness. I think that fight could happen, but Holm needs a credible win (and I am not convinced she can get one).

2. Jessica Eye – I like Eye, but she is undersized at 135. She is good. She can box. I just see her as the tier below the people Rousey has already beat. I would watch this fight. I think it could be next. However, I am not sold she is a threat.

3. Bethe Correia – This makes some sense. Bethe has been impressive. She is undefeated. She is building a nice resume. She has talked tons of smack. I am not sure how competitive it would be, but there could be some heat and hype for it. This could be my pick for the next Rousey fight. i think Bethe has a better chance than Jessica Eye, and she has built more hype for the fight with her four horsewoman talk.

4. Sarah Kaufman – She already lost to Rousey in Strikeforce, but I feel she is being a little overlooked. She only has two career losses (one being to Rousey). I think a win over Alexis Davis in her next fight gets her into the mix. Again, not sure she beats Rousey.

5. Someone else in UFC –  I am not sure there are many other 135ers of note in this discussion.  I know Larissa Pacheco is 0-1 in the UFC, but she could emerge eventually given her age.  Julianna Pena may be the name that stands out the most out of the “other women”.  She has real potential, but who knows how she will do coming off an injury.  With a nice performance UFC could fast track her.

6. Someone not in UFC yet - I am not convinced there is a female bantamweight that will be elite that is not yet in UFC. Perhaps the most likely names right now are Pannie Kianzad and Irene Aldana.  I am hoping that soon a plethora of female prospects emerge, however, my guess is that is more likely at strawweight than bantamweight for the females.

7. Bryan Caraway – Just kidding…just kidding.  But, could you imagine….just kidding!!!!!!!

Can I just say that I want the Cyborg fight?  Weight classes aside.  It is the fight.  Its the best challenge.  Can I also say that perhaps Miesha Tate is still the best opponent for Rousey currently in UFC?  I would still pick Rousey, but Tate may be the second best female bantamweight.  Can I also say, I know Gina Carano’s return has been snuffed out and I know that she probably wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance, but I would enjoy that fight.  There is nothing wrong with those type fights at this point for Rousey.

Ronda is just special.  In 10 years we are going to look at her career in awe.  She is the total package.  She has the proverbial “it” factor.  She is mean.  She works hard.  She is an elite athlete.  She has drive to get better and better.  She has the stuff that separate champions from contenders.  I also think she has the stuff that separate all-time great champions from other champions.  I look at the list of fights for Rousey, and I am struggling to see a real threat to her crown (No, I don’t want to see her fighting men).  I can look at every other UFC division and see multiple fighters who could be legit threats to the champion…except Rousey. Yes, there are some fights that would be nice to watch, but at this point they appear to be resume builders for Rousey’s legacy. She is just THAT good. No other UFC champion has ever been this dominant. Yes, other champions have more title defenses, but none have been more dominant. Not Anderson Silva. Not Georges St. Pierre. Not even Fedor.

MMA Sun 2015 Prospect Spotlight – The Welterweights – 10 Who Just Missed Our Top Ten

So, we want to introduce our 2015 welterweight prospect spotlight.  Like the lightweight division, the welterweight division is deep with UNLV Tracktalent.  We had a hard time narrowing our list down to 10 prospect.  However, with the top 10 established, there were the 10 fighters who just missed our list.  These could be dubbed prospects #11-20.  For one reason or another they got bumped down.  Nevertheless, cases could be made in each of their favor.  These 10 guys have a real shot at making it to the big show in 2015.


  1. Chidi Njokuani – 26 years old – 12-4 – Chidi would certainly be in the top 10, probably top 5 if it were not for some issues.  First, he has struggled to make the 170 pound mark.  He also seems to make mental mistakes that cost him in fights (see Chris Heatherly fight).  He has all the talent to make it to the UFC and do very well, I just don’t know if he is mentally there.  If he is able to make weight that is a step in the right direction.  He has great striking like his brother and maybe slightly better takedown defense.
  2. Mahir Mamedov – 11-0 – Mahir hails from the country of Kazakhstan.  He is a part of a solid group of Kazakh fighters making their move.  Nicknamed “steel foot” Mamedov has shown a wide array of skills including six of his wins via submission.  I think Mamedov might be a name to watch.
  3. Danny Roberts – 11-1 – Roberts is a Cage Warriors stand out who is coming off of an impressive win over Jim Wallhead in his last outing.  I think Roberts is one of the best fighters in the U.K. right now.   Roberts is constantly improving.  His striking and submissions are both threats.
  4. Darren Till – 11-0 – Till is a U.K. product but spends a lot of his time as a trainer for the Astra Fight Team in Brazil.  His Muay Thai is very good and he has shown himself to be formidable on the mat as well.  The question surrounding Till, is level of competition.  I think as he steps up his level of competition we will get a better sense of where he is as a fighter.  I would not be shocked to see him get a UFC call in 2015.
  5. Zebaztian Kadestam – 6-1 – The PXC fighter comes from Sweden and certainly stands out from his peers.  Kadestam has one of the best kicking games among these 10 prospects on this list.  I also feel that he needs more experience before getting to the big leagues.  My guess is that he could end up somewhere like OneFC.
  6. Belal Muhammad – 6-0 – Belal is on TitanFC’s roster and has an upcoming fight against TUF winner and UFC veteran Colton Smith.  Muhammad is a guy who can be a grinder.  He has some solid hands as well.  He is a guy that I think style-wise could be a Josh Koscheck type fighter.
  7. Beslan Isaev – 31 years old – 32-7 – Beslan is the most experienced fighter on this list.  Rumors have long circulated that he is nearing a UFC offer.  The report suggested that his last fight in January would be the last one before UFC offered,  I had never really viewed Belsan as a serious prospect, but he has impressed in his last few outings, forcing me to take a closer look.
  8. Murad Abdulaev – 14-3 – I am not sure Abdulaev can do great in the UFC, but I think he can make it there.  His losses concern me.  He has lost to some much smaller guys, which makes me question his weight class.  He is coming off of a very impressive win over Daniel Tabera, which certainly raises his stock.
  9. Steve Montgomery – 24 years old – 8-2 – Montgomery is a guy that I expect to be in the UFC in 2015.  He fights out of American Top Team and may be in the right place at the right time.  The UFC is currently hosting a Ultimate Fighter season using American Top Team welterweights.  I would imagine he has a great chance to be among the cast.  The Titan FC veteran has looked impressive recently and is coming off of a solid won over UFC veteran Brock Jardine.
  10. Pavel Doroftei – 25 years old – 14-2  – Pavel has fought a lot at middleweight, but any future he would have in the UFC or Bellator would have to be at 170 pounds.  The Moldovan is schedueled to fight Xavier Foupa-Pokam on march 26th.  A win there certainly would be a huge step up.  Training out of London Shootfighters, he certainly is training with some higher caliber fighters.  Pavel is a guy UFC could target in their push in to Eastern Europe.

How Does Cage Warriors’ Struggles Impact MMA?

Cage Warriors has long been the top promotion in the U.K.  They have had a massive impact in and around Western Europe.  They are the Cage_Warriors_Logopromotional home for most of the top U.K. and Irish fighters.  Cage Warriors was where Conor McGregor got his start.  In recent days, it has become evident that the promotion’s future is in question.  In a surprise move, Cage Warriors CEO, Graham Boylan stepped down.  This has caused Cage Warriors to cancel their March event as they search for a new CEO.  While those in and around Cage Warriors insist that the promotion will resume when a new CEO is found, I am hearing conflicting reports.  I am hearing that the future is bleak.

I cannot understate the impact that Cage Warriors dying would have on the MMA landscape in the U.K.  There are other promotions in England, but none quite like Cage Warriors.  There would be a serious void in that space if Cage Warriors really does go away.  I am hoping that what I am hearing is not true.

I don’t know what it would take to save and resurrect Cage Warriors.  Some investor with deep pockets, perhaps.  Perhaps in days gone by, UFC would consider sweeping in and buying Cage Warriors or infusing some cash into the promotion.  However, in wake of a serious anti-trust lawsuit, it seems unlikely that they will do anything to cast more fuel onto that already smoldering fire.  Personally, I would not be against UFC having some type of European promotion that they used to build fighters in the U.K. and all through Europe.  They have been known to invest money in markets that they value.

Cage Warriors had been in discussions with the UFC about a Fight Pass deal that would be similar to the one InvictaFC landed.  Reports are that Zuffa low balled them and a deal was unable to be reached.  I am not sure if this played into the promotion’s struggles, but it certainly did not help things.  A promotion like UFC benefits from Cage Warriors succeeding.  Perhaps UFC would consider signing some of the top Cage Warriors prospects.

The biggest disappointment is to the fighters.  Cage Warriors has a very solid roster.  They have several MMA Sun top prospects contracted to them.  I am not sure what will become of them.  Cage Warriors has exclusive fight contracts, but they are giving fighters a one fight exception to fight elsewhere while their business is sorted out.  My concern is that business won’t be sorted out.  That would leave several very good fighters without a fighting home.  Most will find opportunity somewhere.  However, contracts are interesting things.  I am not sure of who the fighters under the Cage Warriors banner are actually contracted to.  It isn’t as simple as fighters being free and clear to fight anywhere.  Perhaps BAMMA, M-1 or KSW picks up some pieces.  Perhaps a new promotion emerges.  Or better yet, Cage Warriors arises from the ashes like the Phoenix.

I also would feel horribly for their staff.  I know that the remaining Cage Warriors staff works tirelessly.  Their matchmaker, Ian Dean, is a guy I have long heralded as one of the best matchmakers in the world.  The UFC has talked about hiring a third matchmaker to focus on international events.  Ian Dean would be the guy for the job.  He knows MMA and the European fight scene better than anyone.

We are hoping that all we are hearing is wrong.  We are hoping Cage Warriors finds a new CEO and new investors who will lead them in the right direction.  Cage Warriors’ demise would be really bad news for MMA in Western Europe and more specifically, the U.K.

Here are my top Cage Warriors fighters….

1. Nicolas Dalby – Welterweight

2. Stevie Ray – Lightweight

3. Tom Breese – Welterweight

4. Pannie Kianzad – Women’s Bantamweight

5. Chris Fishgold – Featherweight

6. Arnold Allen – Featherweight

7. Toni Tauru – Bantamweight

8. Alex Enlund – Featherweight

9. Jack Marshman – Middleweight

10. Danny Roberts – Welterweight

Also:  Saul Rogers, Che Mills, Curt Warburton, Mohsen Bahari, Tommy McCafferty, Karl Moore, Nad Narimani

MMA Sun 2015 Prospect Spotlight – The Lightweights – #1 – Gregor Gillespie

The top lightweight prospect is Gregor Gillespie. Gregor may not just be the top lightweight prospect in the sport of MMA, but he may be oneGregorGillespie of the best prospects in the whole sport.  Gillespie has a perfect 4-0 career record already, but it is his skill set and strong wrestling base that stand out for Gregor.   He has trained at Long Island MMA with Dennis Bermudez as well as Bellmore Kickboxing with several notable fighters.  He is 27-years old, so he is close to entering his prime.

Gillespie is a very decorated wrestler.  He was a Division I national champion wrestler and four time all-american wrestler out of Edinboro University.  Anytime a national champion wrestler enters MMA it is a big deal.  Wrestling is the best base for a successful mixed martial arts career for many reasons.  His wrestling skills are evident in the cage, as he can take opponents down at will.  His hips are very strong, which means he is difficult to sweep or reverse.  He is able to gain and hold a dominant position very well.  He transitions very well and is a big problem when he gets to the mount position.  Also, Gregor’s submission game has certainly come along.  When he gets the top position, he has such a  good base that he can rain down hard punches and effective ground and pound.

I have heard reports about Gregor’s striking and overall MMA game that lead me to believe that he can hang not just with the best guys at his gym, but with some of the best guys in the world.  His striking does not look like that of a novice.   There is little need for him stay on his ffet, as he is so dominant on the mat.  However, I do get the sense that he will become a power punched much like Tyron Woodley, Josh Koschedk and Chad Mendes.  He is currently fighting under the Ring of Combat banner, and that is a great place for him.  I would expect him to get a couple more fights and then be UFC bound.  However, I would not be totally shocked for him to get a UFC call sooner rather than later.  I think he can be ready.  Keep an eye on Gillespie, because if he keeps progressing he can be an elite mixed martial artists and be a top-5 top fighter in the lightweight division.

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MMA Sun 2015 Prospect Spotlight – The Lightweights – #2 – Maxim Divnich

The number 2 lightweight prospect is M-1 champion, Maxim Divnich.  Maxim has a perfect 10-0 career record.  Among our lightweight MaximDivnichprospect, Maxim may be the most UFC-ready fighter.  Divnich is a Ukrainian fighter who trains out of the very solid Alexander Nevsky gym in St. Petersburg, Russia. Divnich is just 26-years old, so he has yet to enter his fighting prime.

Divnich has very good striking.  Specifically, his kicks are very effective.  he kicks like a mule.  He targets the body and legs often and has the ability to go high with a kick as well.  His punches also are very effective.  He has very hard body punches that he likes to use.  Also, Maxim carries power late into rounds.  He had a quick and spectacular body kick finish over Max Coga this past year.  He seems to be gaining confidence in his striking ability.  He is not the most quick lightweight you will see, but his power certainly makes up for that to some degree.  His chin has been tested as well and it has withstood every test thus far.  His striking can be tenacious at times.   This is his strength as a fighter.

I do have some concern about his grappling ability.  In one of his wins, he spent a good bit of time with his opponent attached to his back.  I would like to see him value positioning a little more in grappling exchanges.  His submission defense has obviously held up well, but I imagine that could be tested against better submission stylists.  Maxim needs to improve his takedown defense and be a little more stubborn about positioning.  He did show recently that he has some submissions in his arsenal, having finished his opponent by way of a heel hook.  Just having that as a threat will make his stand-up even better because guys might become a bit more reluctant to take him down.

I think Maxim could do very well in the big leagues.  A few more tests and he should be ready.  I am not sure of his contract situation with M-1, but I would imagine when that contract is completed, he would have discussions with the UFC about moving there.  Until that time, Divnich is one to keep your eye on, but I do not see that many challenges for him in Europe at lightweight.

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