16 in ’16: The Bantamweights

The bantamweight division is one of the more exciting divisions in the sport. I have also found that it is also one of the most talent rich. The division is full of young, up and coming prospects.  I believe that this group of 16 bantamweight prospects is a very high level group.  Most of these fighters are not far away from achieving their dream of being in the UFC.  I also believe that some on this list will be future title contenders or maybe even world champions.

  1. Tom Duquesnoy – 13-1 – 23 years old – FranceTom-Duquesnoy

Duquesnoy is far and away the top bantamweight prospect in the world.  Duquesnoy recent made the drop from featherweight. where he would have been the top prospect as well.  The “Fire Kid” holds a 13-1 career record.  He is currently the BAMMA bantamweight champion as well.   Duquesnoy’s lone loss came back in 2013 at the hands of current UFC fighter Makwan Amikhani.  The French fighter is only 23-years old, so he certainly has age on his side.  Duquesnoy has picked up some nice wins over the likes of Brendan Loughnane, Shay Walsh and Teddy Violet.  I had heard rumblings that Duquesnoy was offered a UFC deal not too long ago, but elected to stay in BAMMA because he felt he was not quite ready.  He has good takedown defense and he is often able to dictate where a fight takes place.  His wrestling is not dynamic, but he can hold his own against most fighters.  His top game is strong and he seems to have good positioning.  He does a good job of throwing hard counters and he is very effective when moving forward and being the aggressor.  Most of his fights in the past have been at featherweight, and now that he is down a weight class, I expect the size and strength advantage to be a big factor for Tom.

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So Close: Fighters Who Were Close To UFC Titles…

Most fighters never get  close to a UFC title.  However, some fighters came so close in their career of achieving their goal of a UFC belt.  These fighters were close, but never quite got there.  They were on the cusp of achieving their dreams, but for one reason or another fell just short.

Vitor Belfort had a good armbar on Jon Jones. Carlos Newton nearly defeated Matt Hughes. Johny Hendricks lost a bad decision to Georges St. Pierre.  There are other champions that had moments where they almost won a title at a different moment. However, these are the guys who never became UFC champion that were very close in certain moments.

Gray Maynard – The event was UFC 125.  The opponent: Frankie Edgar.  Maynard owned a Gray_Maynard_vs_Frankie_Edgar_UFC_125win over the reigning champion.  The re-match was expected to be Maynard’s chance to win the title.  Maynard was undefeated coming into UFC 125.  The fight started and Maynard absolutely dominated Edgar.  Round 1 was as close to a 10-7 round as there could be.  There were points in time when the fight could have been stopped and it would not have been a bad stoppage.  All three judges scorecards ruled round 1 a 10-8 round in favor of Maynard.  Had 1 judge given it a 10-7, Maynard would have been the champion.  After the first round, Edgar really came back in what may be the best comeback in the sport.  Edgar was on the brink of knockout and came back to grind his way to a split draw.  At UFC 136 the same thing happened.  Maynard had Edgar out on his feet.  He withstood the barrage and ended up finishing Gray Maynard in the fourth round.

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16 in ’16: The Flyweights

We are introducing a new series highlighting the top MMA prospects.  We will feature the 16 top prospects in each division.

The flyweight division is relatively new, but the talent is really starting to emerge. A good crop of prospects was just taken from this pool in order to compete on the 24th season of the Ultimate Fighter. I do expect most of the names on this list to eventually find their way into the UFC.

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Who Will Be The Next RFA Fighters to Sign With UFC?

The Resurrection Fighting Alliance has sent over 40 fighters to the UFC.  They have solidified themselves as UFC’s number one feeder organization.  Not only that, but the promotion prides itself on that.  I imagine that makes for a very difficult business model.  They have a quick turnover of their best fighters.  However, it seems that RFA is a place where good prospects want to fight.

We take a look at 15 fighters who could be inching closer to signing with the UFC.  If history tells us anything, it tells us that most of these fighters will end up in the UFC…its just a matter of when.

  1. Thiago Moises – 8-1 – 21 years old – Lightweight

Moises is a solid prospect. Currently he stands as our 9th ranked lightweight prospect.  The American Top Team trained fighter, was featured on the most recent episode of “Dana White Lookin’ for a Fight”. He won in impressive fashion and many thought he would be signed right there to a UFC deal. I still feel like his next fight could be in the UFC.

2. Alexandre Pantoja – Flyweight

The RFA flyweight champion has an impressive resume. My guess is that he is on the currently filming cast of the Ultimate Fighter 24 which features flyweights vying for a UFC title shot.

3. Leandro Higo – 17-2 – 27 years old – Bantamweight

Our 7th ranked bantamweight prospect, Higo is super talented. He is the current RFA bantamweight champion. In the past, Higo competed at flyweight, but I believe that weight cut was too much for him. Also, previously a competitor on the Ultimate Fighter Brazil, Higo did not do as well as expected. I still believe Higo has a chance to be an elite fighter. I also think that UFC could come calling soon.

4. Raoni Barcelos -10-1 – 31 years old – Featherweight

Barcelos is our 7th ranked featherweight prospect.  I am honestly shocked he is still not in the UFC. My guess is that it will not take any more than one win to get him there. Barcelos is super talented and has flown somewhat under the radar. I think he is a name to watch even in the UFC featherweight division.

5. Boston Salmon – 5-0 – 25 years old – Bantamweight

I had heard talks of Salmon being on Sean Shelby’s radar a while back. Nothing has happened to change that. Boston is MMA Sun’s 4th ranked bantamweight prospect right now.  Salmon needs to fight. He has been on the sidelines for a while now. I think Salmon would fit in really nicely inside UFC’s talent rich bantamweight division. If he is not a top ten fighter in the world, I would be surprised.

6. Logan Storley – 4-0 – 23 years old – Welterweight

Storley may be the prize of the RFA roster. A four time All-American wrestler at Minnesota University, Storley has the pedigree to be great. He is also undefeated in MMA. He needs a few more wins, but I can’t imagine it would take long for him to draw serious interest.

7. Jordan Johnson – 5-0 – 27 years old – Light Heavyweight

Johnson may be one of the next light heavyweights the UFC signs.  He has a big win over Shaun Asher in his last outing.  The MMA Lab fighter, will need another win or two, but UFC needs light heavyweight so that may speed up his signing.

8. Ray Elizadale – 10-0 – Flyweight

Elizadale will be put to the test in his next fight, but he does have a nice record.  The only problem is that UFC does not sign many flyweights.  However, he could be a target as a late replacement in the future.

9. Trevin Giles – 6-0 – 23 years old – Middleweight

Giles is a nice, young middleweight prospect.  He is set to fight Josh Clark at the end of this month, and I think a win there could get him the call.

10. Rafael Viana – 6-1 – 31 years old – Light Heavyweight

Viana was featured on a Dana White Lookin’ For A Fight Episode that resulted in him losing to Devin Clark and Clark getting signed by UFC.  However, Viana had a nice showing despite the loss.  He is not the prospect that some other light heavyweights are, but light heavyweights are not common.

11. Dan Moret – 10-2 – 29 years old – Featherweight

I am not sure what long term success Moret will have, but the eye test tells me that he is better than a regional fighter.  I think he is a guy that could get signed as a late replacement, but could also do quite well given the right opponents.

12. Hugo Prada – 7-0 – Lightweight

Prada just signed with RFA and could be the sleeper of the group.  He is a Colombian fighter who missed out on two different seasons of TUF Latin America.  It is widely believed that he would have been the favorite to win those seasons.  He could be the first Colombian fighter to be signed outright by UFC.

13. Chase Waldon – 9-1 – 29 years old – Middleweight

Waldon is a guy to watch as well.  It will be interesting to see how he is matched in RFA.  If he can work his way to a RFA title, then that certainly helps his chances.  Waldon fights this weekend against Austin Heidlage.  A win there gives him some momentum.

14. Czar Sklavos – 12-4 – 34 years old – Flyweight

I like Sklavos a lot as a fighter.  However, two things go against him.  1. He is not young.  2. He is a flyweight.  I could see a scenario where he gets a win in his upcoming fight and gets to fight in the UFC in Utah.

15. Brian Camozzi – 6-2- 25 years old – Welterweight

The brother of UFC fighter, Christ Camozzi has put together a nice string of wins that help his case.  I do not regard him as an elite prospect, but he could do enough to find his way into the UFC.  He is also still young, which helps him.

 

TUF 24 Partial Cast

The Ultimate Fighter 24 is a unique set up.  It will be cast composed of all flyweights, with the winner being promised a title shot against champion, Demetrious Johnson.  The UFC reportedly sought out the champions of other organizations to fight on the show.

Not long ago, UFC developed a list of potential cast members and flew some of those fighters out to Las Vegas.  With about 35 people on this list, Sean Shelby and staff had the difficult job of getting that number down to 16.

Some potential cast members were not able to go because their promotion would not give them a release, however, the cast still boasts some great names.

Here are the names I know are on:

  1. Tim Elliott – 13-6-1 – Elliott is the clear favorite to win the show.  He fought high level guys in his time in the UFC.  The current TitanFC champion will be a tough opponent for anyone.
  2. Damacio Page – 19-10 – The WEC and UFC veteran has a ton of experience  I don’t know if he can win the show, but he will be fun to watch.  The LegacyFC champion usually brings exciting fights.
  3. Louis Gaudinot – 8-4- Gaudinot is also a UFC veteran, who had good moments in his time there, but also had times where he did not look great.  He has a win over bantamweight contender John Lineker, but also a loss to Tim Elliott.  Gaudinot enters as the CFFC champion.
  4. Nkazimulo Zulu –  8-2- Zulu is the champion of EFC in South Africa.  I would not see him as a real contender mainly because he has not fought that high of level.
  5. Alexandre Pantoja -16-2 – The RFA champ comes on with a win over Damacio Page in his most recent outing.  He is always a dangerous submission threat and is really tough.  I would not be surprised to see him in the finals.
  6. Matt Lozano – 7-3 – Lozano has experience in both WSOF and Bellator, but would be a betting long shot to win.
  7. Matt Schnell – 10-2 – The Interim Legacy Flyweight champion with some reality TV show experience can be a real dark horse.  He has continued to improve in his career.  I wouldn’t pick him to win, but if given the right match ups he could surprise some people
  8. Iuri Bejenari – 4-1 – The Shock n’ Awe champion hails from France.  He is probably going to be the oldest (34) and least experienced cast member.  I think he was aided in selection by being a IMMAF champion in 2015, and UFC’s partnership with IMMAF may have helped him.
  9. Adam Antolin – 11-3 – The Tachi champion is decent, but he is not a long term prospect.  Ar 34, I don’t expect a whole lot.

 

Guys that I cannot confirm, but think they may be on…

  1. Kairat Akhemtov – 22-0 – He is the One champion.  I heard from reliable people he was on the short list, but have a hard time seeing One letting their champion go.
  2. Brandon Moreno – WFF
  3. Bruno Menezes – JungeFC
  4. Hiromasa Ogikubo – Shooto
  5. Yuki Motoya – DEEP
  6. Hector Alex Sandoval – Global KO
  7. Jinel Lausa – PXC

Name I have heard, but am leaning towards not being in…

  1. Austin Ryan
  2. Hector Alex Sandoval
  3. Jarred Brooks
  4. Josh Rave
  5. Terrance Mitchell
  6. Yoni Sherbatov
  7. Min Jong Song

The Top 100 TUF Veterans

 

The Ultimate Fighter has proven to bring in lots of talent to the UFC.  We take a look at the top 100 fighters to come off the Ultimate Fighter reality series.

  1. Rashad Evans
  2. Forrest Griffin
  3. T.J. Dillashaw
  4. Matt Serra
  5. Nate Diaz
  6. Michael Bisping
  7. Kenny Florian
  8. Josh Koscheck
  9. Diego Sanchez
  10. Gray Maynard
  11. Joe Stevenson
  12. Roy Nelson
  13. John Dodson
  14. Patrick Cote
  15. Matt Brown
  16. Ryan Bader
  17. Tony Ferguson
  18. Joe Lauzon
  19. Chris Leben
  20. Keith Jardine
  21. Chris Lytle
  22. Matt Hamill
  23. Al Iaquinta
  24. Michael Chiesa
  25. Neil Magny
  26. Carla Esparza
  27. Stephan Bonnar
  28. George Sotiropolous
  29. Robert Whittaker
  30. Uriah Hall
  31. Brad Tavares
  32. C.B. Dolloway
  33. Ed Herman
  34. Matt Mitrione
  35. Mike Swick
  36. Kelvin Gastelum
  37. Michael Johnson
  38. Melvin Guillard
  39. Dennis Bermudez
  40. Yair Rodrigiuez
  41. Corey Anderson
  42. Marcus Davis
  43. Francisco Trinaldo
  44. Ross Pearson
  45. Mac Danzig
  46. Brendan Schaub
  47. Myles Jury
  48. Tom Lawlor
  49. Court McGee
  50. Kendall Grove
  51. Matt Wiman
  52. Rony Jason
  53. Jessica Penne
  54. Ben Saunders
  55. Thiago Santos
  56. Rose Namajunas
  57. Sergio Moraes
  58. Cole Miller
  59. Warlley Alves
  60. Jake Matthews
  61. Josh Samman
  62. Julianna Pena
  63. Manny Gamburyan
  64. Norman Parke
  65. Efrain Escudero
  66. Diego Brandao
  67. Elias Theodorou
  68. Kyle Noke
  69. Raquel Pennington
  70. Leonardo Santos
  71. Bryan Caraway
  72. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
  73. Vinny Magalhaes
  74. Chad Laprise
  75. Brad Scott
  76. Chris Beal
  77. Kamaru Usman
  78. Frdy Serrano
  79. Steven Siler
  80. Alex Caceres
  81. James Vick
  82. Godofredo Pepey
  83. Tecia Torres
  84. Viscardi Andrade
  85. Daron Cruickshank
  86. Santiago Ponzinibbio
  87. Ramsey Nijem
  88. Chris Camozzi
  89. Daniel Sarafian
  90. Sam Alvey
  91. Kevin Casey
  92. Cezar Mutante
  93. Clint Hester
  94. Yan Cabral
  95. Nordine Taleb
  96. Daniel Kelly
  97. Luke Barnatt
  98. Antonio Carlos Junior
  99. Marlon Vera
  100. Vitor Miranda

The Ultimate Fighter 23 Cast

I can’t say that this is the official cast, but if you are looking for who made the cast of 32 fighters vying for a chance to get into the Ultimate Fighter house for season 23, this is a good place to look.

The cast is made up of 16 light heavyweights and 16 female strawweight fighters. The show is set to air on Fox Sports 1 in April.

Women’s Strawweight:
• Jodie Esquibel (5-1)
• Ashley Cummins (3-3)
• Ashley Yoder (4-1)
• JJ Aldrich (2-1)
• Amanda Bobby Cooper (1-1)
• Tatiana Suarez (1-0)
• Kristi Lopez (2-0)
• Jamie Moyle (3-1)
• Amy Montengro (7-2)
• Helen Harper (4-1)
• Kate Jackson (7-2-1)
• Mellony Geujes (0-1)
• Lanchana Green (0-1)
• Alyssa Khran (3-1)
• Chelsea Bailey (2-0)
• Irene Cabello (6-2)

Light Heavyweight:
• Phil Hawes (3-0)
• Andrew Sanchez (7-2)
• Khalil Rountree (4-0)
• Elias Urbina (3-0)
• Abdel Medjedoub (3-0)
• Marcel Fortuna (8-1)
• Jamelle Jones (6-2)
• Cory Henrdicks (3-0)
• Norman Paraisy (15-4-2)
• Myron Dennis (11-4)
• Eric Spicely (8-0)
• Mo De’Reese (5-0)
• John Paul Elias (3-0)
• Trevor Carlson (10-2)
• Josh Stansbury (7-2)
• Ken Bergh (2-0)

The cast is made up of some familiar names. TUF fans may be familiar with the names Josh Stansbury (season 19) and Norman Paraisy (season 11) as both get a second chance on the reality show. Also, UFC fans may notice the brother of current UFC fighter Hector Urbina (Elias) on the cast. Previously, the brother’s of UFC fighters have nor faired well on TUF as 5 UFC siblings had chances on TUF and only 1 even made the house (Browning, Evans, Guida, Miller & Diaz). Also of note, CES middleweight champion Eric Spicely and RFA Middleweight champion Andrew Sanchez. Also pay attention to Anderson Silva’s training partner Khalil Rountree and super prospect Phil Hawes.

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