Worldwide MMA Prospect Report (6/17-6/23)

First time reading the column? You can catch a quick explanation of the ranking system here.

This was not the busiest week of fights, but as always there’s plenty of talent from around the world to catch up on. This week was particularly good for welterweights for whatever reason, as a lot of very talented 170-pounders threw down at shows across the world. 

PFL put on another successful show full of veteran talent, UAE Warriors and AMC Fight Nights both had cards stuffed with prospects this week, and Jorge Masvidal’s Gamebred Fighting Championship finally made bare-knuckle MMA a reality in the USA. 

A new Kazakhstani promotion, Mergen Fighting, also had their first show this week and accumulated a lot more talented fighters in more competitive fights than you usually see in Central Asia. There is so much talent in the area due to those countries’ strong cultures of wrestling and fighting, so a better chance for local fighters to showcase their talents is always welcome. 

Schlemenko FC, run by Russian MMA legend Alexander “Storm” Schlemenko, also had its first card, which was studded with talented fighters from his highly-regarded school. This week’s honorable mentions for UFC veterans: Ali AlQaisi and Ray Borg, who fought at UAE Warriors 20, Jason Knight and Brok Weaver, who fought at the first Gamebred FC, and Bojan Velickovic, who got a win at OKTAGON 25.

Heavyweights

Mohamed John Djemadoka: Improves to 7-1

Old ranking: 2, #87 prospect

New ranking: 2, #81 prospect

Djemadoka continues to build up his record by fighting the very weak selection of heavyweights that are available in the Africa/Middle East regions. This week, it was a first-round knockout in less than 3 minutes against a 4-3 heavyweight in a Arabic-only UAE Warriors event. He’s got a great record for a heavyweight, as it’s so easy to get caught at 265 pounds, but at some point he’s got to start fighting better opponents.

Alexander Podmarev: Improves to 11-4

Old ranking: 2, #86 prospect

New ranking: 2, #83 prospect

Podmarev was another heavyweight prospect fighting an inferior opponent this week. He got matched against an overweight 4-2 fighter who was coming off of three years of inactivity, and while the scoreline shows a first round TKO it was not at all impressive. His opponent staggered away clutching his eye after a striking exchange, and while I assumed it must have been an eye poke, they gave the fight to Podmarev and called it a DQ by injury. I don’t speak Russian, so maybe they were saying that it was a punch that caused the damage and not a stray finger. Either way, Podmarev remains big and strong but didn’t show me anything new this week, just three weeks after his last victory. If he can stay active and start positioning himself for bigger fights, we could figure out his true talent level very soon.

Kamil Minda: Falls to 7-2

Old ranking: 3, #72 prospect

New ranking: 2.5, #78 prospect

Just six weeks after scoring a decision over a 5-2 opponent for the best win of his career, Minda returned to OKTAGON to bravely take on rising star Martin Buday. Minda is a hulking Polish beast, and there’s a lot to like about his blend of striking and grappling, but he simply isn’t on the same level as Buday athletically and it showed in this fight. He got caught and knocked out in the second round, but he didn’t drop much in the rankings due to his opponent’s skill.

Martin Buday: Improves to 8-1

Old ranking: 6, #37 prospect

New ranking: 8.5, #6 prospect

Buday had already earned a spot on “Dana White’s Contender Series” in October before he took this fight, but he understandably wanted a refresher after not fighting since 2019. He certainly didn’t get a warm-up caliber opponent, as he was matched with fellow 7-1 prospect Kamil Minda, who was in tier three. He looked better in all aspects of fighting and claimed one of the top prospect spots with this performance, though his upcoming “Contender Series” matchup with Hugo Cunha will be a very difficult one.

Light Heavyweights

Hasan Yousefi: Improves to 7-4-1

Old ranking: .5, #122 prospect

New ranking: 6.5, #24 prospect

After sneaking onto the rankings with a win at heavyweight over a 9-3 opponent towards the end of 2019, Yousefi made an unlikely re-emergence as a challenger for the AMC Light Heavyweight Championship. He knocked out super-prospect Armen Petrosyan just one minute into the first round, showing off his crazy power for this weight class. He got a big boost in the rankings just for beating such a highly touted opponent, but he has a lot more to prove before he can be considered an established talent given how quick his win was and the struggles he had at the start of his career.

Diyar Nurgozhay: Improves to 6-0

Old ranking: 1, #101 prospect

New ranking: 1, #91 prospect

Nurgoshay picked up an easy win against a chunky 35-year-old Brazilian Sergio Souza who was dangerous early in his career but was obviously just there for the cheque this week. Nurgozhay threw him to the ground at first contact and quickly pummelled into side control. From there, he consistently dropped powerful left hands until he felt his opponent begin to fade and then unleashed a brutal flurry with both hands to finish the fight. Nurgozhay continues to look like a strong young light heavyweight, with six straight first-round finishes, but beating up weak competition like this won’t change his rating much.

Armen Petrosyan: Falls to 4-1

Old ranking: 20, #74 overall

New ranking: 5.5, #28 prospect

In one of the most shocking results of the year, Armen Petrosyan lost his second AMC title defense to a relatively unknown 6-4 Iranian. Many had talked about Petrosyan as one of the next great young talents of worldwide MMA after he won a title with such a reputable promotion to start his career with a series of awesome finishes. The assumption was that the only way he’d lose the title was when the UFC inevitably signed him, but after such an unexpected loss he has to be re-evaluated as a prospect. Maybe this is just a sign that he doesn’t have the world’s greatest chin, because anyone at 205-pounds can get lucky and land a big shot sometimes. If he can rebound with good wins in the near future, he could shoot back up the rankings, but I’m going to have to be much more cautious about my ranking of him going forward.

Marthin Hamlet Nielsen: Falls to 7-2

Old ranking: 25, #70 overall

New ranking: 20, #77 overall

After making waves by dominating Dan Spohn for 6 minutes before getting an arm triangle for the finish, Nielsen had a major flaw exposed this week. He dominated Cory Hendricks for two rounds, looking like the same mountain of muscle that Spohn couldn’t move, but in the third he just totally gassed and looked like he was struggling just to stay standing unassisted. It was bad enough that Hendricks could easily bundle him around despite being exhausted himself, and eventually Nielsen got caught in a choke that he barely even had the strength to try to defend. He’s still a young fighter, but I have to wonder if all the bulky muscle he carries will make it difficult to ever get his cardio to an elite level. Maybe he’s a name to watch for a switch to heavyweight, in a similar path to Ilir Latifi? He clearly has an exceptional wrestling background, he just needs to do whatever it takes to get himself prepared to implement his plan for 15 full minutes.

Cory Hendricks: Improves to 8-3

Old ranking: 35, #64 overall

New ranking: 40, #60 overall

After losing in the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 23, Hendricks jumped to Russia and joined ACB, where he beat good competition but lost to their elite. He made his return to the US with his PFL debut this week against Marthin Hamlet Nielsen, who proceeded to smother Hendricks for 10+ minutes with wrestling. However, Nielsen gassed first and Hendricks had enough left in the tank to take some control in the 3rd round and work his way to a rear naked choke with less than a minute left in the fight. He’s still pretty early in his career, and while being 33 already isn’t the obstacle it would be in the lighter weight classes, he doesn’t have much more time left to develop.

Middleweights

Mohamad Osseili: Improves to 4-0

Old ranking: .5, #193 prospect

New ranking: .5, #179 prospect

Osseili made his pro debut in November 2020 and has been racking up the wins since, including three for UAE Warriors this year. The organization seems to recognize that they have something in the 23-year-old Lebanese fighter, as they put him in the main event of their third Arabian-only card. He fought a former light heavyweight who was making his return after three years off and really only had one round of stamina. Osseili fought well to control the size of his opponent, but this was not the caliber of opponent that he needs to test just how good he is.

David Barkhudaryan: Improves to 9-2

Old ranking: 1, #139 prospect

New ranking: 6, #36 prospect

12 of Barkhudaryan’s first opponent’s were poor fighters, and he suffered losses against both of the good ones he fought. I thought he was destined for a career as a low-level can crusher, but his first round TKOs in his last two fights for AMC have impressed me a ton. His first was against 15-4 Brazilian Márcio Santos, but I dismissed it as a fluke after the relatively inconsistent start to his career. However, beating Vyacheslav Vasilevskiy this week, again in the first round, is a very impressive marker to lay down against a rock-solid Russian 185-pounder who was my #26 middleweight prospect. He’s jumped way up the rankings as a result, and he’s looked good doing it. 

Mikhail Allakhverdian: Improves to 9-2

Old ranking: 2.5, #84 prospect

New ranking: 3, #79 prospect

After leaving ACA Young Eagles seven months ago, Allakhverdian made his AMC global debut this week with a surprising competitive decision over a can-crusher. He actually spent a good portion of the first round fighting to avoid a rear naked choke, and his opponent generally controlled the round and inflicted more damage. However, Allakhverdian got lucky that his opponent seemed to blow all his gas in the first round and spent the rest of the fight launching sloppy clinch and takedown attempts that Mikhail would stuff and use to inflict some punishment. A clear 29-28 that can hardly be classed as his best performance ever, but it’s another solid win for a rising 185-pound talent.

Joel Bauman: Improves to 5-1

Old ranking: 4, #66 prospect

New ranking: 4, #60 prospect

Bauman went 5-0 as an amateur, then 3-0 to open his pro career before getting submitted in the first round of his Bellator debut. He then missed almost two years due to a combination of injuries and COVID-19 shutdowns before returning in 2021 with a good decision for LFA and a 3rd-round TKO for Gamebred FC this week against a relative unknown. This was more one to pad the record, but Bauman is a tall and muscular middleweight who likely cuts a lot of weight and has clear Muay Thai stylings to his striking. He’s a threat to do damage to anyone he faces but he’ll need to prove that his ground game isn’t too significant by beating a grappler before I get too high on him. 

Vyacheslav Vasilevskiy: Falls to 35-9

Old ranking: 7, #26 prospect

New ranking: 5, #44 prospect

Vasilevskiy, who I’ll call “Double V” to save my brain, is a 33-year-old Russian who has fought for ACA, M-1, and even had a couple fights with Bellator in 2012. He’s picked up two good wins for RCC and AMC in the past year, but this week he got knocked out by David Barkhudaryan in the first round. Barkhuddaryan looks like a very talented fighter, so this loss is just another indicator that “Double V” is a good fighter for the Russian scene but not quite excellent enough to succeed in ACA or a top overseas promotion

Welterweights

Makhmud Gaziev: Falls to 8-2

Old ranking: 1, #223 prospect

New ranking: .5, #263 prospect

After wrestling himself to a win and a spot in my rankings in his first fight for AMC, Gaziev got punched out by fellow young Russian welterweight Maxim Butorin towards the end of the second round. He’s 25 and has obvious grappling skills, so there is definitely still potential to be unlocked here, but he’ll have to prove that his striking is up to the same standard if he wants to have any sustained success.

Mikhail Doroshenko: Improves to 8-1-1

Old ranking: 2, #165 prospect

New ranking: 2, #165 prospect

Doroshenko got a free win against totally unknown Uzbekistani fighter Babodjon Tagaev, who didn’t look all too ready for his pro debut. Doroschenko ran through him for a two-and-a-half minute TKO and added another finish to his collection. The most notable thing about this fight was that he fought at 179-pounds after most recently being 170 and even fighting at 155 earlier in his career. This may be the product of a short notice fight without enough time for a proper weight cut, or it could be an indicator that he’s been continuing to pack on extra muscle and may look to keep climbing weight classes.

Maxim Butorin: Improves to 20-3-1

Old ranking: 2, #151 prospect

New ranking: 4, #96 prospect

Somehow still only 26, Butorin has now had almost as many pro fights as years he’s been alive. He’s now on a three-fight win streak for AMC, and his bump in the ratings this week reflects the respect that I have for the overall record he’s accomplished. I had reservations about him stepping up to a higher level of competition after two of his three career losses came in 2019 to 2020 against the tougher fighters of AMC, but he’s rebounded well since then, including a second-round TKO of a tier one prospect this week to show that he can handle other young talents.

Nikola Joksović: Improves to 7-0

Old ranking: 2.5, #142 prospect

New ranking: 2.5, #138 prospect

Joksovic has beaten some solid opponents so far in his young career, but 7-4 Marko Vardjan who he KOed at Megdan Fighting 9 this past week is not one of the better ones. It was the main event of the night, but I suspect that had much more to do with the local support and hype around Joksovic than any hope for a competitive fight. He’s probably accomplished about all he’s going to do on the Serbian regional scene, so now it’s just a matter of time until a larger organization takes a shot on his undefeated record.

Al Matavao: Falls to 8-5

Old ranking: 3.5, #70 MW prospect

New ranking: 2, #170 WW prospect

Matavao continues to drop down weight classes but still can’t manage to find a win. At only five-foot-eight, he was clearly way undersized when he took on Tafon Nchukwi in his November 2020 “Contender Series” fight, and Nchukwi has since dropped to 185 himself. After getting KOed in front of Dana White, Matavao fought for LFA at 185 in March and ran into the buzzsaw that is Gregory Rodrigues, who handed him another highlight-reel loss. This week, he went to the Czech Republic to take on tier four prospect Samuel Krištofič, who beat him in a decision and was still four inches taller than Matavao. Things aren’t looking great for “Sweetness,” but I have to admit that he’s had some very tough competition, so I’m not ready to give up on him fully yet. 

Alexey Shurkevich: Improves to 11-4

Old ranking: 3.5, #122 prospect

New ranking: 4, #103 prospect

Shurkevich extends his winning streak to four at SFC’s first show, but his opponent this week was an athletic but raw 1-0 Cameroonian who was a clear step down from the Russian/Central Asian fighters he’d previously taken out. He did what he was expected to do with a three-minute knockout, but this was likely a case of Schlemenko setting up a likely win for a favored pupil to help recover from some of his difficult early-career losses. 

Samuel Krištofič: Improves to 14-3

Old ranking: 4, #99 prospect

New ranking: 6.5, #48 prospect

Krištofič is Slovakian but has been fighting for Czech promotion OKTAGON for almost all of his career. He’s never been finished, but he’s lost three decisions to some of his best opponents, which concerns me about his ability to step up to the highest levels of MMA. He did manage to beat “Contender Series” veteran Al Matavao this week, which is one of the better names on his very impressive record. He’s able to get finishes both with his hands and by choke, and he’s got the wrestling and positional ability to win a decision if need be.

Ryuichiro Sumimura: Improves to 17-8

Old ranking: 6, #51 prospect

New ranking: 6.5, #49 prospect

Sumimura is a 35 year-old Japanese veteran who has spent the majority of his career with DEEP, where he won another two-round decision in this week’s main event. He’s also gone 1-1 with RIZIN and got knocked out in the first round of his one fight with Bellator in 2019. His opponent this week was unranked but decent, so adding another win to his quality record is not a big needle-mover. 

Amiran Gogoladze: Falls to 11-2

Old ranking: 8, #14 prospect

New ranking: 6.5, #45 prospect

After earning his nickname “The Sniper” with a series of precise and devastating knockouts early in the first round, Gogoladze got handed by far the toughest test of his career in his UAE Warriors debut. He showcased some of the good striking, both with kicks and punches, that got him this opportunity but ultimately spent most of the fight on his back trying to get Handesson Ferreira off of him. He took some dangerous ground and pound and didn’t seem too damaged, but he also never looked like a threat for any sort of submission victory from his back. He gave a couple good scramble attempts, and his takedown defense was certainly not bad, but it just wasn’t at the level needed to fend off the two-year PFL veteran. There’s still a ton of potential here, and we could see him back on the highlight reel as soon as his next fight if the promotion decides to give him a slightly less experienced opponent.

Andre Fialho: Improves to 12-3

Old ranking: 10, #194 overall

New ranking: 15, #164 overall

After sending James Vick into retirement/the Shadow Realm with a devastating uppercut KO in January, Fialho committed another crime at UAE Warriors 20 this weekend. It took just 18 seconds for him to send “Contender Series” alumnus Sang Hoon Yoo crashing to the floor with a crunching straight before following up with a couple unneeded hammerfists. He went 0-2 for PFL in 2019, and lost a main event appearance for LFA against UFC vet Antônio dos Santos Jr., so I have to be concerned about Fialho’s ability to take on other elite-level fighters. He’s only 26 though, so maybe he’s learned from his past setbacks and is ready to make another push towards the big promotions. 

Daniel Skibiński: Improves to 16-3-1

Old ranking: 15, #158 overall

New ranking: 25, #133 overall

Skibiński is a UFC-ready welterweight who was the longtime champion of Babilon MMA in Poland before spreading his wings in 2021 to score a two-minute knockout in the co-main event of the first-ever European Fight Masters show and another beautiful KO and UAE Warriors this Saturday. He fought another one of the top welterweights in Europe in Acoidan Duque, who I also had in tier 15, and he was clearly superior in all areas. The number of strikes landed wasn’t that different, but the difference in impact when “Skiba” landed was significant. The first two rounds also featured a significant amount of wrestling and grappling, where he looked comfortable and very explosive. He is very patient in waiting for his opportunity to switch positions, and when he sees one he commits 100%. The finish started with a crippling body shot

that allowed Skiba to push Duque to his knees and drop devastating hammerfists that crumpled him unconscious to the canvas. The only appropriate challenge for Skiba at this point is to join a major organization and start testing himself against the best in the world.

Acoidan Duque: Falls to 16-3

Old ranking: 20, #153 overall

New ranking: 10, #179 overall

Duque is one of the better fighters coming out of Spain, and after a decade on the regional scene he finally got his big shot with a decision win for the Bellator Euro Series in October 2020. Unluckily for him, Bellator pulled the plug on their Euro division earlier this year and left him adrift once again. UAE Warriors picked him up and gave him Daniel Skibiński as his first matchup for a clash of top European prospects. Duque is primarily a jiu-jitsu guy and usually wins by submission or is content grinding out a defensively-sound opponent, but he wasn’t able to maintain top control in this one due to Skiba’s strength and creative scrambling. His striking is very solid, but it’s definitely not particularly innovative or diverse, and it ended up costing him this fight since he just didn’t have the answers on either offense or defense while standing. He’s still a high-quality fighter, but he’s now 34 and probably doesn’t have enough time to elevate his striking to the level he needs to be a world star.

Handesson Ferreira: Improves to 16-3-1

Old ranking: 25, #130 overall

New ranking: 25, #130 overall

Ferreira is a ripped Brazilian who is right at his peak at 33-years-old. He fought for PFL during their 2018 and 2019, going 3-2 overall with the promotion and being involved in some exciting fights, win or lose. For whatever unknown reason, he wasn’t brought back to the promotion this season, so he’s gone back to smaller organizations. He picked up a 30-second KO as the main event of a small Brazilian show in January, then joined UAE Warriors to take on red-hot 11-1 Georgian prospect Amiran Gogoladze. You could tell Ferreira was the stronger of the two just by looking at his physique, and he used that strength combined with clever angles to get lots of takedowns, sometimes straight into side control.

He was active with his top pressure and good at sneaking in one stinging blow before regaining control of the position. His striking didn’t look bad, but he clearly knew where he had the advantage in the fight and didn’t stray from the game plan. If I were a higher-up for Bellator, UFC, or ACA, I’d be on the phone with his agent right now to bring him in as a talented all-around veteran.

Lightweights

Ramin Sultanov: Improves to 6-0

Old ranking: .5, #380 prospect

New ranking: 1, #276 prospect

Sultanov made the rankings after five wins against other competent youngsters on the Caucasain regional circuit, and this week I got to watch his debut for AMC Fight Nights against a 3-1-1 opponent. He has the ultra-muscular back and upper body of a wrestler, but tried to keep the fight on the feet as much as possible and ended up forcing his opponent into some desperate takedown attempts. He delivered a few hard strikes and bloodied his opponent’s face a bit, but he was also controlled against the fence for at least a minute each round and never looked close to getting a finish. This was a good fight for Sultanov, and hopefully he is able to take away some things to work on and make the necessary adjustments

Karol Ryšavý: Improves to 9-3

Old ranking: .5, #306 prospect

New ranking: .5, #288 prospect

Ryšavý was a hot prospect but then suffered two consecutive losses in his biggest fights for OKTAGON and has been trying to rebuild his record by beating weak opponents in his last two fights. This weekend’s opponent was even weaker than the last, with a 10-9 record and no notable wins, so Ryšavý doesn’t move much at all.

Arda Adas: Falls to 9-5

Old ranking: 1, #204 WW prospect

New ranking: .5, #382 LW prospect

Adas has now lost three out of four, but all three were against higher-rated prospects and his win was also against a 6-1 prospect. This week it was Ronald Paradeiser who beat him by decision and sent him towards the bottom of the absurdly long lightweight rankings. I still think he’s talented, but he has to start producing actual victories and not just moral ones.

Martun Mezhlumyan: Improves to 12-2

Old ranking: 2, #169 prospect

New ranking: 5, #85 prospect

Mezhlumyan emerged from the depths of the low-level Russian regional scene in 2020 by winning the 155-pound belt for Moldovan promotion Eagles Next Level then making his UAE Warriors debut against top-80 lightweight Islam Mamedov. While he lost that fight in the third round, he scored an impressive knockout in January 2021 and then used his size (he’s fought at a 161 pound catchweight several times) to dominate a higher-ranked wrestler who was coming up from featherweight. He’s shown talent both standing and on the mat, and he’s an impressively built athlete, so it’s due time for him to get a nice jolt up the rankings to recognize his skills.

Ronald Paradeiser: Improves to 12-7

Old ranking: 2, #168 prospect

New ranking: 3, #138 prospect

After losing his shot at the OKTAGON Lightweight Championship in January, Paradeiser took on a tier one prospect in the prelims this week as he looks to rebound. He got a decision win, which is enough to start boosting him slightly up the rankings. His record isn’t what you’d expect from a top prospect, but he went pro at 17 and suffered lots of early losses before he was fully developed physically. He’s still only 24, so we’ll have to see if he’s able to keep growing from here and get himself another title shot in the future.

Jora Ayvazyan: Improves to 11-1

Old ranking: 2.5, #163 prospect

New ranking: 4, #107 prospect

Ayvazyan spent most of his fight this week crushing his opponent’s head against the side of the cage and dropping short elbows from guard or side control. He was fighting a tier .5 prospect who was making the jump from Central Asia to the Russian scene, and he once again showed that he’s not afraid to dominate the fight with wrestling if you’ll allow him to. His record is starting to creep into the range where he should be getting fights against top opponents and/or in a bigger promotion sometime soon.

Nico Echeverry: Improves to 10-4

Old ranking: 3.5, #126 prospect

New ranking: 4.5, #100 prospect

After losing the Fury FC Lightweight Championship to a flash head kick by Le’Ville Simpson, Echeverry took a fight against surprisingly tough veteran Kenneth Glenn and won a solid decision. He definitely inflicted more damage, stunning Glenn once or twice on the feet, and he also controlled positions well throughout the fight. He doesn’t look like an exceptional talent, but he’s certainly very good in almost all aspects of MMA. He just doesn’t have that finishing flair because he’s a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none. 

Attila Korkmaz: Falls to 11-6

Old ranking: 6, #60 featherweight prospect

New ranking: 3, #146 LW prospect

Korkmaz impressed me a lot in his win for ACA in November 2020, and I had him ranked higher than his opponent going into this weekend’s fight at UAE Warriors 20. However, he moved up to lightweight after previously being an oversized featherweight who used his strength to great success and his opponent was a very technically sound Armenian wrestler who was more than happy to show him that even 10 pounds can be very significant when it comes to maintaining grappling control.

‘He spent most of the fight on the defensive and suffered a very clear defeat as his opponent managed to land some solid ground and pound shots intermittently. For the sake of his career, I hope Korkmaz drops back to 145 for his next fight.

Featherweights

Eduard Kazmiruk: Improves to 7-0

Old ranking: .5, #347 prospect

New ranking:.5, #326 prospect

Kazmiruz is only 20-years-old but he’s been fighting professionally for Ukranian promotion RFP since 2017. He picked up his seventh straight win by finish this week by finishing off an 0-1 opponent with strikes in the second round. Probably still a few more years to go until he’s ready to move onto a bigger stage, but what he’s shown so far is very promising for someone so young.

Kouya Kanda: Improves to 8-3

Old ranking: .5, #303 prospect

New ranking: 1.5, #164 prospect

Kanda has rebounded well from losing his only fight for RIZIN in August 2020 by winning three straight for DEEP, including this weekend’s main event against hyped prospect Naoki Hirata. He won with punches against weaker opposition but has mostly fallen back on his grappling base and settled for decisions against better competition. He’s 25 and still has plenty of time to grow, so let’s watch what’s next for him on the DEEP circuit.

Zhasulan Akimzhanov: Improves to 7-2

Old ranking: .5, #289 prospect

New ranking: 1, #186 prospect

Akimzhanov picked up his third straight win for EFC, and his first over a fellow prospect, with a beautiful liver kick that shut his opponent down 90 seconds into the first round. The way he dug his toes in at the end of the kick was cringe-inducing, and he knew immediately that the fight was over. Despite the impressive KO, I didn’t get the chance to see many other skills in this one, so I can only improve his ranking a little bit.

Joshua Weems: Improves to 9-1

Old ranking: 1, #221 prospect

New ranking: 1.5, #180 prospect

Just three weeks after joining the rankings with a nice submission, Weems took part in Gamebred FC’s inaugural bare-knuckle MMA event and won a wild back-and-forth decision over 4-2 youngster Isaac Ruelas.  They both dropped each other at various points in the fight, and this was a good chance for Weems to show that he has a solid chin and isn’t afraid to get in there and brawl. He still needs plenty of refinement in his striking, but having that willingness combined with his more finished ground skills makes him an interesting prospect. He’s now participated in both boxing and MMA, with and without gloves in both sports, in the last 16 months, so he’s certainly not scared to mix it up and try new things.

Roman Avdalyan: Falls to 15-10

Old ranking: 1, #236 LW prospect

New ranking: .5, #284 featherweight prospect

Avdalyan was released from ACA despite winning a decision against a quality prospect during a Young Eagles fight in October. He made his EFC debut this week in the co-main event, and after a little bit more than a minute of range-finding he got dropped instantly by a digging front kick directly to the liver. His record isn’t amazing, but he’s faced consistently great competition and it feels wrong to remove him entirely because of one body shot. His next fight will be a must-win though, as despite being 26, once your losses start creeping up above 10 it can become difficult to reach the top of the sport.

Naoki Hirata: Falls to 3-1

Old ranking: 1, #198 prospect

New ranking: .5, #326 prospect

Hirata burst into the rankings with three straight wins for DEEP between October 2020-March 2021, including a submission, a decision, and an impressive TKO over a 13-7 prospect. The promotion clearly has big expectations for him, as he’s been in the main event ever since his second professional fight and has taken on much more experienced fighters than your typical Japanese youngster despite being only 23. He lost a decision this week to a prospect in tier .5, so he drops to near the bottom of the rankings until he’s able to rebound and hopefully reach some of his undoubted potential.

Axel Osuna: Falls to 3-1

Old ranking: 1.5, #86 flyweight prospect

New ranking: .5, #305 featherweight prospect

Osuna is a highly-regarded young talent coming out of Mexico who made an impression with 3 submissions for Combate to start his career. He lost a somewhat controversial decision to a 4-1 opponent this week where he likely did more damage but had less control time, and the balance between those factors is an extremely hot topic in MMA right now. The most shocking thing about this fight was that Osuna jumped all the way from 125 to 145 pounds. He’s very young so some weight gain was expected as he added muscle and matured into his adult body, but this result makes me wonder if he might not be better suited to bantamweight where the opponents won’t be as large and capable of holding him.

Izzeddine Al Derbani: Improves to 11-2

Old ranking: 1.5, #208 LW prospect

New ranking: 1.5, #177 featherweight prospect

Al Derbani was originally scheduled to face a 7-2 opponent who would have been a much more appropriate challenge, but instead he got a totally unknown Uzbekistani who filled in on just a few days notice to make his debut. Al Derbani predictably dominated, using his long limbs well to control the fight once it hit the mat and set his opponent up for a choke. The most notable change in the rankings from this fight is Al Derbani’s drop down to featherweight, where he should consistently be the taller fighter at 5’10. 

Akhkubeg Omarov: Improves to 7-0

Old ranking: 1.5, #159 prospect

New ranking: 2, #147 prospect

Omarov spent a little bit over 14 minutes grinding his frustrated opponent into the mat and delivering a monotonous sequence of short shots to the ribs, shoulder smashes, and head pressure. The only time he wasn’t in a dominant position was at the start of rounds or in the brief moments between being stood up by the ref and recording another takedown. His opponent was a well-built 7-2 prospect from Kazakhstan, so neutralizing him completely was not a trivial task, but he’s not going to win any fans with this uber-conservative style. Russians are notoriously tolerant of grinding and grappling-heavy styles, and even they seemed to be irritated by the lack of aggression in this one.

Aleksandr Osetrov: Improves to 8-2-1

Old ranking: 3.5, #110 prospect

New ranking: 4, #105 prospect

Osetrov is another one of Alexander Schlemenko’s students to score a win at the gym’s first MMA show. He got his through a violent head kick 90 seconds into the first round, instantly dropping his opponent and ending the fight. His opposition was slightly tougher than some of his schoolmates, as he beat an 8-3 Kyrgyzstani who had proven capable of finishing low-level talents, but this was still undoubtedly a fight he was heavily favored to win.

Alejandro Flores: Improves to 19-3

Old ranking: 7, #39 prospect

New ranking: 8.5, #15 prospect

Flores was a mainstay for Combate for many years leading up to his shot on the “Contender Series” in 2020, where Rafael Alves defeated him. He’s since fought for upstart Latin American promotions iKon and Naciones MMA, scoring a relatively impressive 70-second punch-out of a 5-0 prospect at Naciones’ second ever show this week. His record is stellar, he’s proved himself time and again against the best of the region, and he’s got a knack for finishes. All that’s left is for him to put everything together in order to really take that next step.

Richie Smullen: Improves to 7-2-1

Old ranking: 10, #198 overall

New ranking: 10, #196 overall

I normally don’t write up ex-UFC fighters, but Smullen made such a brief cameo in his loss to Luis Pena after being medically ineligible for TUF 28 that I doubt he’s all that well remembered. He bounced to Bellator after that loss, going 3-1 on the prelims and in Europe, but he was released earlier this year when they discontinued their Euro Series. He resurfaced in 2021 as the main event for RFP 83 in Ukraine, where he choked out a 21-year-old with a 4-1 record and a decent amount of hype. You have to imagine this should be enough to prove that he belongs in a bigger promotion, and I can easily picture him fitting in well for Cage Warriors or Brave CF.

Bantamweights

Magerram Gasanzade: Improves to 5-0

Old ranking: .5, #294 prospect

New ranking: .5, #269 prospect

Gasanzade made my list in just his third pro fight by winning a surprising decision over a 5-0 fighter with strong grappling credentials. Unfortunately he hasn’t shown me a ton since then, as he’s used the same cautious and grinding style against two straight debuting opponents and has not flashed any standout traits besides stamina and durability. He can only fight the opponent’s he’s given, and maybe this is a sign that AMC sees him as someone to build for the future, but he’ll either need a stronger opponent or a more convincing win if he wants to keep progressing.

Umar Kunakbiev: Improves to 6-0

Old ranking: 1, #200 featherweight prospect

New ranking: 1.5, #166 BW prospect

Kunakbiev continued his rampage through the lower ranks of Eagle FC by absolutely ragdolling a 7-7 veteran for three minutes before finally getting the back on one of his many takedowns and slipping in a choke so deep that his opponent tapped in three seconds. He also dropped down a weight class and didn’t seem to struggle at all with the extra cut, which is a good sign for his long-term potential. His next match needs to be against a fellow prospect if he really wants to start making a push upwards.

Ali Taleb: Improves to 4-0

Old ranking: 1.5, #160 prospect

New ranking: 1.5, #155 prospect

After impressing me a lot with his striking in his UAE Warriors debut in March, Taleb made his return to the promotion this week and picked up another TKO in the second round. His opponent this week was only 1-0, so it’s not the most impressive addition to the resume, but for someone so early in their career it’s always good to keep adding wins. He’s signed to a promotion with a lot of talent, so I imagine he’ll start facing tougher matchups in not too long.

Jesse Arnett: Falls to 18-7

Old ranking: 10, #179 featherweight overall

New ranking: 10, #160 BW overall

Arnett is experienced, 36, and talented, yet he’s still never made it to a promotion larger than his current contrast with UAE Warriors. While he lost this week, it was a decision against Ray Borg, who I have ranked in tier 50 and as my #50 overall bantamweight, so this was clearly not an evenly matched fight coming in. Borg dominated the fight with relentless and powerful double-leg takedowns, as is his typical style, because he realized early on that Arnett had a distinct edge when striking at range. While it’s unfortunate to see Arnett lose in his shot to establish himself as a top competitor, Borg is a challenge for any bantamweight not on the UFC roster. I’d love to see Arnett matched against someone in the tier 20 range for his next fight to test whether he has what it takes to continue his ascent at this late stage of his career or if he’s destined to act as a top-level veteran gatekeeper.

Flyweights

Giacomo Santoro: Improves to 4-0

Old ranking: .5, #173 prospect

New ranking: .5, #165 prospect

Santoro made the rankings after only three fights due to a great win in small British promotion Fusion FC against a 7-2 prospect for the 125-pound belt. He got another main event this week, this time for Venator in Italy, but his opponent was a Pakistani wrestler with no MMA experience, and seemingly no knowledge of jiu-jitsu. Santoro predictably got the rear naked choke submission in just 90 seconds, but this was a real gimme win.

Yuki Ito: Improves to 8-1

Old ranking: 1.5, #91 prospect

New ranking: 2.5, #70 prospect

After suffering a bewildering loss to a 7-11-1 scrapheap fighter to end 2019 and pick up the first blemish on his record, Ito has come roaring back in 2021 with a 30-second KO for RIZIN and a rear naked choke against crafty veteran grappler Tomohiro Adaniya for DEEP Impact. That gives him four TKOs and two submissions out of eight wins, and he’s only 24 so there’s a lot more room for improvement on an already talented base.

Vladimir Alekseev: Improves to 9-1

Old ranking: 2, #146 BW prospect

New ranking: 2, #74 flyweight prospect

After suffering his first career loss in 2017, Alekseev took more than 3 years off before making his return for AMC Fight Nights in September 2020. His two first wins for the promotion were against other solid prospects, but for some reason this week he was matched against a 5-4 product of the Central Asian scene. He predictably punished his opponent all fight before getting the stoppage late in the second round. Maybe the weak opponent was scheduled to help him with the transition to 125-pounds, or maybe there just aren’t that many good fighters coming through the ranks for the lightest weight class. In either case, Alekseev is a welcome addition to the division who will hopefully receive a greater challenge in his next fight.

Prospects joining my rankings:

Rihards Biģis, heavyweight. Improves to 8-0

New ranking: 1, #115 prospect

Biģis is a mediocre heavyweight boxer (14-7 against weak opposition) who has spent almost his entire MMA career with tiny Latvian promotion FREON. He’s been fed absolute cans in every fight, and his 0-1 opponent this week was no different. He got the KO in 42 seconds, adding to his growing collection of first-round finishes against overmatched opponents. His first two wins in 2015 and 2017 were actually by submission, so he has at least some idea of a ground game, which is more than can be said for many heavyweight strikers. He won’t rise far up the rankings unless he goes to a larger European show to fight better opponents.

Mirafzal Akhtamov, welterweight. Improves to 5-0-1

New ranking: .5, #268 prospect

Akhtamov earned his ranking with a very competitive back and forth win over a well-regarded 3-0 Brazilian grappler. They fought at 163-pounds, which gets him ranked at welterweight because it’s technically closer but makes me think that his long-term home is more likely 155. He showed explosive grappling attacks and escapes, and a general fearlessness in engaging with a crafty opponent. He also has solid wrestling coming out of Uzbekistan, though just how good he is at any of his skills still needs to be fully discovered.

Mahmoud Fawzy Sebie, welterweight. Improves to 3-0

New ranking: .5, #264 prospect

Sebie is a former member of the Egyptian Olympic wrestling team and he has the physique and style to prove it. He looks like he was carved by a sculptor, and despite debuting earlier this year he’s already racked up three quick wins. He got a one-minute ground and pound TKO for Gamebred FC this week just one week after getting an almost identical win for iKon last Friday. None of his opponents have had professional wins on their record, so he needs to climb a whole bunch of levels of competition still, but the wrestling, athleticism, ground striking, and finishing instinct he’s shown over the last 6 months are very impressive.

John Mitchell, lightweight. Improves to 3-0

New ranking: .5, #362 prospect

Mitchell is an Irish wrestler who showed great top control and opportunistic ground and pound from creative angles to dominate a Russian kickboxer in a bit of country role-reversal. He’s very physically strong and is willing to use all sorts of trips and throws to try to take the match to the mat, where he does a good job aiming his punches and doing damage around his opponent’s defenses. I can’t rate him all that highly because he’s still so early in his career and because this opponent seemed to have never even heard of jiu-jitsu before stepping in the ring.

Edil Esengulov, lightweight. Improves to 9-3-1

New ranking: 1, #255 prospect

Esengulov is a young and athletic Kyrgyzstani who’s bounced around the regional scene some over the last few years. He joined the rankings this week with a strong performance against veteran countryman Ermek Tlauov, who was coming off two unsuccessful fights with ACA. Esengulov edged the first round in both striking and grappling, but he really took over in the second round, as he was in a dominant ground position the entire round until he was able to get the choke in. He’s raw, but there’s something to work with here.

Felipe Maia, lightweight. Improves to 10-4

New ranking: 1, #244 prospect

Maia has been fighting some of the top prospects on the European scene over the last 3 years, and while he’s not always been victorious he’s had some quality wins and his opponents’ combined record of 82-27-2 shows how tough the competition has been. He got a guillotine over Spaniard Jose Sanchez, who was 10-0 with an inflated record, to earn his spot in the rankings this week. He’ll need to show a little more consistency than he has in the past if he wants to stick around, but he’s certainly a talent worth tracking.

Rasul Tezekbaev, featherweight. Improves to 9-3-1

New ranking: .5, #261 prospect

Tezekbaev won a wrestling-heavy decision against Tuerxun Jumabieke, a member of PFL’s 2018 season. However, he went 0-3 for PFL and hadn’t fought in the three years since then, and he definitely looked like he was feeling his age, which is 35. Tezekbaev earns a ranking for beating such a credentialed veteran, but I wasn’t particularly impressed with what his opponent showed nor Tezekbaev’s overall potential.

Abu Muslim Alikhanov, featherweight. Improves to 4-0

New ranking: .5, #238 prospect

Alikhanov is a stereotypical Dagestani grappler, thickly muscled with the desire and stamina to smush his opponent to the canvas like a sentient weighted blanket. He executed his safe gameplan on Saturday against tier one prospect Atabek Abdimitalipov and earned himself a spot in the rankings by showing that he can smother decent competition.

Aleksandr Bezkorovainiy, bantamweight. Improves to 13-2

New ranking: .5, #251 prospect

Bezkorovainiy made his debut for RFP in 2017 and has racked up tons of submissions against weak opponents over the last few years. The only time he’s fought outside of the organization was in December 2020 against star prospect Javid Basharat for OKTAGON, who choked him out in the second round and sent him back to the Ukranian regional scene. He has since scored two first round submissions, including a 90-second triangle choke against a 1-2 opponent this week. It’s enough to put him in the rankings because I’d overlooked him coming off his loss when I’d first compiled the lists, but he’ll definitely need to prove that he can beat actual talented opponents.

Prospects leaving my rankings:

Jose Daniel Toledo Canellas, heavyweight. Falls to 12-9

Old ranking: 6.5, #32 prospect

Canellas was someone I was very high on following his up-and-down tenure with ACA, and he picked up a solid KO in his Megdan fighting debut to continue building my confidence. However, he got a title shot this week against a very uninspiring 7-5-1 local Serbian big man and lost a decision that was poor enough to remove him from the rankings altogether. He seems to have the size and strength, and I’ve seen flashes of skills, but the consistency doesn’t seem to be there to ever reach higher than the European regional scene.

Zdenek Polivka, middleweight. Falls to 5-4

Old ranking: .5, #212 prospect

Polivka snuck onto the rankings due to a four-fight win streak punctuated by an impressive decision win over a 7-2 prospect earlier this year. However, he got kimura-ed in the first round of his fight this weekend and had his lack of strength somewhat exposed. He’s 23, so lots of time to improve and get more consistent and earn his way back into the rankings.

Isatay Temirov, welterweight. Falls to 9-4-1

Old ranking: .5, #302 prospect

After looking like a decent prospect to start his career, highlighted by a split draw against current #6 prospect Daniil Prikaza, Temirov has lost two straight decisions for EFC. He hasn’t looked terrible in either one, but he got overpowered by a stronger grappler with a 9-8 record today, which is not a vulnerability you want to have in Russia.

Emmanuel Dawa, welterweight. Falls to 9-5

Old ranking: 1, #224 prospect

Dawa made the list after getting called up to Bellator in October 2020, but after losing his fight there by first round submission and only lasting a round this week against Bojan Velickovic, its time to write off the 36-year-old Frenchman.

Fernando Gonzalez Trevino, welterweight. Falls to 5-3

Old ranking: 5.5, #65 prospect

Trevino was someone I was very high on in my initial rankings because he started his career 3-1 in Bellator before going to Combate and going 2-1 there. However, he made his return to MMA this week after 18+ months off against a 3-4 Brazilian who should have been a free win. Amazingly, Trevino got taken down almost instantly and ended up getting choked out in less than 45 seconds. He’s already 33, so I just don’t think there’s time for him to rebuild his reputation and momentum from a loss this bad.

Zhyrgalbek Emilbekov, lightweight: Falls to 11-7

Old ranking: .5, #369 prospect

Emilbekov was riding a five-fight win streak on the Kyrgyzstani circuit, but I was already concerned about his level of competition. After getting thoroughly dominated by a better prospect this week, I can’t justify ranking Emilbekov any more.

Atabek Abdimitalipov, lightweight: Falls to 4-1

Old ranking: 1, #255 prospect

Abdimitalipov got pinned to the mat for almost three full rounds by a fellow undefeated prospect early in his career. While the opponent was solid, I was really not impressed by how helpless Abdimitalipov looked once he was on his back and by how little creativity he showed in changing his approach between rounds. He’s still very young, so there’s always a chance he comes back to the rankings down the road.

Kenneth Glenn, featherweight: Falls to 9-7

Old ranking: .5, #375 prospect

Glenn got a spot in the rankings after a shock submission over stud prospect Will Morris but then lost twice in a row, first to Kolton Englund and now this week to former Fury FC lightweight champion Nico Echeverrey. At 35, this was probably his last shot at major relevance. 

Jose Sanchez, featherweight: Falls to 10-1

Old ranking: .5, #266 prospect

Sanchez ran up an impressive 10-0 record between 2016-2019 against weak opponents in Spain before having all of his fights in 2020 cancelled due the problems with scheduling the pandemic caused. He made his return for 2021 on the opening card for new promotion European Pro Fighting against Felipe “Praguinha” Maia. Maia has been a good gatekeeper in the European scene for a while and caught him in a guillotine choke then never let go until he got the submission. Sanchez will need to record several wins against non-fodder opponents before I reconsider his spot in the rankings, no matter how impressive his record may be.

Azizbek Satibaldiev, bantamweight: Falls to 16-8

Old ranking: .5, #299 prospect

Satibaldiev was riding a six-fight win streak, albeit against sub-par opposition, before making his UAE Warriors debut after 18 months off. In one of the first fights of the card, he fought a scrappy fight until he got knocked out in the third. His opponent was nothing special, so this loss is enough to remove him from the rankings.

Tomohiro Adaniya, flyweight: Falls to 16-15-3

Old ranking: .5, #148 prospect

Adaniya was in the rankings despite his sub-par record due to some decisive wins over quality young prospects in the past few years. However, he got finished again this week and at 34-years-old I don’t really see much potential for growth here.