After last week’s onslaught of prospects, this week was definitely quieter but still had lots of exciting talents taking fights as more and more countries start to hold events. Open FC put on another great card and ACA had a Young Eagles show with 25 total bouts on it, both of which showcased plenty of promising Russian talent. Fury FC had a good show that was definitely the highlight of this week’s American fights, but several smaller promotions also had a few prospects scattered on their cards.
Brazilian action was highlighted by a huge Shooto card that they actually separated into two events, while new promotion Inside Fighter’s League (IFL) made up for the fact that their planned events were repeatedly cancelled during the pandemic by hosting four small events all on the same day. Georgian FC (the country, not the state) had one of the funniest events in recent memory, as it was fought outside in rainy conditions and answered an MMA question I never knew I had: What would fights look like if they were held on a slip-n-slide? No prospects took part, but there are some clips circulating the internet that are definitely worth a watch if you need a laugh.
Honorable mentions to: UFC and Bellator veteran Carlo Pedersoli, who got his easiest matchup in years with a 50-second knockout of a 2-3 opponent, Eduardo Dantas, who fought for Bellator from 2011-2019 and was a two time bantamweight champ, UFC veteran Juan Adams, who got his second straight first round finish for Fury FC and earned a shot at their heavyweight title in October, and Geraldo de Freitas, who got a quick submission in his return to Brazil after a 1-2 UFC stint.
First time reading the column? You can catch a quick explanation of the ranking system here
André Vieira: Improves to 4-0
Previous ranking: .5, #127 prospect
New ranking: .5, #127 prospect
Vieira earned a ranking with a well-rounded win over a 6-2 opponent in March, but this week his opponent was an 0-2 fighter who offered no real threat. Vieira has a chunky build himself but he was the stronger athlete in this one and pretty much pushed his opponent around the cage at will while landing strikes. After about three minutes, he managed to trap his opponent and pin him to the cage with a fight-ending barrage of punches. This was a good win to build up his record, but nothing more than that.
Austen Lane: Improves to 9-3
Previous ranking: 4, #50 prospect
New ranking: 5, #43 prospect
Lane made his pro debut in 2017 and got four straight quick knockouts before being given a shot on the “Contender Series” against Greg Hardy. He got knocked out in the first round of that fight then again in his next one before getting a couple more knockouts on the regional scene. He suffered his third knockout loss at the hands of tier 9 prospect Vernon Lewis to start 2020, but he’s rebounded with three straight first round knockouts since then, including a very impressive 30-second win over a 5-3 opponent this week to win the Combat Night title. He’s very much a kill-or-be-killed brawler, but he wins his firefights often enough with his massive power to be considered a real prospect at heavyweight.
Alexander Soldatkin: Improves to 9-3
Previous ranking: 4.5, #48 prospect
New ranking: 5.5, #38 prospect
Soldatkin recorded his third straight win for Open FC with a super quick knockout of Ukranian can crusher Evgeniy Golub (13-7). He opened the fight with a spinning back kick that demonstrated impressive flexibility for a big man and took his opponent by surprise as well, as it clipped his chin and sent him staggering back. He was easy pickings for Soldatkin to finish off with his powerful hands, and the quality striking Soldatkin showed in this fight combined with the grappling he demonstrated with an armbar against a 6-0 Brazilian in February make him a well-rounded heavyweight prospect who can finish the fight wherever it goes.
Bogdan Gnidko: Improves to 5-0
Previous ranking: .5, #117 prospect
New ranking: .5, #112 prospect
Gnidko is a stack of muscle who’s rampaged through weak competition in Ukraine since making his amateur debut in early 2019. He won two fights before turning pro and continued his absolute domination this week by knocking out a 1-1 opponent before two minutes had passed. That’s a pretty typical fight for Gnidko, as his seven wins have taken a combined 12 minutes, though he’s yet to fight anyone even close to good.
Ilyas Yakubov: Falls to 11-4
Previous ranking: 1, #167 prospect
New ranking: .5, #217 prospect
Yakubov has six first-round submissions and a couple first-round knockouts on his record, but he’d never beaten anyone better than 7-4. He got a brutal test this week against red-hot prospect Vladimir Yurusov and as expected got submitted in the first round. There wasn’t much he could do against the strength and technique of his opponent, but I’m not going to remove Yakubov from the rankings entirely because he was never really expected to have a chance in this one.
Sergey Romanov: Improves to 21-5
Previous ranking: 1.5, #197 WW prospect
New ranking: 2, #101 MW prospect
Romanov has bounced between middleweight and welterweight throughout his career and returned to 185-pounds this week after making his Open FC debut at 170-pounds back in April. He’s scored violent knockouts in less than 30 seconds both times, as he landed a beautiful step-in knee in his last fight to take out 12-4 Brazilian prospect Vanilto Antunes before knocking out a washed-up Cássio de Oliveira (19-10-1) in OFC 7’s main event this week. The official stoppage time was 16 seconds but it definitely should have been earlier, as Romanov recognized that his powerful right hand had knocked Oliveira out and spent several seconds standing over his body waiting for the referee’s stoppage. He came to the realization that it wasn’t coming and delivered one follow-up punch that met no resistance before looking incredulously back at the ref, who thankfully decided he didn’t want Oliveira to actually die in the ring and finally stopped the fight. Good sportsmanship on Romanov’s part to go along with his one-hit power, but I’d like to see him take on another Russian prospect before fully casting judgement on his skills. He fought for the old promorion M-1 Challenge for many years and was mostly successful against high-caliber fighters, and at 31 he’s reached a great intersection of skill and physical ability that could carry him far, but I’d like to see it demonstrated against top talent after he lost both of his fights in 2020.
Vladimir Yurusov: Improves to 6-0
Previous ranking: 6.5, #29 prospect
New ranking: 7, #299 prospect
I said that Yurusov was someone to watch out for after his impressive submission last month, but I didn’t expect him to be back and dominating again so quickly. This week he took on Ilyas Yakubov (11-4, tier 1), who has a ton of first round wins by both strikes and submissions but still could do nothing to slow down the assault. Yurosov took him down almost effortlessly just seconds into the fight and worked his way to the back to try to threaten an rear naked choke, then when he started to slip off the top he transitioned beautifully into a tight triangle and got the tap before a minute had elapsed. He gets a small bump in the rankings for this impressive performance but he already showed in his last fight that he can beat tier one fighters. Now that he’s joined Open FC he should hopefully get a chance to take on higher quality opponents as he looks to prove that he’s a truly elite talent.
Sergey Bobryshev: Improves to 11-2
Previous ranking: .5, #319 prospect
New ranking: .5, #313 prospect
Bobryshev is a knockout-hunting fan favorite who arrived at MMA Series with an 8-0 record but only went 2-2 in his first four fights for the promotion, with both of his losses coming as decisions against wrestlers. The matchmakers gave him a 2-3 Moldovan and obviously wanted to set him up for an easy win, which is a good sign that they see him as someone to develop for the future. It was a much more even fight than they probably imagined, as they both spent time in top position in the first round and also exchanged some good strikes on the feet. Bobryshev took over in the second round on his way to a ground and pound finish, but it was far from an impressive performance. His good record and killer drive keep him in the rankings for now, but he really needs to shore up his striking and takedown defense and fight with more control if he wants to progress as a mixed martial artist.
Zelimkhan Amirov: Improves to 5-1
Previous ranking: 1, #241 prospect
New ranking: 1.5, #197 prospect
Amirov scored an unusual knockout in just 38 seconds at ACA YE 19, as his opponent went for a single-leg takedown after 30 seconds of striking at range but Amirov countered with an elbow directly to the top of the head. It didn’t look like it could possibly be that powerful of a strike as he only had one foot on the ground and no real base from which to generate force, but his 3-1 opponent fell like he’d been shot and probably didn’t even need the single ground strike to finish him off. He’s now 4-1 in Young Eagles contests, and his only professional loss came against current tier 5.5 fighter Alibeg Rasulov. All of his previous wins were by submission, so adding in some apparently deadly elbows is another great tool for Amirov to have as he continues to develop.
Raimundo Batista: Improves to 15-2
Previous ranking: 1, #232 prospect
New ranking: 1.5, #202 prospect
Batista started his career with 14 straight wins in Brazilian regional shows, but only two of them were against opponents with good records. This lack of top-level opposition showed when he got signed to ACA, as he lost once in 2019 then again in 2020 before getting released. He resurfaced back in his comfort zone with a knockout of a 4-4 fighter at Mega Fight Champions 4, which was actually a couple weeks ago but didn’t have its results released until this week. He’s an explosive athlete with powerful hands, but he’ll need to prove that he’s more than just a can crusher to improve his ranking much more.
Robert Hale: Improves to 9-5
Previous ranking: 1.5, #186 LW prospect
New ranking: 2, #157 WW prospect
Hale has spent his career grinding away at a high level on the U.S. regional scene, losing some fights but winning more often than not. His most noteworthy win was a first round knockout of recent UFC signee Nikolas Motta. Hale even got a shot with PFL as a fill-in for the 2018 season, though he lost a decision to Ramazan Kuramagomedov in his only previous fight at welterweight. He’s fought at a 160-pound catchweight several times, but this week marked his first win at 170-pound with a first-round knockout over formerly-ranked Tyson Duckworth (12-8-1), who also normally fights at lightweight. This makes me suspect that the higher weight class was due to insufficient time to cut weight, but either way Hale is a solid veteran who will give a tough test to anyone he faces and could get a chance in a bigger promotion if he can string together a few good wins in a row.
Khan Kurbanov: Falls to 6-1
Previous ranking: 2.5, #146 prospect
New ranking: .5, #253 prospect
I was impressed by Kurbanov coming into this fight, as all of his fights were by KO/TKO including two in 2019 for ACA YE. He missed 2020 due to a combination of injury problems and the pandemic, and he got absolutely abused in his return this week. His 6-1 opponent threw him to the ground early in the first round and rained down punches from every position until Kurbanov was helpless on the ground. This drops him back to the lowest tier, but I’d expect him to get back to his winning ways if he’s given another shot at weaker opposition
Alexey Shurkevich: Improves to 12-4
Previous ranking: 4, #98 prospect
New ranking: 4.5, #87 prospect
Shurkevich continued his gradual climb up the welterweight rankings this week with his fourth win of 2021, this time beating 14-6 Zalimkhan Yusupov with a second round knockout. His opponent was a very strong wrestler but wasn’t inflicting a whole lot of damage, so Shurkevich did damage whenever he could in the first round then eventually found himself in top position after some grappling exchanges in the second round. He finished the fight with solid ground strikes that his opponent just couldn’t escape, earning him his second win in about a month’s time. He showed solid defensive wrestling in this one, which was a question I definitely had about him, but his opponent was unranked and still presented him with some challenges so he may still be at risk of getting controlled against a higher-level grappler. For that reason, he only moves up one tier this week while putting himself in a great position within the MMA Series’ welterweight division.
Cameron VanCamp: Improves to 15-5-1
Previous ranking: 5, #74 prospect
New ranking: 5, #71 prospect
VanCamp is a high-level grappler who has used his jiu-jitsu skills to submit opponents across the U.S. in the first round. He won his seventh regional title this week with a 80-second d’arce choke over a 10-7 opponent to claim the belt for Midwestern promotion B2. His opponent was already on a two-fight losing streak so this result doesn’t really teach us anything new about VanCamp but it does serve as a reminder that he’s a deadly submission threat. He’s more than paid his dues at this point, as I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone win so many regional titles without ever getting a chance in a bigger promotion. He’s still got plenty of years left at age 28, and he’s the sort of fighter I’d be happy to see on the Bellator prelims or maybe on the “Contender Series” later this year to finally challenge him with some higher-level competition.
Joe Cummins: Improves to 8-2
Previous ranking: .5, #379 prospect
New ranking: .5, #393 prospect
Cummins joined the rankings last month and I said there was still a lot to learn about him, but all we learned this week is that he’s ok with padding his record. He knocked out professional loser Hayden Sherriff, who’s now 0-22 between his pro and amateur career, almost all by first round finish. Cummins drops slightly just for agreeing to take a fight that he was essentially guaranteed to win.
Josh Altum: Falls to 4-2
Previous ranking: .5, #291 featherweight prospect
New ranking: .5, #388 LW prospect
Altum earned a ranking with an absurd flying triangle in his Fury FC debut back in April, but he looked clearly outsized by his opponent in his first fight at lightweight and got pushed around the cage before a big right hand at the end of the first round cut his night short. He attempted both a flying triangle and armbar in this one and clearly has confidence in his work off his back thanks to his tentacle-like legs, but he’d be much better off sticking at featherweight after this short-notice failure.
Adam Masaev: Improves to 7-0
Previous ranking: .5, #321 prospect
New ranking: 3, #149 prospect
Masaev is a hyper-athletic 21-year-old from Chechnya who has now recorded five straight first round finishes, with four of them for ACA Young Eagles. I’ve had the chance to watch three of them, including an 80-second triangle over a 2-3 opponent in November 2020, a 20-second heel hook over a debuting opponent in February 2021, and a 100-second rear naked choke over a 4-2 fighter who was on a four-fight win streak. From the second he gets hold of his opponents, they seem utterly powerless to stop him from doing whatever he wants to their body and various limbs, and this week was the most impressive performance yet as his opponent actually showed pretty decent jiu-jitsu defense but was just nowhere near Masaev’s level. He’s definitely someone who we should see fighting for ACA on their main cards in the near future, as he’s growing with every fight and could become truly scary as he gets even better at putting his skills and athleticism together.
Mansur Dzhamburaev: Improves to 9-2
Previous ranking: .5, #316 prospect
New ranking: .5, #294 prospect
Dzhamburaev spent his early career fighting for Akhmat Fight Club, and in his last two fights he’s picked up two first round finishes for ACA YE. This week, he took on an unranked 10-6 can-crusher from Kyrgyzstan in a fight that was surprisingly even for the first three-or-so minutes. They spent time exchanging strikes and wrestling positions against the fence until Dzhamburaev tripped his opponent to the floor, moved quickly from guard to half-guard to mount, dropped a couple heavy punches, then easily took the rear naked choke when his opponent gave up his back in an attempt to escape. It was a deep choke and he got the tap in just a few seconds, but overall I wasn’t blown away by the performance. He’s only 5’7” and isn’t particularly bulky, so I think he’d be well served by dropping back down to featherweight, where he’s had a number of fights in the past.
Kolton Englund: Improves to 9-3
Previous ranking: 1, #253 prospect
New ranking: 5, #83 prospect
Englund has spent the majority of his career fighting for Fury FC, including winning their lightweight title back in 2017. Unfortunately, due to injuries, opponents’ withdrawals, and the pandemic, he only fought twice from 2018 to 2020, but he’s won three fights so far in 2021, including the main event of Fury 48 this week. He took on Alec Williams (7-2, unranked), a muscular wrestler who has most of his wins by rear naked choke. Englund started off as the pressure fighter and never took his foot off the gas, and while he ate a few shots from WIlliams in the process he connected with far more and was clearly making harder contact. The disparity in their output only grew as Williams got more damaged, and by the third round Englund was mostly just unloading hooks that left his opponent against the cage struggling to block. It looked like it was headed to the judges, but with about 30 seconds left he decided to straighten out some of his strikes and sent Williams sliding to the ground where he could no longer offer intelligent defense. His defensive wrestling looked solid and he uses his hips well when he sprawls to block a takedown, but he’s definitely a striker first. He clearly has some power in his hands but would have benefitted from more variety in his targets, as the body was frequently open and the few shots he threw there landed hard and had a noticeable impact on his opponent’s posture. More jabs and straights would have also been a nice addition, as he primarily threw quick hooks with the occasional uppercut or other strike mixed in. Overall, a quality performance from Englund to put himself back in the spotlight as a rising prospect.
Adam Assenza: Improves to 14-6
Previous ranking: 1, #251 prospect
New ranking: 1.5, #200 prospect
Assenza increased his winning streak to four with a fifth-round TKO of Chance Beck (5-0, tier .5) that won him the B2FS Lightweight Championship. The three wins before that all decisions over opponents with records of 7-4, 15-7-1, and 13-6, so he’s clearly comfortable taking on other veterans of the North American regional scene. Two of those decisions were split, so it’s good to see him prove that he can sometimes get the finish and do so against another decent prospect. He’s the sort of well-rounded veteran who will continue to find success until he runs into a real top prospect, as he’s not hyper-athletic nor is he a specialist in any one area of MMA.
Genison Lima: Falls to 12-7
Previous ranking: 2, #175 prospect
New ranking: .5, #319 prospect
Lima started out with a decent ranking thanks to eight consecutive wins (five by knockout) in the 16 months between August 2019 and December 2020. Most of those were against cans, but there were a couple solid fighters mixed in there and anyone who’s able to win that frequently, especially during the pandemic, is impressive. Unfortunately, he suffered a decision loss this week in his first fight of 2021 by getting convincingly out struck by his 9-6 opponent. He showed great wrestling and has the bulky build you would expect of a 5’5” lightweight, but he wasn’t able to turn some moments of positional dominance into any particularly threatening attacks. His opponent also seemed to have better jiu-jitsu, so Lima sinks down to the lowest tier until he can get a good win somewhere.
Arut Pogosjan: Improves to 8-3
Previous ranking: 4.5, #104 prospect
New ranking: 4.5, #97 prospect
Pogosjan is an Armenian wrestler who made his debut for Fury FC this week after 20 months off during the pandemic. His first two scheduled opponents pulled out, so he ended up matched against natural featherweight Josh Altum (4-1, tier .5). Pogosjan was taller and more muscular in this one and used his wrestling ability to pin Altum to the cage and deliver punches. He managed to shake off a couple creative submission attempts and continued causing damage until he landed a fight-ending right hand as part of a big flurry at the end of the first round. While he beat another prospect, he didn’t improve his ranking much due to the crucial advantage he had in size.
Magomed-Salah Shaptukaev: Falls to 4-1
Previous ranking: 5.5, #77 prospect
New ranking: 1, #277 prospect
Shaptukaev started his career 4-0 with three submissions for ACA/ACB YE, beating opponents with a very impressive 29-11-1 record and earning himself a lofty initial ranking. He was on his way to another win this week against veteran grappler Yuriy Verenitsen (4-3), doing way more damage on the feet and dominating positions on the ground until he got caught in one of Verenitsen’s signature guillotines halfway through the second round and couldn’t get free of the guard before he was forced to tap. This is a very disappointing setback for someone who’s game is based off of his grappling ability, so he dropped a bunch in the rankings and will need to prove himself again going forward.
Said-Magomed Gimbatov: Improves to 5-1
Previous ranking: .5, #282 prospect
New ranking: .5, #244 prospect
Gimbatov picked up his 4th win for ACA YE by tossing an outclassed 2-1 opponent around the cage for 15 minutes on his way to a dominant decision. It honestly looked like a wrestling training session with a particularly mobile dummy, and after just a couple minutes of the fight it was pretty obvious how this one was going to end. He’s now won five in a row after losing his debut, and his Dagestani wrestling background will serve him well in an organization like ACA that’s full of top-tier grapplers. While this result was very impressive, I’d like to see him do it against a better opponent before I get overly excited.
Artem Semyonov: Improves to 8-3
Old ranking: 1, #215 prospect
New ranking: 1.5, #186 prospect
Semyonov returned less than a month after his last submission win to take his second fight for OFC and bring his record to 8-3 in an absurd 14-month span. He’s one of the more prolific prospects out there right now, and he continued to show off his submission skills this week by earning his fourth straight first-round tap out. This time he was matched against a very young 6-3 Kyrgyzstani and dominated in all facets of MMA. He walked his opponent down with strikes for the first minute of the fight, then reversed two straight takedown attempts with good judo techniques to end up on top in half guard. He progressed into mount and delivered threatening ground and pound while also looking to set up an armbar as his opponent rolled back and forth to try to escape. He eventually got a little impatient and tried to set up a mounted triangle when he probably could have gotten the win with a powerful burst of strikes, and it looked like he might get punished when his opponent shook him over the top and started to land ground and pound from guard. However, Semyonov quickly got his legs active and locked in a picture-perfect triangle that quickly ended the contest. He continues to flash very intriguing traits but his lack of time in the fight game still shows through occasionally, so it would be great for his career to get another test against a quality veteran who will punish him if he rushes like he did this week.
Salamu Zakarov: Falls to 8-4
Previous ranking: 1.5, #169 BW prospect
New ranking: .5, #284 featherweight prospect
Zakarov returned to featherweight this week after fighting at bantamweight since 2017, and it didn’t seem to be a great choice as he lost the strength advantage that he usually uses to dominate his opponents and grind out wins. He got picked apart on the feet by a 3-2 opponent and lost a decision that was competitive but pretty clearly a 29-28 against him. He had some solid control against the cage and the occasional takedown attempt, but he didn’t do enough damage to make up for his opponent’s consistent straight shots. He went 4-0 with Akhmat Fight Club but is now 1-2 with ACA and probably on the edge of being released.
Ryoji Kudo: Falls to 10-2-1
Previous ranking: 6, #61 LW prospect
New ranking: 4, #105 featherweight prospect
Kudo built a great record in Shooto Japan and smaller Japanese promotions then went 3-0 for ONE Championship in various talent discovery shows from 2019 to 2020 but never got signed to their main promotion. Shooto gave him a shot at their vacant featherweight title this week against Keisuke Sasu (8-1-1, tier 9) but he lost a majority decision after 25 competitive minutes. Kudo had fought his last few fights at 155-pounds but most of his earlier career was at 145, which I think is probably best for him and his 5’7” frame despite the setback this week. He’s still a very solid prospect and at 28 he should be entering the best years of his fighting career, but he’s just not at the highest level yet.
Abdul-Malik Saidullaev: Falls to 9-1
Previous ranking: 7, #35 prospect
New ranking: 7, #35 prospect
After starting his career undefeated with a number of impressive wins, Saidullaev suffered his first loss in graphic fashion when his arm shattered while going to the ground with an opponent. It happened within the first round and seemed like a freak accident, so I can’t justify dropping him in the rankings. This was his first main event spot for ACA YE and he was clearly someone they thought had potential for the next level. Unfortunately, I doubt we’ll be seeing him fight again this year, and from how ugly the break looked it could be even longer than that.
Keisuke Sasu: Improves to 9-1-1
Previous ranking: 9, #2 prospect
New ranking: 10, #197 overall
Sasu has spent his entire career with Shooto Japan with both the loss and draw on his record coming in 2016, the same year he debuted. He extended his win streak to seven by winning a decision over tier 6 prospect Ryoji Kudo, who was definitely the toughest opponent he’s faced in his young career. He earned the Shooto featherweight belt after winning and defending their “Pacific Rim Championship” title in his two prior fights, and he’s made impressive progress in his career for a 26 year old. Winning a Shooto title is a pretty reliable path to ONE or RIZIN, and it’d be a smart investment for the future by whoever ends up signing him.
LiLe Du: Improves to 15-9
Previous ranking: .5, #301 prospect
New ranking: .5, #298 prospect
Du went 6-8 to start his career and looked like nothing more than regional fodder, but he turned that around with a seven-fight win streak in 2019 to 2020. He lost a split decision in January to break that streak but has rebounded with wins against debuting fighters in April and again this week. There’s still not a ton of proof that he’s a legitimate prospect but he had a couple good wins in his streak and I’m willing to wait for him to take another fight against a decent opponent to see just how good he actually is.
Levi Mowles: Improves to 15-4
Previous ranking: 30, #90 overall
New ranking: 30, #90 overall
Mowles won his second fight for Fury FC this Sunday by choking out UFC vet Teruto Ishihara halfway into the first round. His striking looked good for the short time the fight was on the feet, and once he got it to the ground he was totally dominant on his way to taking Ishihara’s back and sinking in the choke.This sets him up for a shot at their title assuming he doesn’t get signed to the UFC first, as he already won the CFFC title earlier this year and is one of the top Americans outside of a major promotion. The biggest obstacle in his way is probably the fact that he’s now missed weight in two consecutive fights, coming in at 137.8 this week and an egregious 139.5 for his CFFC fight. He either needs to figure out his weight-cutting regime or bite the bullet and move to featherweight, though I think his frame fits best at 135-pounds. Mowles didn’t improve his ranking this week because he was already in a high tier and Ishihara was both unranked and on a four-fight losing streak.
Lin Yang: Improves to 7-0
Previous ranking: .5, #328 BW prospect
New ranking: .5, #188 flyweight prospect
Yang got an easy win over an 0-3 opponent as he continues to build up his record on the Chinese regional scene. He debuted for WLF Wars in 2018 and won twice that year before missing 2019 then getting three more wins in 2020. He moved to JCK in 2021 and got matched up against two straight bad opponents, so he doesn’t move up much this week. He’s mostly fought at flyweight but also has two fights at bantamweight.
Artem Kyrychenko: Improves to 9-1
Previous ranking: .5, #188 prospect
New ranking: .5, #170 prospect
Kyrychenko entered the year 8-0 with six finishes in the first round and two more in the second, usually by punches and including a crazy six wins from December 2019 to December 2020. He picked up the first loss of his career in February when ACA signed him on short notice to get choked out by tier 20 Imran Bukuev, but this week he got back to his usual winning ways by knocking out a 10-11 journeyman in the first round at a small Ukranian show. Hopefully he can find a better opponent for his next fight, but maybe one a little easier than the mismatch against Bukuev.
Kunta Hashimoto: Improves to 7-1
Previous ranking: .5, #295 BW prospect
New ranking: 1, #131 flyweight prospect
Hashimoto won a decision against 42-year-old grappler Takehiro Ishii (26-16-3), who’s a good gatekeeper for the regional scene and serves as a solid milestone on his record. He’s had most of his fights for Fighting Nexus and he won their flyweight title this week, though it was just three five-minute rounds. He’s shown quality grappling in the past and winning even a small title at age 22 is very impressive, so I’d expect him to end up in a larger regional show like DEEP or Shooto sometime soon.
Aslan Tovsultanov: Improves to 7-1
Previous ranking: .5, #287 BW prospect
New ranking: .5, #136 flyweight prospect
Tovsultanov started his career 6-0 against weak opponents, with two wins by submission and three by TKO. He bounced between bantamweight and flyweight during that time, and picked up his only loss in December 2020 fighting at 135-pounds against a 10-0 opponent for AMC. He got his second win for ACA YE this week by returning to 125-pounds and mauling a 2-1 youngster for a round and a half. He delivered all sorts of ground and pound from dominant wrestling and grappling positions before finishing the fight by dropping bombs while standing over his trapped opponent. He’s got great power for the smallest weight class and will look to continue his development in Russia’s top promotion.
Tamerlan Chagaev: Improves to 7-1
Previous ranking: .5, #147 prospect
New ranking: 1, #129 prospect
Chagaev won a decision over an athletic 6-2 youngster from Tajikistan to pick up his third straight win for ACA Young Eagles. He was dominant in the grappling exchanges, as you would expect from a Dagestani, and showed impressive strength despite being 5’9” and therefore extremely slim. He’s 24 and has beaten progressively better competition in each of his fights for the feeder show, so I have to wonder if he’ll get a chance on the prelims of a real ACA card in his next few fights.
Daniel Lacerda: Improves to 10-1
Previous ranking: 1.5, #87 prospect
New ranking: 3, #59 prospect
Lacerda made his pro debut in March 2017 and strung together seven wins in 12 months before getting signed to Shooto Brazil. He got a spectacular 30-second head kick knockout in his promotional debut then was given an immediate shot at the flyweight title, but he sadly injured his shoulder just 40 seconds into that fight to pick up his first professional loss. He rebounded by winning the Mr. Cage belt later in 2019, then missed 21 months due to the pandemic and another injury. He returned to Shooto this week and got another first-round knockout by overwhelming longtime regional grinder Rodrigo Sarafian (20-11-1), who has a solid record but usually loses to decent fighters. Lacerda still moved up a decent bit because I was very impressed with his hand speed and movement skills, and the fact that he trains with Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira certainly doesn’t hurt. I could see him getting a second chance at the Shooto belt later this year, which would hopefully see him take on another ranked prospect. Since I wrote this, it’s been reported that Lacerda was signed by the UFC. While he certainly seems like a solid prospect, this is a weird signing given his weak competition and the number of seemingly better-qualified Brazilians that are out there.
Altamiro de Jesus: moves to 9-1-3
Previous ranking: 2.5, #62 prospect
New ranking: 1.5, #84 prospect
De Jesus was matched against Gerlan Rodrigues (4-1, unranked) for a chance to be the first IFL flyweight champion, but all he could manage was a draw. This is the third draw of his career, none of which have come against great competition, and he only has two career finishes, so it seems very fair to question his ability to end fights. Maybe Rodrigues will turn out to be another quality fighter and this week’s drop in the rankings will look unjustified, but for now de Jesus moves down until he can prove that he’ll reliably beat weaker opponents’
Jesus Santos Aguilar: Improves to 7-1
Previous ranking: 5.5, #38 prospect
New ranking: 6, #32 prospect
Aguilar took his second fight for Combate Global after signing for them earlier this year, and he won a convincing decision over a decent Chilean who was also 6-1. Aguilar won his last three previous fights by guillotine, including one in the fifth round to claim the UWC flyweight belt and earn his spot with Mexico’s top promotion. This week was another opportunity for the 25-year-old to show that he’s capable of maintaining a dangerous pace from start to finish, and I bet that matchmakers in various organizations are starting to take notice of his seven-fight winning streak.
Prospects Joining My Rankings
Bay-Ali Shaipov, welterweight: Improves to 7-1
New ranking: 1.5, #188 prospect
Shaipov has spent his entire career fighting for ACA/ACB and compiled an impressive record against solid opponents, so he was probably someone I should have included in my initial rankings. This week, he took on the more highly-regarded Khan Kurbanov (6-0, tier 2.5) and demolished him with a powerful takedown into fight-ending ground and pound. He never gave his opponent a chance to rest and pursued damage from every position he could find until the ref had no choice but to stop the fight. He trains alongside many of Russia’s elite at Berkut Fight Club, and if he can keep developing in that environment he could develop into something special given the physical power he showed in this fight.
Artem Filatov, lightweight: Improves to 3-0
New ranking: .5, #396 prospect
Filatov made his debut almost exactly a year ago in July 2020, picking up a first-round knockout against a fellow debutante for MMA Series. He then got another first round knockout for them against a 4-0-1 opponent that December and moved to Open FC this week to choke out a 4-0 opponent in the second round. His opponent was a very strong wrestler, but Filatov pulled off a slick guillotine and got the tap. He also showed decent striking and good athleticism, and he’s still young. He’s obviously raw around the edges, but I like the skills I saw from him in this one and beating two other undefeated prospects so soon is very impressive.
Junior Monteiro, lightweight: Improves to 13-4-1
New ranking: .5, #363 prospect
Monteiro got a first-round rear naked choke this week over a 3-0 opponent to bring his record with Shooto Brazil to an even 4-4. He’s faced good competition with them and also has a few quality wins in smaller shows, but he’s clearly not elite or he would have been winning more consistently. He spent the first 90 seconds of this week’s fight losing a battle of leg kicks, then his opponent took him down but Monteiro quickly threatened an armbar then a triangle that he used to sweep his opponent and end up on top in guard. He quickly took the back off of an attempted scramble and got his hooks in immediately, then threw a couple punches to open up the neck and get the choke in deep. His striking looked ok but clearly wasn’t on the same level as his jiu-jitsu, but at 26 he still has time to work on it and potentially become a more well-rounded threat.
Josenaldo Silva, lightweight: Improves to 27-7
New ranking: 1.5, #214 prospect
Silva had a 17-fight winning streak in Brazil before moving to the US in 2016, where he faced a truly brutal array of fighters. He took on Marlon Moraes for WSOF in 2016, Timur Valiev for PFL in 2017, then Adam Borics for Bellator in 2018. He was finished in all of those fights, but we’re talking about a guy who’s ranked in the UFC, an up and coming UFC prospect, and one of the top rising stars in the entire Bellator organization. I can’t blame him at all for taking a couple years away after running into a schedule like that, and this year he’s returned to record two straight finishes for Mega Fight Champions, including a second round knockout to win their title over an unranked 6-1 youngster. He’s now fighting at lightweight after being a bantamweight or featherweight for most of his previous fights, but he looks like he’s added functional muscle and has plenty of power for the division, though he is short at 5’8”. He’s 34, so this is probably his last run at making some more noise internationally.
Imam Vitakhanov, featherweight: Improves to 7-2
New ranking: .5, #271 prospect
Vitakhanov has been fighting for ACB/ACA since his pro debut in 2016 and brought his promotional record to 5-2 this week with a 19-second knockout from an overhand right. It may have been a bit of an early stoppage, as his opponent seemed to be preparing to defend himself despite being flat on his back, but I also can’t fault the ref too much after how violent the knockdown was. He’s muscular and has several other quick knockouts on his record, so the power he showed this week was not a fluke. He’s now beaten 4-1 and 4-2 opponents in consecutive fights, which are the two best wins of his career, and he’s clearly on an upward trajectory.
Davi Souza, bantamweight: Improves to 5-0
New ranking: .5, #320 prospect
Souza made his debut for quality Brazilian promotion SFT and won a decision over a 5-2 opponent to stay undefeated and bring the combined record of his opponents to 17-8. That’s much better competition than your average Brazilian prospect, and at just 24 Souza definitely seems worth watching.
Josh Walker, bantamweight: Improves to 4-0
New ranking: .5, #279 prospect
Walker made his debut in February 2021 and has won four straight decisions, though he’s certainly pushed hard for the finish in both of his fights that I’ve seen. He also went 5-1 as an amateur and picked up a win in his only recorded grappling bout despite mainly being a striker in the cage. He made his debut for Fury FC this weekend against Jonathan Eiland (4-2), who was once a prospect himself but has now dropped three straight. Walker dominated the first and third rounds, always staying on the front foot and using a fluid mix of different kicks and punches to attack from different angles and keep his opponent unbalanced. He also showed strong wrestling when they got into a clinch, though it seemed to be due more to his athleticism than particularly stellar technique. However, in the second round he got caught with a number of big hooks from Eiland and lost the round on the scorecards, which shows that he needs to improve his head movement and overall defense because a stronger striker might have knocked him out with some of those shots.
Bruno Azevedo, bantamweight: Improves to 17-3
New ranking: 1.5, #160 prospect
Azevedo spent eight years building a 15-2 record on the Brazilian regional scene, with one of those losses coming against UFC stud Alexandre Pantoja, before going overseas in 2017 to join the Akhmat Fight Club. He won his first fight there, which is an impressive feat for a Brazilian in Russia, but then he lost a flyweight title shot against current ACA 125-pound champ Yunus Evloev. He took three-and-a-half years off following that loss and returned this week at Shooto Brazil as a heavily muscled bantamweight. His opponent was a noticeably smaller 5-2 fighter and Azevedo took advantage of the disparity in strength to reverse several takedown attempts and escape to better positions during their grappling exchanges. The first round was relatively close but he took over in the second following a slick shoulder throw straight into half guard, where he started landing solid ground and pound that continued as he moved to side control, briefly trapped his opponent in a crucifix, then moved to mount. There were several moments that I thought the ref might step in, and his opponent only survived through desperate rolls to give up his back. Eventually, Azevedo got a forearm under the neck to threaten an rear naked choke then smoothly transitioned to a tight arm triangle when his opponent rolled once again. It was an impressive display of athleticism and skill on the ground, but his standup looked pretty basic despite how experienced he is. It’ll be interesting to see if he fights again soon to make up for all the time he lost in the last 4 years.
Felipe dos Santos, flyweight: Improves to 4-0
New ranking: .5, #186 prospect
Dos Santos debuted in 2019 as an 18-year-old and won three small fights that year before missing 20 months due to the pandemic. He made his return this week at Shooto Brazil against a solid 6-1 opponent who was probably favored going into the fights, but Dos Santos looked explosive and pushed the pace in the striking and grappling on his way to ground control and a first-round armbar. At 5’7” he’s tall and has a super long reach for a flyweight, though there’s always a chance he’ll have to move up a weight class as he ages and builds muscle. He was clearly a fan favorite with both the live audience and people in the stream chat, which certainly can’t hurt his chances at getting good matchups with quality promotions going forward.
Rustam Debishev, flyweight: Improves to 6-0
New ranking: .5, #159 prospect
Debishev faced off against 3-0 Mukhamedali Arykov in a battle of undefeated and unranked youngsters at this week’s ACA YE card. He secured a rear naked choke towards the end of the first round after mostly being in control in an exciting but short fight and secured himself a spot in the rankings as another promising grappler from Dagestan. He’s 23 years old and is still developing physically, but he fights out of Akhmat Fight Club and will continuously be challenged by some of the best training partners in the world. With four wins by submission and two more by knockout he clearly already has the tools to be a dangerous opponent and is climbing the ACA ladder after joining earlier this year.
Prospects Leaving My Rankings
Italo Ribeiro, lightweight: Falls to 8-4-1
Old ranking: .5, #362 prospect
Ribeiro earned his ranking thanks to a 6-0-1 between 2015 and 2019, but he returned this week after about two years away and suffered a decision loss to a very average 8-4 opponent. He was fighting for the featherweight title for IFL, and while getting a title shot is always a good sign, this sort of loss makes me think Ribeiro is probably destined to stay on the regional scene for a while.
Chance Beck, lightweight: Falls to 5-1
Old ranking: .5, #358 prospect
Beck went 4-0-1 as an amateur and 2-0 as a pro from 2009 to 2012, with all his wins by submission, before taking more than eight years away from the MMA cage. He returned in September 2020 and picked up two KOs and another submission in a 7-month period for small American shows. This week, he was given a shot at the B2FS lightweight title against Adam Assenza (13-6, tier 1), who was the first prospect he’d ever squared off against. They took the fight into the 5th round, so it can hardly be called a blowout, but Assenza ended up getting the finish with strikes with just a couple minutes left in the fight. Beck is 34, so he doesn’t have a very clear path back to relevancy unless he goes on an incredible winning spree.
Jesse Smith, lightweight: Falls to 4-2
Old ranking: 1, #288 prospect
Smith started his career 4-0 before taking on Zulkarnaiyn Kamchybekov (5-1, tier 6.5) for the vacant CFFC lightweight championship. That ended up being an incredibly difficult opponent, so Smith didn’t drop much for that one but this week he lost his second fight in a row. He got caught in a triangle in the second round of his fight against Jake Miller (5-2, unranked). Miller is a decent fighter but he’s far from special, so losing to him combined with his previous loss is enough to take Smith out of the rankings.
Jacob Silva, flyweight: Falls to 7-6
Old ranking: 1.5, #82 prospect
I could forgive Silva’s three-fight losing streak from 2020 to early-2021 because it included two appearances on the “Contender Series” and an unsuccessful shot at the Fury FC title against hot prospect Carlos Vergara, who will now be getting his own “Contender Series” chance. Silva broke his skid with a submission over a 3-2 fighter but this week he lost a decision to a 10-12 grappler who he just couldn’t shake off of him. That’s the sort of loss that makes me think Silva’s best days have unfortunately passed him by.
Nyldean Paes, flyweight: Falls to 5-1
Old ranking: .5, #186 prospect
Paes failed the first real test of his career by losing a decision to Yan Ferraz (10-3, unranked) in his debut for Shooto Brazil. He’s 25, so there’s plenty of time to rebuild, but now that his undefeated record is gone he’ll have to prove his talent against some established fighters.