Weekly MMA Prospect Report: Americans, Brazilians, Englishmen and More
Each week MMA prospect expert Shawn Bitter looks at the top up and coming fighters stepping in the cage around the globe. From the tiniest shows to Bellator prelims we give you the cream of the crop.
Celtic Gladiator 22, Friday. (UK)
Featherweight, Brendan Loughnane (15-3)
If you look at his three losses they are to the likes of Pat Healy, Tom Duquesnoy, and Mike Wilkinson. Loughnane would later avenge his loss to Wilkinson and very many though he won his fights against Duquesnoy and Wilkinson. Brendan is a high-level featherweight who should be in the UFC already and who has improved tremendously throughout his career. He shows a bit of everything when he fights, including good wrestling with nice level changes that he mixes into exchanges on the feet. On top, he has decent ground and pound and on the feet, he is explosive as he comes forward with barrages of strikes. His striking features some speed but mainly power, and Loughnane has won some fights with just one punch. He also has a few knockouts with a knee and can sit on the outside and use his kicks – he has a really solid skill set overall. He fights Amaury Junior (12-7) who is not near as good.
Lightweight, Lerone Murphy (6-0)
6-0 as a pro and also 4-0 as an amateur, Murphy has been nothing short of impressive. He likes to keep the fight standing and he likes to throw with both his right and left hand. Murphy has good footwork and solid kickboxing and when he mixes it all together it’s perfect, especially when he explodes in and out landing combinations while simultaneously evade return fire. The Englishman does a great job using a lot of feints to see up some of the huge power he has in his hands. As of right now, I see no flaws. He fights Ayton De Paeoe (6-1) who is coming off a loss.
Hardrock MMA 104, Friday. (Kentucky)
Bantamweight, Cole Ferrell (7-0)
Ferrell hasn’t been touched in his professional career and has rarely ever been in any kind of trouble. Ferrell has shown glimpses of power in his hands but also is a good wrestler with a very solid ground game. He has shown that he has a tight grip when he gets the neck, hence why his six submission wins have all come by way of a choke. Ferrell, only at 25, has a lot of things going right for him in his career as of now and is slowly making a name for himself. If there is one knock on Cole Ferrell, it would be that he needs a step up in competition. He fights Lloyd Thornton (5-9).
Bellator 210, Friday. (Oklahoma)
Featherweight, Juan Archuleta (20-1)
Archuleta is a wrestler first who has yet to find a foe who can stuff all of his takedowns. Archuleta times his offensive wrestling well and he is very strong on top, and he moves well and constantly throws ground and pound in any position. He does have a knockout win but he has little time on the feet as he hasn’t found an opponent to stop his takedowns. He fights Jeremy Spoon (21-4) who is coming off a loss.
Middleweight, Costello van Steenis (10-1)
The 26-year-old is one of the brightest prospects out of the Netherlands who is riding a 4-fight win streak. Steenis has a background in grappling winner tournaments in Rotterdam. He has looked very good in his career and he has a 100% finish rate where being a training partner to Gegard Mousasi has been huge. On the feet, Steenis has a good lead jab and heavy leg kicks but is more so a wrestler. His grappling is his best aspect and as he has five submissions his ground and pound is just as good. He fights Chris Honeycutt (11-2) which is a huge step up in competition.
Middleweight, Mike Shipman (12-1)
After losing his first pro fight he has gone on to win the following 12 fights finishing all 12 with 9 of them in the 1st round. He is a threat everywhere, he has very good wrestling the timing he has is perfect along with the strength he possesses getting the body lock and slamming his opponent to the mat. On top, Shipman is very heavy with excellent control and has a knack for grabbing the neck winning 4 of his submissions by choke. On the feet, Shipman has big power in his hands enough to end the fight in one punch or set his opponent on his ass. Overall a very good fighter. He fights Scott Futrell (11-6) who I think Shipman can just take down.
Featherweight, Adil Benjilany (4-1)
The native out of Morocco is a good developing prospect who does have holes. Benjilany does need to tighten up his takedown defense a bit and as he is a striker/kickboxer he does tend to keep his hands too low. Benjilany has a muay thai background and it plays to the success he has on the feet. He has a large arsenal of attacks on the feet as his kicks are his main weapon but he also loves the step in elbow. Adil is always throwing a lot of volumes mixing it up well and has a good pace for three rounds. He fights Daniel Carey (6-2) who is a good pressure fighter and he could give Adil trouble.
Light-Heavyweight, Jordan Young (9-0)
Young at 6’4″ and a 76.5 inch reach Young knows how to use his length on the feet and on the mat. On the feet, Young is still progressing as he has an excellent jab and starts to double up on his right hand where he doesn’t have much power but is accurate. Young is dangerous off his back but he does need to tighten up his takedown defense as it was an issue in his last fight. He fights Anthony Ruiz (35-22) who is experienced but Young should win.
Welterweight, Will Morris (4-0)
Morris is only 4-0 as a pro but he also went 3-0 as an amateur and with the competition not being so strong his opponents have had more experience. Morris has looked stellar in his short career as he has shown an overall skill-set. On the feet, in a wide stance, Morris is very explosive and fast and has shown he has the power to put guys down and has shown a good understanding of timing. Morris also has a submission win and a TKO via ground and pound. Morris is the real deal. He fights the well-known kickboxer Joe Schilling (2-5) who despite his record is the toughest test in the career of Morris.
LFA 55, Friday. (Texas)
Bantamweight, Miles Johns (7-0)
Labeled as a boxer/wrestler that’s exactly how well-rounded Johns is. The first thing you notice when watching the Fortis MMA product is the wonderful jab he throws over and over and will throw one-twos when it’ there. Sometimes Johns can be a bit wild and throws some wild hooks but he does make up for it with speed and footwork moving in and out. He loves to throw the big overhand right and at times he connects. Johns loves to stand and trade and put on a “controlled chaos” performance but guys forget about how good he is with his wrestling. The timing, the level changes, and the execution is perfect. He fights Adrian Yanez (7-2) who is good but Johns is the favorite here.
Bantamweight, Joselyne Edwards Laboriel (8-1)
Fighting out of Panama this young prospect at only 23-years-old is a very good under the radar fighter to watch for. Laboriel with only one downside being her takedown defense, it isn’t that big of a flaw as she’s been improving but it has been against weak competition. “La Pantera” is a dangerous striker where she holds power in both hands but it’s when she decides to let her hands go she does an excellent job throwing at angles. She also has solid cardio which is a big factor. She fights Sarah Alpar (7-4) which will prove how good Edwards is.
Bantamweight, Raufeon Stots (10-1)
Stots is a former NCAA Division II national wrestling champion at the University of Nebraska. In June of last year, Stots was set to fight Merab Dvalishvili where Dana White was in attendance. The main focus was on Stots but the result didn’t go his way as he was stunned by a spinning back fist in only 15 seconds. Since that loss, Stots got back on board with two wins and is one of the best bantamweight prospects today. Stots is a fantastic wrestler but his stand has come along nicely along with some great movement as he is the total package. He fights Levi Mowles (10-3)
Lightweight, Levi Mowles (10-3)
Levi Mowles is a black belt in jiu-jitsu with diverse skills who holds a very rare twister submission. His wrestling is good, but the work he does on that mat is where he is best. His guard passes, all his transitions, and his movement are all top notch and even his ground and pound is good. On the feet, at times he is flat-footed but when he lets his hands go he is a good striker who always throws more than one strike and is getting better and better. Mowles is a legit talent who has only lost to prospects in Tony Kelly and Miles Johns and former UFC fighter Damon Jackson and at only 23, the sky is the limit. He fights Raufeon Stots (10-1).
KSW 46, Saturday. (Poland)
Featherweight, Mateusz Gamrot (14-0)
The former KSW champion is looking to regain his title after an 8-month layoff. Gamrot has beaten former UFC fighters, Norman Parke and Andre Winner, but has some good wins over solid competition in general. He’s more of a smart striker than he is a dynamic striker cause he is very good at throwing feints, he switched stances a lot which is difficult for an opponent, and he covers distance very good. He has good qualitys on the feet but his wrestling is much better but more so his ground and pound. He fights Kleber Koike Erbst (24-4-1).
Featherweight, Kleber Koike Erbst (24-4-1)
Originally from Japan, Erbst has taken his talents to Poland over the last few years, fighting for the KSW promotion where he just recently captured the promotion’s featherweight title in May of last year. Once Erbst gets the fight to the mat he’s in his world. His jiu-jitsu is so slick and suffocating, with 20 of 24 wins by submission. His stand-up nor his wrestling is too good but he will pull guard and once the fight is on the mat, Erbst is a wizard. He fights Mateusz Gamrot (14-0).
***Featherweight, Salahdine Parnasse (11-0-1)
Parnasse is a good talent with 12 total fights and at only 20 years old. Parnasse would prefer to keep the fight on the feet where he can use his effective movement and a good kickboxing base. On the feet, he does a good job at moving in and out and really loves to attack with leg kicks, which really set up his strikes better. One of his best attributes is his cardio as he can fight at the same pace for three rounds, which often puts him above his opponents. Parnasse has four wins by submission, all coming via choke, so he is well rounded in all areas. He’s the real deal. He fights Marcin Wrzosek (13-4) who is a solid test but I think Parnasse is just better. Parnasse is the prospect to watch this week in a very stacked week so that’s saying a lot.
Welterweight, Roberto Soldic (14-3)
The native out of Croatia has beaten some stiff competition including Lewis Long, Borys Mańkowski, and Dricus Du Plessis winning 5 titles in his career. Soldic is always coming forward and always looking for the finish. Soldic has heavy hands and a very accurate head kick, which he has dropped so many opponents with. It’s the constant volume he throws that allows him to do so well. He’s always throwing punches behind kicks and visa-versa. Soldic is the real deal. He fights Vinicius Bohrer (16-6) who Solic should beat pretty easily.
Serbian Battle Championship 19, Saturday. (Serbia)
Middleweight, Dusko Todorovic (6-0)
Todorovic is a bright prospect out of Serbia who has good qualities but does have things he needs to work on. On the feet he does keep his hands low and his pace does slow a bit as the fight goes. His takedown defense isn’t great but it’s something he is improving. Todorovic has good hands more so in the clinch where his dirty boxing is solid but he does a good job picking his shots. The Serbian is better on the mat with excellent ground and pound and he does have three submissions. He fights Michel Pereira (20-8) who is exciting but Dusko should win.
Bellator 211, Saturday. (Italy)
Welterweight, Kiefer Crosbie (4-0)
Crosbie is a product out of the Straight Blast Irelan Gym who has really turned his pro career around after a back and fourth amateur career going 6-6. Crosbie isn’t great anywhere but he has some good qualities. His takedown defense could need some work but he is decent off his back. He could throw more on the feet but he does hit hard. What Crosbie does the best is land massive elbows as he has shown on the feet and on the mat. Someone to watch but only toughness will take him so far but the improvement is there. He fights Orlando D’Ambrosio (7-3) who is coming off a loss.
Welterweight, Giorgio Pietrini (14-4-1)
Pietrini is arguably the best fighter out of Italy with an impressive record and still only 27. On the feet, he has a good jab and has good straight punches. He has power in his hands but he usually strikes to wrestler so he can get top position. Pietrini is at home on the mat in top position where he holds submissions but he’s excellent at finishing fights with his ground and pound. He fights Nermanja Milakovic (5-3) who Pietrini should beat easy.
Superior Challenge 18, Saturday. (Sweden)
Lightweight, Guram Kutateladze (9-2)
The Sweden native is on a six-fight win streak after losing two consecutive fights, one to former UFC fighter Oliver Enkamp. Kutateladze on the feet has a large variety of strikes and kicks mixing both together very well and shows athleticism. He also has good footwork and excellent head movement to complement his stand up. He’s even better on the mat with ground and pound and solid jiu-jitsu and also has solid cardio on top of everything. He fights Guilherme Cadena (23-14) who shouldn’t beat Guram.
Austrian FC 8, Saturday. (Austria)
Light-heavyweight, Robert Valentin (4-0)
Striking wise, Valentin brings an aggressive start always looking to get engaged pretty quickly. Valentin throws a good variety of front kicks and side kicks to control the distance but is really good alone at chopping away with leg kicks as he should throw a little bit more. When it comes to output he does excel pretty well but plays a lot of his fight in the clinch where he has been controlled against the fence but has also pressed himself with good knees as well. He loves to use the head and arm throw where he has had success but that throw is dangerous as it can put you in trouble. On top, Valentin can be sloppy in terms of position control but is fluid in transitions and all three of his finishes are via rear-naked-choke. Ibo Aslan (6-0) who lacks in footage.
Imortal FC 10, Saturday. (Brazil)
Middleweight, Acacio dos Santos (10-3)
Santos is an interesting prospect who is huge towering at 6’4″ at only 185-pound. The Brazilian is limited on the feet as he does have heavy kicks but he throws extremely wild as technique is out the window. Santos does have raw strength and that has got him these wins. If he gets taken down he will just stand up and take top position Derrick Lewis style. If he does get on top than most likely your staying there where he’s so big and his ground and pound is definitely his best weapon. He fights John Allan (12-5) who is coming off a loss.
SCL, Saturday. (Colorado)
Featherweight, Justin Gonzalez (7-0)
Undefeated as a pro, Gonzalez also gone undefeated as an amateur at 8-0. Gonzalez is still growing as a martial artist and if you look at his last fights beating guys with a combined record of 21-3, including ammy wrestling prospect Derek Brenon, is quite impressive. Gonzalez has always been an excellent wrestler who was an All-American but he’s been adding a lot of striking to his resume. J-Train could use better footwork but he stays aggressive and has a good right and left hook he throws but really just uses strikes to set up takedowns. Overall I think he has a good future. He fights Drew Brokenshire (18-8) who Justin should beat.