Top 10 Young prospects in MMA


UFC Light Heavyweight prospect Jon Jones has successfully changed his status from a “Hot Prospect” to “Real Deal”, following the victory over the experienced “Janitor” Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC on Versus 2. Here’s the list of Top 10 young MMA prospects you should keep your eye on, as they are on their sure way to become a huge stars in the future.

Where’s Stefan Struve, Lyman Good and the Korean Zombie? Despite his young age, Stefan Struve is already a star in the UFC. There’s no doubt about him becoming a Top 5 Heavyweight in the future, but somehow I feel that he doesn’t belong to this list. Same goes for Lyman Good. And as for Jung Chan-Sung, I personally think that the Korean Zombie still has a lot to prove in WEC, despite his legendary fight against Leonard Garcia.


1. John Hathaway
Promotion: UFC
Age:  22
Record: 14-0
Weight Class: Welterweight
Team: London Shootfighters

The English Welterweight is without any shadow of a doubt the most promising youngster in Mixed Martial Arts today. Only 22 years old, Hathaway holds an impressive record of 14-0 with 5 knockouts and 4 submissions. John Hathaway is currently 4-0 in the UFC, with a huge victory over the former UFC Lightweight Title challenger Diego Sanchez at UFC 114. Standing at 6 ft 2 inches tall, Hathaway is a rare specimen in his weight class, enjoying a valuable reach and size advantage. The most interesting thing about John Hathaway is that he’s not coming from any special Wrestling or BJJ background. This kid has a proven record in the biggest arena out there, as his continuous improvement in all aspects of the game make him a sure shot for the UFC Lightweight crown sometime in the future.

2. Josh Grispi
Promotion: WEC
Age: 21
Record: 14-1
Weight Class: Featherweight
Team: South Shore Sportfighting

WEC Featherweight Josh Grispi is without a doubt one of the biggest rising talents in MMA. Holding a 14-1 record at the age of 21, with six TKO’s and seven Submissions, Girspi is already a top contender in World Extreme Cagefighting. Josh Grispi is currently 4-0 in WEC, all first round finishes. More than that, “The Fluke” was only once out of the first round in his career. Humble personality and an incredible work rate are Josh Grispi’s biggest assets. With Manny Gamburyan fighting for the WEC Featherweight title against Jose Aldo at WEC 51, “The Fluke” may be just one fight away from securing his shot at greatness.

3. Phil Davis
Promotion: UFC
Age: 25
Record: 7-0
Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
Team: Lloyd Irvin/A.K.A

Mr. Wonderful continued his UFC this weekend adventure with the third consecutive victory, this time over the 9-2 Rodney Wallace. Four-time NCAA Division I All-American, Phil Davis is one of the most decorated wrestlers in the UFC. And by training alongside top fighters at Team Lloyd Irvin and American Kickboxing Academy, Davis is expected to make his breakthrough during 2011. Just like Georges St. Pierre, Cain Velasquez and Jon Jones, Phil Davis’ self-criticism will ensure the progress to the top of UFC Light Heavyweight division.

4. Pat Curran
Promotion: Bellator
Age: 22
Record: 12-3
Weight Class: Lightweight
Team:  Curran MMA Academy

Bellator’s 2010 Lightweight Tournament Winner, Pat Curran is definitely one of the most exciting prospects to ever compete in MMA. Pat Curran is currently 12-3 in his MMA campaign, with victories over the UFC veteran Roger “El Matador” Huerta and Toby Imada on his way to win the Bellator Lightweight Tournament. Pat Curran reminds me of Frankie Edgar by the way he built, and his illusive Boxing style. The Illinois-native will square off against the Top 10 155’er Eddie Alvarez on Bellator’s Season Three, with sights on solidifying his place among the MMA Lightweight elite.

5. Ben Askren
Promotion: Bellator
Age: 26
Record:  6-0
Weight Class: Welterweight
Team: American Top Team/Lions Den

Sydney 2008 Olympics Wrestling participant, Ben Askren is one of the most promising fighters in MMA. Twenty-six year old Askren is currently a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Purple Belt, competing in ADCC and FILA against some of the top grapplers in the world. Askren dominated the Top 10 Welterweight Dan Hornbuckle at the Bellator Welterweight Tournament Final, and now will face the reigning Champ Lyman Good sometime during season three. In his fight against Hornbuckle, Askren was able to show how far he improved as a Mixed Martial Artist, by defeating submission attempts and disabling “The Handler’s” top notch striking. Ben Askren will definitely be a Top 10 Welterweight in a few years from now.

6. Alexander Shlemenko
Promotion: Bellator
Age: 25
Record: 30-4
Weight Class: Middleweight
Team: RusFighters Sport Club

Another Bellator prospect, Twenty-six year old Alexander “The Storm” Shlemenko has an incredible record of 30-4 with 19 KO’s, 4 Submissions and 7 Decisions. Shlemenko TKO’d the 13-1 Bryan Baker in his last fight, to win the Bellator Middleweight Tournament. His scheduled September fight against the fellow KO artist Hector Lombard could be a sure candidate for the Slugfest of the Year, especially when the both fighters share 33 TKO finishes in 63 career fights. Shlemenko could be a great addition to the UFC Middleweight division, with fights against the likes of Alan Belcher and Nate Marquardt as a potential toe-to-toe entertainment.

7.  Renan Barao
Promotion: WEC
Age: 23
Record: 23-1
Weight Class: Bantamweight
Team: Nova Uniao Brasil

The young Brazilian has probably the most impressive record on this list, with 23 victories and just one defeat (in his first professional fight). Barao made his WEC debut last month at WEC 49: Varner vs Shalorus, by defeating Anthony Leone via second round armbar. In fact, 10 of Barao’s career victories come by the way of submission. WEC Featherweight Champion and Nova Uniao partner Jose Aldo declared that Renan Barao will be in Top 3 of his division within a year. I personally share the same opinion.

8. Shane Del Rosario
Promotion: Strikeforce
Age: 25
Record: 10-0
Weight Class: Heavyweight
Team: Oyama

The young Strikeforce Heavyweight gun Shane Del Rosario demonstrated his continuous improvement against the more experienced Lolohea Mahe at the ShoMMA 9 event. Del Rosario’s Muay Thai is a pleasure to watch, and his impressive 10-0 record of 8 TKO’s and 2 Submission is a proof that he has a future as one of the top Heavyweights in the World. Del Rosario has recently expressed his desire to square off against Andrei Arlovski, in what could be a Baptism of Fire of his entrance to the Strikeforce’s Heavyweight elite.

9. Magomed Shikshabekov
Promotion: M-1 Global
Age: 25
Record: 7-0
Weight Class: Welterweight
Team: Legion Russia

Young Dagestan-born Welterweight Magomed Shikshabekov is without a doubt M-1 Global’s biggest prospect, and probably the biggest name after Fedor Emelianenko. “The Eagle” holds a clean 7-0 record, never out of the first round, two TKO’s and four Submissions. At the age of 25, Shikshabekov has a bright future ahead of him. The twenty-five year old dominated his every opponent at M-1 Selection shows, thanks to his elite-level Sambo, which more and more reminds me of a young Fedor Emelianenko. Shikshabekov was originally scheduled to square off against AKA’s Ron Keslar at Fedor vs. Werdum, but the fight was cancelled due to his Visa issues. This way or another, Shikshabekov’s debut against a top opponent is just a question of time.

10. Dong Yi Yang
Promotion: UFC
Age: 25
Record: 9-0
Weight Class: Middleweight
Team: Korean Top Team

Korean Top Team product Dong Yi Yang already signed with the UFC, and will face TUF 11 product Chris Cammozi at the stacked UFC 121 event in October. The powerful South Korean trains alongside the Korean Zombie Chan Sung Jung, and holds an impressive all-TKO record of 9-0. Dong Yi Yang defeated the Pride Veteran Pawel Nestula in a controversial Sengoku”>Sengoku bout, which will be remembered for Yang’s multiple kicks to the groin. Nicknamed “The Ox”, Dong Yi Yang brings a very “colorful” character to the Octagon, and will surely stay in the UFC for a reasonable amount of time.

  • Is Phil Davis the guy who had that body-slam KO? Maybe the most perfect body-slam KO ever. It was a forearm choke, and he moved his head to the side before doing it. Quinton knocked Arona out with a headbutt. Phil’s was better.

  • shlemenko is a beast. Him vs belcher would be a war

  • I think the slam you are talking about was gerald harris on dave branch. Not Davis.

  • lol, that pic of Shikshabekov looks like an unshaven Spock.

  • You are correct sir : )

  • It’s a good list & plenty of great talent coming up, but John Hathaway does stand out most of all for me.

    He’s so calm & mature for his age. I rate Sanchez very highly, mainly because of his work rate & focus. Was it to soon for a step back up to 170 after his 155 title fight with Penn? Not sure but Hathaway handled him like a veteran.

    I can’t wait to see him fight again along with Davis!

  • Gerald Harris makes my list as a future star, however at 30 years old does not belong on a “young prospects” list. He has however, more than made up for lost time. Interesting enough, after appearing on season 7 of the ultimate fighter and being eliminated in the second round by Amir Sadollah, Harris was not offered a contract with the UFC. Undeterred, he went on a seven fight win streak in various other promotions before calling Dana White while White was a guest on MMA Junkie Radio. He pretended to be a British fan and asked why the UFC hadnt signed “that guy” Gerald Harris? Dana said that he really liked that guy and intended on bringing him into the the promotion. So Gerald was like “Its me Harris!” Since he has went 3-0 in the UFC, all 3 by KO/TKO, most recently knocking out Branch with that nasty slam. Exciting prospect in the middleweight division for sure.

  • Haha that’s a funny story, didn’t know about this one. Nice.

  • Good Story! Smart move by Harris.

  • I was actually thinking Harris might be on this list. I think he is a dark horse in his weight division, and might take some by surprise.

  • I read this after posting my response above, and agree completely that he should be watched closely because he is very talented. Didn’t realize he was a little older than most though…

  • Yes he is

  • Hathaway putting it down…..But how is Phil Davis not on the top of the list….Best V taper in mma….Oh well that he looks like a bodybuilder I guess he needs to finish some fights in a selling fashion..Im not the biggest fan of the way wrestling is taking over..But..this dude hopefully will bring it…..Maybe I like him cuz he trains 1 block from my house idk….Grispi I hear good things about and I know “Lowkick loves the guy ” but I still havnt watched much of this dude yet……..

  • I think Davis is the most talented young comer, can’t wait too see him fight higher lvl competitors,and also where Johnny Hendricks, I no hes well knowns and everything but hes still fighting lesser known fighters and is still in the undercard

  • I dont think Jones can get the belt with guys like Shogun, Machida and Evans even though they train together…He cant beat any of them. Hathaway is good and has potential but he needs to be able to stuff GSP’s takedowns and we need to see more of both him and Davis but they both have potential. I like Pat Curran but he has to get passed Eddie Alvarez which is not easy to do…Too bad for Grispi he has the rotten luck of being in Aldo’s weight class and he’s hands down the best in the weight class so unless Aldo leaves or moves up in weight he wont come close

  • Surprised Stun Gun Kim’s not up there.
    Ah well, still a great list, expected all of them to be up there, anyhow.

  • my sentiments exactly on The Stun Gun.
    maybe at 28 and already dominating, he’s considered too big a star for a young prospect list.

  • Check out Grispi’s fights if you can, he’s no joke. A lot of them are quick so don’t blink.

  • I don’t know why this got weaked. Kim is a good choice.

  • Askren is the top guy here, no doubt. He is like phil davies just with better wrestling and jiujitsu.

  • i like all the guys but i would really like to see Shlemenko signed by the UFC, the American fans would love the way he fights… he also looks like he could even make WW if he tried hard enough

  • because people are ****ing ignorant morons that are weak click happy… probably one of the TUF fan boys who is sad that Stun Gun completely outclassed Amir Sadaloh in every aspect of their fight

  • yeah and even if you cant watch all his fights in full, im sure he has a highlight video… most of his fights end in the first round though

  • What is Phil Davis Cuban now? Shaving a few years off his age? He’s 25 years old going on 26 in Sept. I’m curious as to where the 23 number came from?

  • Maybe he got confused with Jon Jones as he is 23

  • So you can’t be a prospect if you are already famous? That seems kind of strange and the number 1 prospect in MMA today is Bones.