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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Weight Class: Heavyweight
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
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
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.