UFC Prospect Watch: April Edition

BUFFALO, NY - APRIL 08: Magomed Bibulatov of Russia (R) lands a kick on Jenel Lausa of the Philippines (L) in their flyweight bout during the UFC 210 event at KeyBank Center on April 8, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The UFC Prospect Watch is back, and there are some great fights in store as April gets underway

The UFC kicked off April with a, well, interesting card last weekend, which saw Daniel Cormier retain the UFC light heavyweight title against the now-retired Anthony Johnson. If that was not enough, Gegard Mousasi beat Chris Weidman in one of the most unusual calls of all-time, which can certainly be blamed on questionable reffing.

Looking ahead, the UFC has two more fight cards left in April. While Demetrious Johnson will defend his title against Wilson Reis, Cub Swanson and Artem Lobov will end April in Nashville, Tennessee.

Without further ado, here is a look at the best up-and-coming fighters hitting the octagon in April.

Honourable Mention

Matt Schnell (10-3-0), 0-1 in UFC

Matt Schnell is a solid grappler with impressive power. However, he was at the wrong end of a first round KO/TKO against Rob Font last December on the Ultimate Fighter: Tournament of Champions Finale. He held the Legacy FC Flyweight Title before making the jump, and was a Louisiana State Golden Gloves boxer in 2011. Making the jump to bantamweight in December, Schnell will hope for a better performance against Hector Sandoval in his second bout at 135 pounds.

Josh Emmett (10-1-0), 2-1 in UFC

Fighting out of Team Alpha Male, Josh Emmett took a tough loss to the taller, and more versatile, Desmond Green. He would have surely made the rankings at the start of the month, but the tough split decision loss takes him out of the top 10 for April. Not to mention, at 32 years old, time is running out for the Sacramento-native. With at least one more fight on the horizon in 2017, Emmett will have to make the most of his upcoming opportunities.

Tom Duquesnoy (14-1-0, 1 NC), UFC Debut 

If it was not for such great performances last weekend, Tom Duquesnoy could have sneaked into the top 10 this month, or could very well appear in the top five later this year. Holding the BAMMA Featherweight and Bantamweight titles before making the move to the UFC, Duquesnoy has not lost since 2013. His only career loss came against Makwan Amirkhani via first round submission, but the young Frenchman has rebounded well ever since. His accomplishments outside the UFC are phenomenal, and at just 23 years old, his age confirms he has a bright future ahead.

Top 10

#10 – Desmond Green (20-5-0), 1-0 in UFC

Desmond Green came out with a great game plan against Emmett last weekend, and earned himself a win in the process. He has great height and reach for the lightweight division, and showed impressive footwork against a credible UFC opponent. Green held the Titan FC featherweight title, and appeared on the Bellator Tournament. After showing no signs of jitters in his UFC debut, Green should have plenty of momentum heading into his next bout.

#9 – Andrew Sanchez (10-2-0), 2-0 in UFC

Andrew Sanchez, The Ultimate Fighter winner has come a long way in his MMA career in a short period of time. The wrestling and BJJ standout has shown improved striking, but will need to keep a defensive mind against the veteran Anthony Smith. He should have all the skills to come away with the victory, but Smith has shown some finishing ability in the past. As long as Sanchez sticks to his strengths and avoids playing Smith’s game, it is hard to see him losing this fight.

#8 – Alexander Volkov (27-6-0), 1-0 in UFC

In what is the most depleted division in the UFC, Alexander Volkov stands to gain plenty from a win against Roy Nelson. He won a close split decision against Timothy Johnson, but should be able to hang with Nelson if he can get out of the first round. He stands 6’7″, and has a 80″ reach, which will help him keep his distance against such an aggressive fighter. If there was any time to be more conservative and technical, tonight would be the night. He is currently ranked 11th in the heavyweight division, but a win against Nelson should land him a top ten fighter later this year.

#7 – Shane Burgos (9-0-0), 2-0 in UFC

Shane Burgos made a name for himself last weekend with another great performance. His second UFC win came against Charles Rosa, who put up a great fight early on, but lost in the third round. They earned a Fight of the Night bonus but, looking ahead, Burgos needs to be a better defensive fighter. He ate a lot of strikes, but utilized his power late in the fight. The 26-year old finisher is bound for a spot in the top 15, but the best featherweights in the world will not let him get away with so much.

#6 – Mike Perry (9-1-0), 2-1 in UFC

Mike Perry was on an incredible trajectory before losing to Alan Jouban via unanimous decision. He started his UFC career with two KO/TKO victories over Hyun Gyu Lim and Danny Roberts, but fell to the UFC veteran last December. Showing very strong standup skills, Perry needs to improve his  overall versatility if he hopes to compete with the best. Jouban was able to land two key takedowns, and landed almost double in total strikes, which inevitably lost him the fight. Taking on Jake Ellenberger next weekend, Perry will have to utilize that power, footwork and head movement, to avoid the powerful strikes and takedowns of Ellenberger.

#5 – Renato Moicano (10-0-1), 2-0 in UFC

Renato Moicano will have his toughest test yet when he takes on Jeremy Stephens tonight in Kansas. He showed a good mix of striking and grappling in his previous two fights, but was taken down three times against Zubaira Tukhugov. He came away with a close split decision win, but will need to take his game to the next level against a veteran like Stephens. The fifth ranked featherweight will test Moicano’s striking and chin, which could be a tough task for three full rounds. If Moicano can pull off the upset win, he will certainly create a ripple in the UFC featherweight division.

#4 – Gregor Gillespie (9-0-0), 2-0 in UFC

Gregor Gillespie proved the hype was real after knocking out Andrew Holbrook in the first round last weekend. The four-time NCAA D-1 wrestling All-American compiled a superb resume which include a D-1 national championship and a school-record 152 wins with a 0.917 winning percentage.  He was also a two-time New York State champion, and started training MMA in 2011, but did not have his first fight till 2014 due to injury. He has plenty of potential with the striking and grappling combo, which he displayed against Glaico France in his UFC debut.  Needless to say, Gillespie’s future looks very bright in the UFC, and the has the charisma to go with it.

#3 – Cynthia Calvillo (5-0-0), 2-0 in UFC

Another Alpha Male member, Cynthia Calvillo put on a great performance last weekend against Pearl Gonzalez. With so much attention surrounding her fight, and the possibility of it being cancelled, Calvillo kept her cool and came away with another impressive submission victory. As she approaches top-level competition, Calvillo has the grappling and submission game, but will need to continue her work in the striking department to compete with some of the elites at the top of the strawweight division.

#2 – Stevie Ray (20-6-0), 4-1 in UFC

If it were not for the loss against Alan Patrick, Stevie Ray would be considered a contender after his breakout in the UFC. However, after a tough loss, and a close split decision win against Ross Pearson last November, Ray finds himself in an intriguing position heading into next weekend. He is scheduled to fight Joe Lauzon, by far his toughest test yet, and will need to keep his grappling skills on point to avoid another loss. The 27-year old is a good athlete with some power, but he needs to bring a lot more to the table as he approaches the next level in the UFC.

#1 – Magomed Bibulatov (14-0-0), 1-0 in UFC

One of the more dominant fights last weekend, Magomed Bibulatov started his UFC career with a bang. He absolutely dominated Jenel Lausa in a unanimous decision win, and  showed incredible all-around skill to come away with the victory. With just one UFC fight, it will be interesting to see how he does in his next clash. Based on his performance, he should get a top-level opponent, and the flyweight division is in desperate need of contenders. He has all the potential in the world, and could be a tough fight for anyone in the division. With that said, do not be surprised if we see Bibulatov against a top 15 fighter in his next bout.

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