Our first edition of the UFC Prospect Watch would have come at no better time had Aljamain Sterling still been booked for November. He is by far one of the most talked about youngsters to recently grace the octagon and would have fought on the UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Bisping card. He is 10-0 and fights out of the high-flying Serra-Longo fight team where he trains with current middleweight champion Chris Weidman.
On a monthly basis, MMASucka will highlight the top 15 up-and-coming fighters doing battle during the coming four weeks. Though the Sterling fight was squashed, there is still plenty to talk about for the month of November.
Leandro Silva (16-2-1)
At just 28 years old, Silva has already amassed a 16-0-1 record outside the UFC but has lost his only two bouts on the main stage. In his defense, he had a very tough matchup in his debut against Ildemar Alcantara and took his second fight on short notice, fighting Francisco Trinaldo with only a month’s rest. For his third UFC fight, Silva will take on Charlie Brenneman, a veteran of the sport who has dropped his last two UFC bouts. An impressive victory should keep him safe from the hot seat and earn himself another interesting battle in the new year.
Paige VanZant (3-1-0)
Fighting out of the now infamous team Alpha Male, Vanzant could not ask for a better start to her UFC career. At just 20 years old, she seems poised to climb the strawweight ladder and has some of the best training partners in the world to help. Vanzant will be taking on the undefeated Kailin Curran in her next bout but expect this to be a very close fight. The strawweight champion will not be decided till December 12th, but expect Vanzant to make her mark on the division in the coming months.
Alexey Oleinik (49-9-1)
A long time veteran of the sport, Oleinik will hope to build on his first UFC victory when he takes on the very promising Jared Rosholt on November 22nd. Oleinik came into the UFC after submitting Mirko Crop Cop via first round neck crank last year. In fact, of his 49 wins, 40 of them have come by submission. At the age of 37, Oleinik is riding a 10 fight win streak and will hope to build on that in the UFC. His last loss was against another veteran Jeff Monson back in 2012, but he avenged that loss by submitting the very tough BJJ practitioner in the second round of their 2013 rematch. With that said, expect Oleinik to give it everything he’s got come fight night.
#15 – Roger “The Silverback” Narvaez (6-1-0)
Narvaez had won six straight fights in very impressive fashion before entering the UFC. Narvaez’s debut was against a very hungry Pat Cummins, who lost his debut against Daniel Cormier. Nothing against Narvaez, but after getting pounded by Cormier, Cummins was evidently the hungrier fighter. Narvaez will now take on the lanky Luke Barnatt in another tough battle, but his versatility and experience in his last bout should help him weather the storm. If he can pull off the upset, Narvaez will surely turn some heads come November 22nd.
#14 – Alan “Brahma” Jouban (10-2-0)
With a very impressive debut against Seth Baczynski, Jouban is riding a three-fight win streak and ended his first UFC bout in the first round. He was able to land a devastating uppercut with less than a minute left in the round, which only confirmed his punching power at a 170 pounds. He has seven TKO/KO finishes and four of them have come in the first round. He has been a part of Black House and 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu which should give him an edge in training. Jouban will carry his three fight win streak into his next bout with the very promising Warlley Alves. However, if Jouban’s debut was evidence of anything, you can never count him out of the fight.
#13 – Claudio Henrique “Hannibal” Da Silva (10-1-0)
While there is not much to go on with Da Silva, he has compiled an impressive record and has not lost since 2007, which was a disqualification in his first professional fight. For his debut, Da Silva was able to come away with the decision victory over Brad Scott. For his second fight, he will be taking on Leon Edwards next weekend and will put his 10-fight win streak on the line. He is a good ground fighter with six submission victories and two TKO wins. The biggest question with Da Silva is if his striking game is at par with the rest of the UFC competition. Next week will be a good test for a him and, with a win, could get a much tougher and higher ranked opponent in his following bout.
#12 – Nick “Sergeant” Hein (11-1-0, 1NC)
Coming into the UFC, Hein was an unknown German fighter who made a name for himself overseas. His only loss came by knockout in 2011, but other than that, his fight resume remains impeccable. The only problem with Hein’s past experience is came against unknown competition. To put the skeptics to rest, Hein won his UFC debut against Drew Dober back in May, which has now set him up for a very tough fight against James Vick. Hein is physically gifted, has phenomenal cardio, and can surprise a few with his ground game. Likely the underdog against Vick, a win would put Hein in a great position for a top level opponent in his next bout.
#11 – Josh “Cuddly Bear” Copeland (9-0-0)
Making his UFC debut on November 22nd, Copeland has been an absolute animal outside the UFC and has only passed the first round twice in his nine-fight career. After going 8-0, Copeland faught Jan Jorgensen for the RFA Heavyweight Title and won via TKO in the first round. He fights out of the rising Grudge Training Center and has a strong group of fighters behind him. He has also demonstrated good versatility in his game but will be taking on a very tough opponent in Ruslan Magomedov. However, with a strong debut, Copeland could make a very quick impact on an already weak heavyweight division.
#10 – Ruslan “Leopard” Magomedov (12-1-0)
Moving into the top 10, Magomedov is a name we should be hearing very soon. He is a very strong and versatile heavyweight who made a name for himself in Russia. What got him into the top 10 were his last two performances, which proved he belongs in the UFC. To finish off 2013, Magomedov beat former UFC champion Tim Sylvia via unanimous decision, and went on to win his UFC debut against Viktor Pesta back in May. His only career loss came via body punch in 2011, and has gone the distance in his last four fights. This should help him in the cardio department, as he takes on the undefeated Copeland at UFC Fight Night: Edgar vs. Swanson.
#9 – Colby Covington (6-0-0)
In a very short period of time, Covington has amassed a very good record and won his UFC debut in very impressive fashion. He defeated Anying Wang by submitting him to punches with just 10 seconds left in the first round. He has three first round submission victories but has yet to win by TKO/KO. At just 26 years old, training at American Top Team will help Covington learn from some of the best coaches and fighters in the game. He will be fighting Wagner Silva Gomes at UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. St. Preux and it should be a favorable matchup for the grappler. Gomes has yet to record a TKO/KO victory and lost his UFC debut via submission. Barring any setbacks, Covington should impress in his second UFC fight, opening the door to a very interesting opportunity next time around.
#8 – Thomas “Thominhas” Almeida (16-0-0)
Making his debut next weekend, Almeida is one of the most promising newcomers with a very impressive resume to go with the hype. All 16 of his victories were finishes, 14 of which came in the first round. He constantly pushes the pace, has great takedown defense, and can throw with the very best of them. He has very impressive power for the bantamweight class and could be one of the best fighters to come out of the Chute Boxe camp right now. Did I mention he is only 23 years old? He has all the skills and potential to be a UFC contender but will have to get by Tim Gorman first. Gorman lost his debut to Mitch Gagnon and will be looking to rebound from a tough decision loss. With that said, hopefully Almeida kicks the jitters and continues his torrid pace of 11 straight TKO/KO victories.
#7 – Luke “Bigslow” Barnatt (8-1-0)
Almeida could have been a lot higher on this list had it not been for the UFC experience of the next seven fighters. Barnatt is a 3-1 UFC fighter but lost his most recent fight to Sean Strickland in a close split decision. Had he won, Barnatt would not be considered for this list, as his 4-0 record would have likely earned him a main card appearance. At 6’6″, Barnatt has tremendous reach for the 185 pound division and it should be an advantage against most fighters. His first round TKO of Mats Nilsson was very impressive, while his submission victory over Andrew Craig prior to that proved his versatility as an MMA fighter. As mentioned, Barnatt will be taking on Narvaez who is also coming off a loss, which should make this a very interesting battle come fight night. With a split decision loss to Strickland as his only blemish, Barnatt seems poised to get back on the winning trail as he works his way back up the middleweight ladder.
#6 – Jake “The Celtic Kid” Matthews (7-0-0)
Some people may not agree with this decision, but for those who did see Matthews’ UFC debut, you know this is warranted. At just 19 years old, Matthews entered his UFC debut on a six-fight win streak and, in the process, proved his skills on the mat. In his bout against Dashon Johnson, Matthews controlled the whole fight and was even compared to Rory MacDonald by Mike Goldberg and Kenny Florian. He is monstrous for a lightweight and seems to have amazing cardio for a three round fight. For his next bout, Matthews will have the pleasure of fighting in his home country of Australia against MMA veteran Vagner Rocha. Rocha has only lost to Donald Cerrone and Jonathan Brookins since 2011, which should be a great test for Matthews. With that said, Matthews oozes talent and should be considered one of the best young prospects in the UFC.
#5 – Warlley Alves (7-0-0)
While Matthews was really impressive, Alves is a TUF Brazil winner and looked phenomenal in his last fight. He was able to control the fight and dictated the pace, throwing off Marcio Alexandre Jr.’s karate style of striking. He was taken down regularly and Alves was able to sink in his signature guillotine choke to end the fight in the third round. Prior to his Ultimate Fighter appearance, Alves dominated the Jungle Fight promotion and has finished his last four professional fights. Taking on another tough opponent in Jouban, Alves’ next fight has the potential to be amazing, and another win could mean a main card opportunity for the aggressive Brazilian.
#4 – Caio “Hellboy” Magalhaes (8-1-0)
It’s possible the last two prospects have a much higher ceiling, but Magalhaes’ recent success is very deserving of this attention. He came into the UFC as a 5-0 fighter but lost his debut against Buddy Roberts via unanimous decision. Since then, Magalhaes has gone 3-0, winning by submission (Karlos Vemola), unanimous decision (Nick Ring) and TKO (Luke Zachrich). He finished his last fight against Zachrich with a devastating liver punch just 44 seconds into the fight. He’s a really strong fighter for the middleweight division and trains out of the Nova Uniao and American Top Team camps. Taking on the veteran BJJ fighter Trevor Smith in his next bout, Magalhaes seems to have the upper hand in all-around skill and should be a handful for the American.
#3 – James “The Texecutioner” Vick (6-0-0)
In terms of experience, Vick may have fought the toughest competition outside the top two and has been very impressive in the process. He competed on the Cruz vs. Faber Ultimate Fighter and made it to the semi-finals, losing to the eventual winner Michael Chiesa in the second round via KO. Ever since his TUF loss, Vick has been great, defeating solid competition to go 2-0 in the UFC. In his first fight, he defeated TUF finalist Ramsey Nijem via guillotine choke in under a minute. In his second fight, he went the distance with Valmir Lazaro but won via unanimous decision. His next fight will be against Hein, number 12 on this list, and should be a grueling match for both fighters given their ability to go the distance with ease. If Vick comes out on top, expect to see him on a main card in the near future.
#2 – Jared “The Big Show” Rosholt (11-1-0)
If you have already watched Rosholt fight, then you know he has the potential to make a serious splash in the heavyweight division. He has a pretty solid chin and only lost to current UFC fighter Derrick Lewis. Since the loss, Rosholt is on a seven fight win streak, which include wins over Walt Harris and Soa Palelei. He’s a versatile fighter for a heavyweight and has the skills and experience to climb the already open heavyweight ladder. Not to mention, training with a fighter like Johny Hendricks probably increases your chances of winning drastically, and Rosholt seems to be taking full advantage of that opportunity. In his next fight, Rosholt will take on the very experienced Oleinik, who should be looking for the submission at all times. If he chooses to stand with Rosholt, it could be a very quick night for the Russian, and another notch on the belt for the very promising heavyweight.
#1 – Dustin Ortiz (14-3-0)
There’s an old saying in MMA that seems to get passed around; if you’re an undefeated fighter, you’re probably not fighting the right guys. Consider a prospect like Ortiz, whose two of three losses have come against talent like Ian McCall and John Moraga. In his most recent bout, Ortiz won a very close split decision against another promising youngster in Justin Scoggins. Ortiz has never been finished and fights out of the very talented Roufusport camp, home to elite level fighters like Anthony Pettis. Putting his 3-1 UFC record on the line, Ortiz will take on the very talented Joseph Benavidez, in what will be the toughest fight of his career. Training at such a good camp and fighting such tough competition so early in his career, the 25 year old could make a name for himself against one of the best flyweights in the world.