UFC Prospect Watch: February 2015 Edition



With only three cards scheduled for February, UFC fans can relax after a very eventful January, where storylines seemed to sprout from both inside and outside the octagon.  UFC 184: Rousey vs. Zingano will be the only pay-per-view event in February with Benson Henderson vs. Brandon Thatch kicking off the month next weekend and Frank Mir vs. Bigfoot happening one week later. Going down the list of fights for the coming month, there are several notable prospects that are worthy of mentioning in this month’s edition of our UFC Prospect Watch.

Honourable Mention

Daniel Kelly (8-0-0), age 37

Kelly may be an older fighter but he looked good in his UFC debut and came in from Australia as an undefeated fighter. He has good submission skills and has demonstrated good cardio in the past. He was part of the Ultimate Fighter and defeated Luke Zachrich via first round kimura in his first UFC fight. The biggest and most obvious issue with Kelly is time. He needs to make a legitimate push in the coming year to make it to the next level in the UFC. For now, he will need to set his eyes on defeating Patrick Walsh, another Ultimate Fighter alumni who should be a great challenge for Kelly.

Cody Pfister (11-3-1), age 24

Pfister’s losses are a little misleading based on his recent success. He lost three straight back in 2011 but has gone 7-0-1 ever since. He made up for the draw by beating Edward Cline in their second meeting, winning via TKO in just over a minute. He has displayed good versatility in his previous fights and has never been knocked out.  If he can rid himself of those pesky UFC jitters, an impressive win over a solid fighter like James Moontasri would help him climb the UFC rankings at a much pace.

Patrick Walsh (5-2-0), age 26

Having watched Walsh fight live at Substance Cage Combat, there are a few great aspects to his game that make him a real threat. He uses his cardio and wrestling to overpower and smother you, similar to Cain Velasquez and Kelvin Gastelum. Walsh has good size for his division and is a phsyically strong fighter. As mentioned, Walsh made an appearance on the Ultimate Fighter and came away with his first UFC victory against Dan Spohn on the show’s finale. One key flaw in his game is his striking. He needs to work on his punches and combos to stand a chance against top level competition. For now, Walsh’s focus will remain on Kelly, who is another strong fighter with a will to win.

Top 10

#10 – Levan Makashvili (9-1-0), age 26

Makashvili has performed very well with the CFFC promotion and has made up for his only loss against Alexandre Bezerra by beating him in their second encounter via decision. He uses his striking to throw fighters off their game, but it is hard to understand where he stacks up in the UFC. A good indicator of his skill and potential is the UFC’s choice of Nick Lentz as his first opponent. Lentz is a well-oiled UFC veteran and will provide every challenge possible for Makashvili. He likes to strike but Lentz will utilize his whole arsenal to avoid being finished. If Makashvili can pull off the upset, expect an even more interesting matchup next time around.

#9 – James Moontasri (7-2-0), age 26

A member of the Black House fight team, Moontasri was pitted against Joe Ellenberger in his first fight and lost via split decision. It was a very good fight and great debut for the young but experienced 26-year old. His only losses have come by decision and he has been able to finish opponents in very impressive fashion. He has displayed great versatility in his past bouts but will need to active to avoid another decision loss. He will be taking on the already mentioned Pfister who is looking to prove himself as well. All in all, this should be a great fight for both fighters, with the winner getting a much juicier opportunity in their next bout.

#8 – Rodrigo Goiana de Lima (8-2-1), age 22

At just 22 years old, de Lima has fought tough competition and looks to be ready for the next level. However, in his UFC debut, he was matched up against Neil Magny, another up-and-comer who is making a name for himself in the UFC. De Lima lost the fight in the second round via KO and did not fight again in 2014. He is a good submission specialist but needs to work on his striking to be a more competitive fighter. He has already been finished twice and will need to stay unpredictable to avoid the same outcome at this level. Looking to kick 2015 off right, de Lima will take on MMA veteran Efrain Escudero in what should be a very entertaining fight.

#7- Douglas Silva de Andrade (22-1-0, 1NC), age 29

Silva de Andrade is well-accomplished fighter outside the UFC but fell to Zubaira Tukhugov in his debut almost a year ago. If that loss was due to UFC jitters, Silva de Andrade will still have his hands full with Cody Gibson. Gibson is a well-experienced fighter for his age and should create problems in all areas of the fight. Silva de Andrade loves to strike, winning 18 career fights via KO/TKO and only one by submission. If his past accomplishments are any indication of his skill, Silva de Andrade could be a name to remember if he pulls off an impressive victory.

#6 – Michel Prazeres (18-1-0), age 31

One could argue that Prazares is far from prospect status with a 2-1 UFC record but there are a few reasons he comes in at the six spot. He demonstrated a solid ground game outside the UFC but has a lot of work to do in the striking department. He is also well-experienced for his age but needs to face better competition. After coming into the UFC with a 16-0 record, he was paired up against Paulo Thiago and lost by decision. Since then, Prazeres has gone 2-0 against more lenient competition but looks to be one of the few 30-year-old newcomers to keep an eye on.

 #5 – Tiago Trator (19-4-2, 1NC), age 27

tratorAt the ripe age of 27, Trator has maintained a respectable record and made a name for himself in the Jungle Fight promotion. He went 7-0 in JF and won his UFC debut against Akbarh Arreola via decision last July. With almost 30 bouts to his name, it is quite impressive that Trator has yet to be knocked out. However, his three submission losses suggest a huge area of focus is his ground defense. Offensively, Trator has impressed with seven KO/TKO and six submission victories. In his upcoming bout, Trator will take on Mike de la Torre, a fighter with a very similar fighting style and is in desperate need of a win. With that said, expect both fighters to leave everything in the octagon come fight night.

#4 – Jim Alers (13-1-0), age 28

jim_alers_cw_63.0.0Long story short, Alers is definitely a fighter who could make a splash in the coming months. He is already 1-0 in the UFC and has not lost since April 2010. He is a very good grappler and has displayed some good striking skills as well. However, to be successful in the UFC, Alers will need to focus heavily on his striking defense to avoid the big knockouts. Alers will be taking on another 13-1 fighter in Chase Skelly and should have his hands full. They are both evenly matched and it would be no surprise to see them grind it out to a very close decision.

#3 – Ray Borg, (7-1-0), age 21

1403903944000-ray-borgKicking off the top three, Borg is the youngest fighter on the list but has immense potential as a UFC fighter. He has only lost by decision and has a very respectable. He was given a very tough fight in his debut, losing to Dustin Ortiz in a close split decision, but came back with a first round technical submission victory over Shane Howell. He is extremely talented and has one of the highest ceilings of anyone on this list. If he can improve his overall versatility and strength, Borg should be a force in the UFC very soon. With an exciting win over Chris Kelades, expect Borg to really turn some heads and hopefully make a pay-per-view appearance in the near future.

#2 – Kevin Lee (9-1-0), age 22

kevin leeAdding to the list of high-end prospects, Lee is a solid fighter at just 22 years old and is 2-1 in the UFC. Facing Al Iaquinta in your UFC debut is definitely a tough challenge and Lee lost the fight via unanimous decision. Since then, Lee is 2-0 with wins over Jon Tuck and Jesse Ronson. If he were a 3-0 UFC fighter, he would not be on this list. However, based on the level of competition and his age, Lee still has quite a ways to go and will have another tough test with the older and more experienced Prazeres. He possesses a good ground game but has yet to record a KO/TKO victory. With his only loss coming against Iaquinta via decision, a win over Prazeres should get him on a much bigger card later in the year.

#1 – Sean Strickland (15-0), age 23

sean-stricklandAs a big fan of Strickland, it is quite hard to support his prospect status based on his record. However, with how much talent there is in the UFC and how close he came to losing to Luke Barnatt, there are still reasons to consider him a young and up-and-coming prospect. He was an absolute beast in the KOTC circuit and made his UFC debut last year against Bubba McDaniel. He won via rear-naked choke in the first round and followed that up with his split decision win over Barnatt. It is actually quite hard to find holes in his game based on previous fights and opponents. He has been so dominant and is in desperate need of tougher competition. For his next fight, Strickland will take on the 20-2 Santiago Ponzinibbio, which will be his toughest test thus far. With just one more win, Strickland can be considered a graduated prospect who will surely make an appearance on a PPV card later this year.

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My love for MMA, writing, and journalism as a whole, brought me to MMASucka in June of 2013. Jeremy has been a great mentor while covering this sport, and also bestowed the honour of covering UFC 165 at the Air Canada Centre. I graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2012 with a B.A. in Political Science. and have pursued a role in the online sports journalism community ever since.

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