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UFC Prospect Watch: March 2015 Edition

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With just two cards in the UFC for the month of March, there are a few notable prospects who will be in action in the coming weeks. UFC 185 will take place this coming weekend while UFC Fight Night: Maia vs. LaFlare will get underway one week later.

Here is MMASucka’s Prospect Watch for the month of March.

Honorable Mention

Ryan “Baby Face” Benoit (7-3-0)

Taking on the quickly rising Sergio Pettis, Benoit has his work cut out for him at UFC 185. He made his UFC debut last November in a submission loss to Josh Sampo. This marked his first loss by submission but he has never been knocked out in his career. He is a well-versed Muay Thai fighter with six KO/TKO victories but will need to work on all facets of the game if he wishes to upset Pettis.

Christos “The Spartan” Giagos (10-3-0)

Giagos is another UFC fighter in the same boat as Benoit. He lost his UFC debut to a fighter who will be discussed later, and has only lost via submission in his MMA career. He enjoys pushing the pace and is an exciting fighter to watch, but he will have to improve his BJJ skills if he hopes to beat the Brazilian Jorge de Oliveira. After taking on a very tough opponent in his UFC debut, Giagos has another difficult task to overcome but can keep the fight in his favor as long as he continues to stand and trade with the 35-year old.

Joseph “Irish Joe” Duffy (12-1-0)

In a month with a lot less competition, Duffy could have cracked the top 10. However, due to his lack of UFC experience and submission loss to Ivan Musardo at CWFC 44, Duffy is the last fighter to round up our honorable mention section. He is a good all-around fighter and came away with a 36-second knee strike victory before getting promoted to the UFC. On top of his 3 KO/TKO victories, Duffy has also displayed his submission skills with eight finishes to date. He has only been the distance once and will look to push the pace in his UFC debut. His opponent Jake Lindsey is on a tw0-fight losing streak and should be a favorable match up for the 27-year old Irishman.

Top 10

#10 – Bentley “Bolivia” Syler (5-0-0)

Syler may have just five bouts to his name but his overall skill and versatility have helped him land a spot in the UFC. He has two submission and KO/TKO victories and has only gone the distance once. He fights out of American Top Team which is one of the most successful gyms in MMA and should be a primary reason for his impressive career so far. One of the main concerns for Syler will be rust, as he has not fought since December 2013. Nevertheless, he is taking on a fellow newcomer in Freddy Serrano and, based on his training partners and experience, should have all the tools to come away with a victory.

#9 – Leonardo “Macarrao” Mafra (11-2-0)

At just 25 years old, Mafra has already had a storied career and will be making his third appearance in the UFC. He made his debut at UFC 147 but lost via TKO in the third round. Since then, Mafra went on a five-fight win streak before losing to Rick Story in his second stint with the UFC. In his defense, Story is a very tough opponent so early in his UFC career and learning from that experience will do him wonders in his next bout. He has six first round finishes and will be looking to build off those victories against Cain Carrizosa. As they say, third time is a charm, and Mafra will be looking for his first UFC win to avoid going 0-3 with the promotion.

#8 Cain “The Insane” Carrizosa (6-1-0)

It was difficult to decide between Mafra and Carrizosa for the eighth spot but the American gets the edge for a few reasons. For one, Carrizosa is coming off his UFC debut loss to Chris Wade, a first round guillotine choke in under two minutes. Outside of that loss, Carrizosa has been impeccable, going 6-0 with a 30-second KO in his most recent victory. ┬áNow that the jitters have settled, Carrizosa will need to redeem himself against another challenging opponent in Mafra. Both fighters are very tough and enjoy the striking game, but it is really anyone’s game based on each fighters’ skill set. Win or lose, both fighters are fairly equal and should provide a very exciting bout for UFC fans.

#7 Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira (10-1-1)

In terms of prospects, Oliveira may be the best UFC newcomer on this list. He has compiled a very impressive record and has just one loss against UFC competitor Wendell de Oliveira Marques. He has eight first round finishes and is a solid striker with untapped submission skills. His only defeat was by decision but he has recovered from that loss tremendously. His accomplishments outside the UFC have gotten him the chance to fight in front of his hometown crowd, replacing the injured Josh Thomson on short notice. Taking on the up-and-coming Gilbert Burns, Oliveira has the opportunity to take the UFC by storm if he comes away with a victory.

#6 Leandro “Buscape” Silva (17-2-1)

Similar to Mafra, Silva has already made a couple stints in the UFC but has fallen short when given the opportunity. The first time around, Silva took on Ildemar Alcantara and lost via decision. He went on a five-fight winning streak outside the UFC before getting the second call. He lost his next UFC fight to Francisco Trinaldo via decision but beat Charlie Brenneman via first round submission in his most recent bout. With a 1-2 UFC record, the submission specialist will need to pull out all the stops against another MMA veteran in Drew Dober. If Silva can come away with an impressive win, expect him to get a much more competitive opponent in his next UFC bout.

#5 Jorge “Blade” de Oliveira (7-1-0)

As mentioned, de Oliveira will be taking on Giagos in two weekends and should be the heavy favorite going into the fight. He was 7-0 prior to his UFC debut and finished all his opponents in the first round. He is a sublime striker who possesses good BJJ but was not tested prior to his UFC career. In his UFC debut, de Oliveira lost to Dhiego Lima via unanimous decision but should be able to recover from such a loss. Lima was considered one of the top prospects at the time and de Oliveira was able to take him the distance. Whether the fight stays standing or goes to the ground, all signs point to de Oliveira having the advantage as he hopes to land his first career UFC victory.

#4 Larissa Pacheco (10-1-0)

The only female to crack the list this month, Pacheco is just 20 years old but has demonstrated immense skill so far in her career. Her only loss came against Jessica Andrade in her UFC debut, which was a very difficult first fight for the Brazilian. She went 3-0 with the Jungle Fight promotion which helped her earn a spot in the UFC. She is a very good BJJ practitioner but has also improved her striking over time. Her second fight in the UFC will be against the 4-3 Germaine de Randamie who also lost her UFC debut to Amanda Nunes. Both fighters are coming off tough losses to highly-skilled opponents and will be looking to get their first UFC victory come Saturday night.

#3 – Henry “The Messenger” Cejudo (7-0-0)

This is not the first time Cejudo has made an appearance on this list but it could definitely be the last. Prior to his debut against Dustin Kimura, Cejudo started his pro career in 2013 and has been very impressive ever since. In a fairly dominant bout, Cejudo cemented his spot on the UFC roster by defeating a very credible opponent in his first fight. This time around, Cejudo will take on UFC veteran Chris Cariaso, who is by far his toughest challenge. This is certainly a gatekeeper role for Cariaso as Cejudo will be looking to crack the top 15 in the wide open flyweight division. With a few more wins, Cejudo could cement his place in the UFC flyweight title picture later this year.

#2 – Elias “The Spartan” Theodorou (10-0-0)

One of the few highly-touted Canadian prospects, Theodorou is already 2-0 in the UFC but should still be considered a UFC prospect based on competition. He is the The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia middleweight winner and is hoping to keep that streak going. Similar to Sean Strickland, Theodorou has looked great in his past fights but will be taking on his toughest challenge in Roger Narvaez. Narvaez is coming off a big win over Luke Barnatt and has a significant size advantage for the middleweight division. Both fighters have heavy hands but are well-versed in all facets of the game. Based on Theodorou’s ridiculous cardio level, there is a very good chance this fight goes the distance. However, if it does not, expect a very impressive finish as both fighters try to make their way up the UFC middleweight ladder.

#1 – Gilbert “Durinho” Burns (9-0-0)

It should be mentioned that Theodorou was close to taking the number one spot, but Burns is a stronger candidate for a few reasons. For one, Burns finished all his fights in the first round prior to joining the UFC and is a world BJJ champion. He is also a cardio beast but has developed his striking skills very well. Of his eight first round finishes, three have come via KO/TKO. On top of that, Burns trains out the Blackzilians camp which is one of the fastest rising fight teams in the world. He was supposed to fight Josh Thomson but Thomson pulled out of the fight due to injury. With training partners like Anthony Johnson and Vitor Belfort, Burns should provide a very tough challenge for UFC newcomer Alex Oliveira in their upcoming bout. Unless he suffers one of the biggest upsets of the night, expect Burns to be one of the fastest rising lightweights in the UFC.

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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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