UFC Prospect Watch: April 2015 Edition

Sterling remains one of the brightest prospects both in the UFC and around the MMA world.

Sterling remains one of the brightest prospects both in the UFC and around the MMA world.

With four cards during the month of April, there is plenty of UFC action to anticipate and there are several youngsters who will be making their way to the octagon this month. In one of the most talent-filled months to date, this has been our toughest month of decisions with regards to UFC prospects.

While several of these young fighters will be in action at UFC 186: Johnson vs. Horiguchi, there are still plenty of names to note down during tonight’s UFC Fight Night: Mendes vs. Lamas card and next week’s UFC Fight Night Gonzaga vs. Crop Cop II. Last but certainly not least, UFC on FOX 15: Rockhold vs. Machida is an absolutely stacked card which will also feature a few up-and-coming UFC fighters.

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

Honorable Mention

Shamil Abdurakhimov (15-3-0)

Abdurakhimov is an older fighter and was in action on Saturday against the soon-to-be-mentioned Timothy Johnson. He had a wealth of experience going into this fight but was completely dominated by the wrestler.  He had yet to fight in the UFC but wass riding a 3-fight win streak before losing in the first round to Johnson. While his striking looked good, once he hit the mat it was only a matter of time. With that said, wrestling and ground work should be a main focus for him has he tries to bounce back later this year.

Taylor Lapilus (8-1-0)

Hailing from Paris, France, Lapilus will be making his UFC debut in Poland and has put together an impressive collection of submission victories outside the octagon. At just 22 years old, Lapilus has good potential but this will be the first time facing UFC-level competition. He has yet to record a TKO/KO victory and relies heavily on his ground skills. As long as he brings a solid striking game to his next fight, Lapilus has a good chance of making a name for himself later this month.

Shane Campbell (11-2-0)

Having never fought in the UFC, Campbell has a huge opportunity in front of him as he takes on John Makdessi in his UFC debut. The Canadian has put together a solid win streak outside the UFC and will have the luxury of fighting in his home country at UFC 186. He has shown good versatility in 13 fights and has yet to be knocked out. With so much competition on this list, a win against a veteran would help him surpass other prospects in the UFC, despite his exclusion from the top 10 this month.

Leon Edwards (8-2-0)

Fighting out of England, Edwards lost his UFC debut to Claudio Henrique da Silva via split decision in a very close fight. Prior to that, Edwards terrorized the BAMMA fight promotion by winning five straight bouts, winning three of those fights in the first round. His only other loss was due to an illegal knee and he could have been a lot higher on this list with a win in his last bout. Edwards’ next fight will be against Seth Baczynski in Poland, which should be a great opportunity to get back in the win column.

 Maryna Moroz (5-0-0)

Making her UFC strawweight debut, Moroz is a 23-year old grappling style fighter who continues to improve her striking. She has finished all five of her fights, four in the first round, and four via submission. Similar to Ronda Rousey, Moroz won all four of her submission victories by armbar. Moroz will be taking on the number sixth ranked strawweight in Joanne Calderwood who is also undefeated. She is a true veteran of the sport and a good challenge for the up-and-coming Moroz.

Top 10

Chris Dempsey (10-2-0)

Kicking off the top 10 is a very interesting group of four fighters. Firstly, Dempsey is a good all-around fighter who was given a very tough test for his UFC debut. Taking on Ilir Latifi, Dempsey lost the fight in just over two minutes via knockout. In his defense, Latifi is a huge mountain to climb for your first UFC fight and Dempsey should have a bit more luck with the struggling Eddie Gordon. Based on his skills, grinding out the fight against Gordon could get Dempsey a hard fought decision. However, finishing a highly-talked about fighter like Gordon could be just the medicine to get another high-end opponent for his next fight.

Eddie Gordon (8-2-0)

After winning the Ultimate Fighter, Gordon lost his most recent bout to Josh Samman via head kick and needs a big victory against Dempsey. He is a good wrestler and has demonstrated a respectable striking game. His versatility coupled with Dempsey’s skill set should make for an interesting chess match between two fighters in need of a win. Fighting out of the Serra-Longo Fight Team, Gordon will need to perform at his best to avoid the UFC hot seat and live up to the hype since the TUF win.

David Michaud (8-1-0)

Similar to the previous two fighters, Michaud will be taking on our 6th ranked fighter on this list and the matchup seems like a coin toss. Michaud is 1-1 in the UFC and won his most recent fight against Garett Whiteley. His only loss came via split decision to Jinliang Li at UFC 173. It was a very close fight and Michaud all the skills to be a successful fighter in the UFC. After going to a decision twice, Michaud will hope to add to his six finishes to avoid the judges’ scorecards for a third time. For now, he will have to focus his energy on Oliver Aubin-Mercier as he tries to climb the UFC ladder.

Olivier Aubin-Mercier (6-1-0)

Unlike his opponent Michaud, Mercier has won all five of his fights via submission. He won his first four MMA fights by first round rear-naked chokes before losing to Chad Laprise via split decision. With less experience and a one-dimensional skill set, must wonder why Aubin-Mercier is ranked higher than Michaud. Well, have a look at his most recent UFC win against Jake Lindsay. That level of grappling deserves recognition, and if the fight hits the ground it seems Aubin-Mercier will have a huge advantage. Nevertheless, in such a close fight, it will be interesting to see who can capitalize on their opponent’s mistakes.

Bryan Barberena (10-2-0)

In terms of knockout specialists, there may not be a better candidate than Barberena on this list. He has shown solid striking skills throughout his career and was able to get the third round TKO victory over Joe Ellenberger in his UFC debut. He is currently riding a seven-fight win streak and will take on the Canadian Chad Laprise in Montreal. Barberena is good at pushing the pace and works hard to keep the fight standing. As long as the fisticuffs are flying, Barberena has all the skills to come away with the win.

Thomas Almeida (18-0-0)

While records are not everything, two UFC wins under your belt is a big deal in the fight game. If the top four fighters this month did not have 2-0 UFC records, Almeida would be right in the mix for the number one spot. He finished his first 12 fights in the first round and defeated Tim Gorman in his UFC debut. He is a very exciting fighter and a dangerous striker. At just 23 years old, Almeida has immense potential and could be ‘the one to watch’ with a big win against Yves Jabouin at UFC 186 in Montreal.

Nordine Taleb (10-2-0)

Another Canadian making his return to the octagon in Montreal, Taleb is an absolute animal but has yet to show his knockout power in the UFC. His first two UFC fights, against Vik Grujic and Jingliang Li, were solid wins but he was unable to land the much-preferred finish. Check out this knockout of UFC veteran Pete Sell. If Taleb were to bring similar instincts and excitement to the octagon, his stock would certainly rise even with a loss to Chris Clements. As long as the fight stays standing, Taleb has the puncher’s chance to end the fight at any time.

Chad Laprise (10-0-0)

Laprise is currently riding a two-fight win streak in the UFC and will try to make it three in Montreal. Representing Canada, he was the Ultimate Fighter Nations winner at welterweight but has since moved down to lightweight. Taking the next step in his career, Laprise will take on another up-and-comer in Barberena who also enjoys keeping the fight standing. Both fighters have relied heavily on their striking which should make this an exciting fight. On the other hand, Laprise has shown some wrestling skills and a respectable ground game which should keep Barberena guessing. If Laprise pulls off the victory, he should be in line for a much tougher matchup in his next fight.

Timothy Johnson (10-1-0)

In such a wide open weight class, Johnson could not have picked a better time to secure a 2-0 UFC record. He put on a dominant performance against Abdurahimov and could climb the heavyweight ranks fairly quickly. He is an experienced wrestler with deceiving conditioning and a solid chin. His ground and pound looked ferocious on Saturday and his transitioning skills looked even more impressive. Given the lack of talent, there is a good chance Johnson will be in action against a very tough opponent in his next bout.

Aljamain Sterling (10-0-0)

Quite possibly the most highly-anticipated prospect in the UFC, Sterling pulled out of his last bout but will be taking on his toughest challenge yet in Takeya Mizugaki. At 2-0, Sterling already looks like a full-blown UFC fighter, but it will be his upcoming fight that will set the stage for his UFC coming out party. Had he competed in his last bout, there is a good chance he would have surpassed the level of prospect by now. With that said, this Serra-Longo fighter has a very promising UFC career ahead but will need to get things started against a challenging opponent in Mizugaki.

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