UFC Prospect Watch: September Edition

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The UFC has plenty of fights scheduled for the coming weeks, which makes this prospect report even more difficult. Narrowing down the best guys over the next four weeks came down to age, current MMA success and where they could be with a solid win in the Octagon.

If some of your favorites were left off this list, have not fear; I have been wrong in the past. With the plethora of young talent entering the UFC, numerous fighters could make a splash with an impressive victory in September.

These are just the guys that have the best chance of doing it.

Honorable Mention

Martin Buschkamp (9-0-0, 1NC)

Buschkamp was scheduled to fight Alex Enlund in Germany this past weekend, but the bout was scrapped after Enlund pulled out due to injury. Buschkamp has put together a nice string of wins on the European circuit, and has developed solid grappling and submission skills in that time. The UFC has promised Buschkamp another fight at a later date, and the German-based fighter will likely put his undefeated record on the line later this year.

Veronica Macedo (5-1-1), 0-1 in UFC

A late replacement against a very tough opponent, Macedo fought Ashlee Evans-Smith in a difficult UFC debut this past weekend. Not only was it on short notice, but the young Venezuelan turned pro less than six months ago, and clearly had an issue with the size difference. She had fought seven times since March, and fatigue clearly took over in the last round. Nevertheless, at just 20 years old, it will be interesting to see how well she does with a full training camp in her next fight.

Jose Quinonez (5-2-0), 1-1 in UFC

After losing the The Ultimate Fighter Latin America bantamweight finals, Quinonez came back strong with a first round submission win over Leonardo Morales last June. Fighting out of Alliance MMA, Quinonez has the skills to be successful fighter in the UFC. For his next bout, Quinonez will take on Joey Gomez at UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Johnson, which should be an exciting bout with both fighters pushing the pace.

Top 10

#10 – Vincente Luque – (9-5-1), 2-1 in UFC

After losing his UFC debut via unanimous decision to Michael Graves, Luque has come back with a vengeance, scoring two submission victories and a Performance of the Night in the process. He absolutely manhandled Alvaro Herrera in July and is set to fight Hector Urbina on September 24. He landed 26 strikes and four takedowns within the first two rounds, and submitted his opponent for the second straight time to beat Herrera.

Urbina is coming off a loss to Bartosz Fabinski, but is an MMA veteran with a 25-9-0 record at just 28 years old. He will undoubtedly look to to take this fight to the ground if he feels threatened, but Luque should be able to weather the storm. If he comes away with another finish, the UFC should give him a high-end opponent for his next bout.

#9 – Belal Muhammad – (9-1-0), 0-1 in UFC

A Chicago-native who came up through the Titan FC promotion, Muhammad won the welterweight title before joining the UFC. Muhammad had a very tough UFC debut against a seasoned fighter like Alan Jouban, and took his first career loss as a result. He was knocked down twice in the first round, but recovered strongly to stay in the fight. Both fighters put on a great performance to earn Fight of the Night honors. Interestingly enough, Muhammad was also fasting for Ramadan during his training camp, something that could have played a part in the outcome.

In his second UFC bout, Muhammad is scheduled to fight Augusto Montano at UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Johnson.  Montano is a versatile fighter coming off a decision loss to Cathal Pendred. Muhammad will have to use better head movement to avoid the big head strikes and utilize his good wrestling. Montano is well-versed in BJJ, but Muhammad can work from the top to do some damage, and both his heart and endurance should keep him in the fight for three rounds.

#8 – Randy Brown – (7-1-0), 1-1 in UFC

Entering the UFC with plenty of hype, Brown beat Matt Dwyer in his UFC debut via unanimous decision, but lost his previous bout to Michael Graves via submission in the second round. He was one of the stars on Dana White: Lookin’ For A Fight, and has plenty of promise heading into his third UFC fight. He will take on Erick Montano, the winner of the TUF Latin America Season 2 welterweight tournament.

Brown has amazing height and reach for the welterweight division, making his striking even more deadly for the weight class. However, even though he demonstrated sound grappling and submission skills in the past, he will need to be even better for the UFC level. Still, at just 26 years old, Brown is a versatile fighter with immense potential ready to be tapped.

#7 – Michinori Tanaka – (11-1-0), 2-1 in UFC

Despite not finishing a fight in the UFC, Tanaka has been an exciting fighter in all three of his fights, winning a Fight of the Night for his bout with Kyung Ho Kang. Even though he lost the fight via split decision, Tanaka came back strong against Joe Soto in January, this time winning via split decision.

Tanaka was the PXC bantamweight champion before making the jump to the UFC. He won his UFC debut against Roland Delorme before losing his second fight on home soil. Tanaka will take on Rani Yahya at UFC Fight Night: Cyborg vs. Lansberg, a true MMA veteran and easily his toughest test yet. With an impressive victory, Tanaka should see the main card in his next bout.

#6 – Luan Chagas – (14-1-1), 0-0-1 in UFC

After impressing in a split draw against Sergio Moraes, Chagas was signed to the UFC in May. Unfortunately, he was unable to fight in his previous scheduled bout due to Shinsho Anzai pulling out due to injury. Chagas has not lost since 2013, and finished all of his opponents leading up to his UFC debut.

At just 23 years old, the Brazilian-native has time on his side, and his overall experience is definitely a plus. For his next UFC bout, Chagas will have his hands full with UFC veteran Erick Silva, an always exciting fighter who continues to push the pace. This should be a great fight between two unpredictable welterweights, and a win could secure a ranked opponent for Chagas next time around.

#5 – Taylor Lapilus – (11-2-0), 3-1 in UFC

Lapilus was coming off a loss before his bout in Germany, but impressed in his decision win over Leandro Issa this past weekend. While he was taken down a few times, the striking abilities of the young Frenchman were on full display, and his first round combos had Issa very shaken early on.

With Issa landing two takedowns within the first two minutes, wrestling could be a problem against higher caliber fighters. Even as an ever-improving striker, Lapilus will need to be more consistent on the defensive end to find consistent success. However, at just 24 years old, Lapilus is a skilled grappler with plenty of time to improve, and should continue to rise up the UFC bantamweight ladder.

#4 – Alejandro Perez (18-6-0), 3-1 in UFC

Perez won The Ultimate Fighter Latin America after competing in the 135-pound tournament, and has gone 2-0 in the UFC after suffering his first loss to Patrick Williams last year. He knocked out Scott Jorgensen last November in the second round, and followed that up with a great first round submission against Ian Entwistle, earning a Performance of the Night in the process.

Heading into his bout with Albert Morales, Perez will have to use his unpredictability to come away with another victory. He was scheduled to fight a much bigger name in Manny Gamburyan, but the Armenian-native pulled out of the fight. Nevertheless,  a three-fight win streak in the UFC should secure him a much tougher opponent in his next bout.

#3 – Mickey Gall (2-0), 1-0 in UFC

Is Mickey Gall all hype? He has the full support of UFC President Dana White and got his wish to fight CM Punk. He has fought only twice professionally but impressed the right people in those two wins. He has a good ground game with solid striking, and won an amateur belt with the Dead Serious promotion before turning pro.

After finishing his first UFC bout in under a minute, Gall went back to the mic to call out the ex-professional wrestler, who is set to make is much anticipated debut at UFC 203. White already confirmed that he would give the kid his fight if he won,which he did. Gall is a heavy favorite against CM Punk and could enter the realm of contender down the line.

#2 – Stevie Ray (19-5-0), 3-0 in UFC

While his overall MMA record does not represent elite level status, his 3-0 record is something to consider.  He finished two of his opponents via KO/TKO and earned a Performance of the Night against Leonardo Mafra. Prior to the UFC, Ray held the BAMMA lightweight title before losing to nemesis Curt Warburton. He went on to win the Cage Warriors lightweight title and has been successful ever since.

While he continues to fight better competition, Ray has a tremendous opportunity to enter ranked territory in the ever-changing UFC lightweight division. He will take on Alan Patrick on September 24, another well-versed fighter with a good record, who is also looking to move up the lightweight ladder.

#1 – Jimmie Rivera (19-1-0), 3-0 in UFC

Rivera is quickly approaching title contention, but his fight against Urijah Faber will dictate the next step in his career. He defeated Marcus Brimage, Pedro Munhoz, and Iuri Alcantara in his first three fights, earning Fight of the Night honors against Alcantara.

Rivera is currently the 13th ranked UFC bantamweight, but should enter the top 10 realm with an impressive win against the UFC veteran. He held the CFFC and Ring of Combat bantamweight titles before making the jump to the UFC, and has not lost since 2008. Rivera was actually a potential contestant on The Ultimate Fighter 14, but lost his exhibition bout via second round TKO against Dennis Bermudez.

Rivera has the tools and drive to become a real contender in the UFC bantamweight division, but will need to take on the top competition before shedding the title of “prospect”. He is a true MMA vet and should be on everyone’s radar if he beats Faber on September 10 at UFC 203.

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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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