With so many different countries and promotions participating in MMA around the world it can be hard for fans and even experts to track upcoming MMA prospects.
In a sport like football, it’s much different. We not only have College football on TV, but we even have High School football on TV as well as sports networks like ESPN and FOX tracking the best future talent.
In MMA, it’s not like that at all. Luckily with online streaming services like UFC Fight Pass and FloCombat we’re able to see a lot of these smaller promotions, but even then some the fights are going on in all different time-zones.
Luckily we have a lot of experts going around and tracking top prospects and we did our best to put a list together of the top 40 up-and-coming fighters for 2017.
*Note that the list only contains fighters who have fought for less then 5 years as well as talent that have been in the UFC for over a year although we made a few exceptions to the rule.
If you think we missed any prospects, leave a comment below and we’ll check it out.
In the last edition of this on-going series MMASucka gave you numbers 20-11 on our top 40 MMA prospects list. Now it is time for the elite-of-elite. The top 10.
Division: Light Heavyweight
Age: 26 | Country: United States | Affiliation: Gracie Barra
Style: Wrestling | Promotion: BRAVE | EXP: 1 Year
A lot of people know about top Heavyweight prospect Tyrell Fortune, but few have yet to know of his brother Tyree Fortune. Fortune doesn’t have the credentials of his brother, but he’s still a fantastic wrestler. He’s also the much more accomplished MMA fighter going 11-2 as an amateur.
In December, Fortune dominated top Irish prospect Ben Forsyth. Forsyth fights out of SBG Ireland and won the IMMAF championship in 2015, and Fortune smashed him. With that victory, a lot of eyes are on the other Fortune brother.
Age: 22 | Country: USA | Affiliation: Team Alpha Male
Style: MMA | Promotion: Global Knockouts | EXP: 1 year
Over the past decade, Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male has continually produced elite level fighter’s, and Joseph “Bopo” Morales is another one.
Morales has trained at Team Alpha Male since a very young age and has a lot of amateur experience. He turned professional in late 2014 and is currently the Global Knockouts flyweight champion.
Morales is a purple belt in jiu-jitsu but according to a sparring partners at Team Alpha Male he grapples like a black belt.
He’s a very good wrestler and has dominated a lot of his fights with his wrestling. He can also pick-and-pop and moves really well. It wouldn’t be surprising if Morales inks a deal with the UFC tomorrow, he’s that good.
As of right now however, he’s scheduled to defend his title in March.
Age: 21 | Country: USA | Affiliation: Team Body Bag
Style: MMA | Promotion: Bellator | EXP: 1.5 Years
One of the interesting things about MMA being so young is that we haven’t really seen a lot of father-son fighter’s. Now that the sport is nearly 20 years old, we’re starting to see it. Ex-UFC fighter Antonio McKee’s son AJ has a lot of hype behind him.
McKee signed with Bellator in 2015 and has fought for the promotion seven times. Of the seven wins, six have been finishes.
McKee trains out of Team Body Bag which is a growing camp out of Calfiornia that includes the likes of Emmanuel Newton, Bubba Jenkins, and his cousin Joey Davis.
Age: 25 | Country: United States | Affiliation: Team Elevation
Style: Wrestling | Promotion: UFC | EXP: 2 Years
A lot of people were excited when Curtis Blaydes signed with the UFC last year. He had gained a lot of hype after going 5-0 on the MMA regional scene.
Unfortunately Blaydes ran into Francis Ngannou in his UFC debut and lost the fight by doctor’s stoppage. At the time nobody knew much about Ngannou which in hindsight makes the loss not so bad.
Blaydes blew by Cody East in his second fight and also moved camp to Team Elevation in Denver.
Blaydes is 6’4 and a true 265 pounds. He has massive power and is an excellent wrestler. He was a junior college national champion at Harper College in his native Illinois. With the heavyweight division desperate for new talent, Blaydes is very promising.
Age: 23 | Country: United States | Affiliation: Team Bodyshop
Style: Wrestling | Promotion: Bellator | Exp: 0.5 Years
Unlike the other members of Bellator’s “Fab-5,” Joey Davis actually had amateur experience heading into MMA. Davis went 5-0 as an amateur (according to himself).
Discovered out of Compton, California in one of Snoop Dogg’s youth sports programs, Davis was a highly touted football player in high school as well as a standout wrestler. Davis went to Notre Dame Ohio (not to be confused with Notre Dame in Indiana.)
Davis dominated Division II becoming one of the only wrestlers to ever go undefeated over a four year stretch in which he was 133-0.
Davis’s uncle is ex-UFC fighter Antonio McKee, and his cousin is top prospect AJ McKee. He trains with McKee as well as Bubba Jenkins.
Davis signed with Bellator last year and won his debut by unanimous decision.
#5: Jose “Shorty” Torres: 4.5 star – Record 4-0
Age: 23 | Country: United States | Affiliation: BHK
Style: MMA | Promotion: Titan FC | EXP: 0.5 Years
Unlike many MMA fighters, Jose Torres had a lengthy five year amateur MMA career before turning pro in 2016. He fought 26 times as an amateur since the age of 18.
Now 23, Torres is the Titan FC flyweight champion. He was a Division II wrestler at McKendree University.
Torres has fought and trained all over the world. He is currently tied to the BHK camp in Baharain which has ties to Frankie Edgar and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Not only has he trained all over the world, but being 23-years-old, with almost 30 fights is something you just don’t see.
Age: 26 | Country: United States | Affiliation: Blackzilians
Style: Wrestling | Promotion: Bellator | EXP: 0.5 Years
Tyrell Fortune could be the one prospect that Bellator has waited a long time for. The UFC has done such an amazing job over the years of finding elite young talent which is partially why they’re the biggest organization in the world.
Fortune could be one that slipped through the cracks.
While Fortune doesn’t have the NCAA Division I championships a lot of wrestling prospects have, he might be the best wrestling prospect to ever enter MMA.
Since turning pro, Fortune signed with top MMA manager Glenn Robinson and has begun training at with the Blackzilians. He won his pro debut by knockout in the first round.
#3: Ed Ruth: 5 star – Record 2-0
Age: 26 | Country: United States | Affiliation: Jackson/Wink
Style: Freestyle Wrestling | Promotion: Bellator | Exp: 0.5 Years
Unlike boxing, MMA doesn’t really have a respected and organized amateur system. In boxing, top prospects go through rigorous amateur careers and we can really get a perspective of who will be a good boxer.
In MMA, the only indications we really have are either martial art credentials, or if they train at high level gyms. In Ed Ruth, we have both.
Ruth is one of the most decorated wrestlers to ever enter MMA as a three time NCAA national champion at collegiate powerhouse Penn State University. In 2015, he signed with Bellator as part of their “Fab-5” of wrestling prospects.
He also previously trained at Greg Jackson’s gym. He impressed the camp a lot, Jon Jones in particular.
Ruth made his MMA debut last year with a rocky start but ultimately finished his opponent in the first round. A month later he filled in on short notice to win his next fight by TKO.
Age: 28 | Country: Chechnya, Russia | Affiliation: MMA Factory
Style: Roman Greco Wrestling | Promotion: Various | EXP: 3.5 Years
Bibulatov, like many of the Russian/Chechen prospects, possesses an aggressive style with a great wrestling base. What’s unique about him though is that he throws a wide array of strikes, that can include anything from wheel kicks to spinning backfists. Even cartwheel kicks.
On top of that, he carries big power in his shots. His wrestling skills are top notch and he has finished five of his opponents via submission. He’s particularly good with the armbar.
In 2015 Magomed won the World Series of Fight (WSOF) flyweight championship against a very good prospect in Donovan Frelow. He never defended the title and instead went back to Russia where he won an eight-man tournament. He holds wins over Taylor Lapillus and top prospect Said Nurmagomedov.
He signed with the UFC in December of 2016.
Age: 23 | Country: Paris, France | Affiliation: Jackson/Wink
Style: MMA | Promotion: UFC | Experience: 5 Years
In baseball a top-level prospect is often referred to as a five-tool player. That means they excel in hitting for average and power, are great at fielding and throwing, and have speed for base running and defense.
To put this in perspective, France’s Tom Duquesnoy is a five-tool fighter. He’s a complete mixed martial artist.
Since the age of 12, Duquesnoy has dreamed of fighting in the UFC. He’s not just a guy who got into MMA through jui-jitsu, this is a fighter who has trained in all facets of the game from a very young age. Now training at Jackson-Winklejohn, we’re starting to see him maximize his potential.
The “Fire Kid” has taken the European MMA scene by storm. After winning the BAMMA featherweight championship at 21-years-old, he would soon go on and gain the BAMMA bantamweight championship as well.
He can strike with power and accuracy, has excellent wrestling, and his submission skills are top notch. He has great defensive awareness, has shown great flexibility and athleticism, and he shows us something new each fight.
Last year we saw his fellow countryman Francis Nganou rise as one of the best heavyweight prospects in some time. With Ngannou and now Duquesnoy, we could see a big time French invasion in 2017.