New England MMA Prospect Hunt: Vovka Clay

Vovka Clay
Vovka Clay signals to the crowd before his fight with Frank Sforza at Bellator 185. Photo Courtesy of Bellator.

Dana White and other mixed martial arts executives in recent years have focused heavily on bringing young talent to their respective rosters. Look no further than ONE Championships‘ ONE Warrior Series, Cage Warriors has its own regional circuit in Cage Warriors Academy (multiple small promotions dedicated to specific regions) or the UFC’s Dana White Looking for a Fight/ Tuesday Night Contender Series. Even promotions without such programs like Bellator and M-1 Global have used MMA prospect feeders to bring in young and promising talent to scout and sign.

Upon diving further, so-called ‘prospects’ are a golden needle in a haystack. Before they reach the upper levels of the sport, many are treated like prize geese. They are pushed and pushed until the pressure either squash or convert them into diamonds.

Prospect Hunt Guidelines

Every month, MMASucka will choose a different region within North America and investigate the prospects within it. One prospect will be chosen to represent the given region. That prospect will be evaluated after 12 months.

Of course, there are categories and requirements for the prospects. Before the group is divided, the best prospects in the region are found through a rigorous ranking system. The system mainly accounts for strength of opposition, fight result, and wins. Each of any given fighters records is examined and scores are given based on the result of the contest and the opponent.

Categories divide the group of fighters into three. Three categories are; Top prospect, Nine Others, Top Ten Aged. The categories are based on the requirements of being labeled a ‘prospect’. Requirements for holding the label of, top prospect or holding a spot on the ‘Nine Others’ list, are as follows:

  • Under the age of 29
  • Less than 14 fights (pro fights)
  • More than 5 fights (pro fights)
  • Active in the past 12 months
  • Has NOT fought for a major organization 3 times in their last 5 fights (Major organizations: UFC, Bellator, Rizin, One Championship, Pancrase, Cage Warriors, ect.)

The first is the region’s top prospect. This accolade is bestowed upon the highest ranked prospect based on the requirements and rankings.

The second group includes the next 9 best prospects in the region. Here a list of 10 fighters, regardless of gender or weight class, are ranked in order of most desirable for top organizations while taking into account the earlier rankings.

The final category ranks the 10 best fighters of the region over 30. There is no fight or age minimum nor is there a maximum. This category simply ranks the 10 best fighters who could not fit the requirements of a ‘prospect’.

Nine Others

1. Joe Giannetti (6-1), Recent Performance: UFC TUF 27 Finale SD L.

               Age: 23

Stoppages: 5

TKO/KO: 0

Submission: 5

Strength of Opposition: 1.43


  1. Connor Barry (5-2), Recent Performance: CTFC 39 SUB W.

Age: 23

Stoppages: 3

TKO/KO: 0

Submission: 3

Strength of Opposition: 1.43


  1. Kris Moutinho (6-2), Recent Performance: CES 51 UD W.

Age: 26

Stoppages: 2

TKO/KO: 2

Submission: 0

Strength of Opposition: 1.88


  1. Jay Perrin (7-3), Recent Performance: CTFC 40 UD W.

Age: 25

Stoppages: 5

TKO/KO: 2

Submission: 3

Strength of Opposition: 2.1


  1. Richie Santiago (6-1), Recent Performance: CES 49 SUB L.

Age: 25

Stoppages: 6

TKO/KO: 1

Submission: 5

Strength of Opposition: 1.86


  1. Dylan Lockard (4-1), Recent Performance: CES 51 UD W.

Age: 26

Stoppages: 2

TKO/KO: 1

Submission: 1

Strength of Opposition: 2


  1. Justin Sumter (6-2), Recent Performance: DWTNCS Week 7 TKO L.

Age: 28

Stoppages: 4

TKO/KO: 2

Submission: 2

Strength of Opposition: 2


  1. Josh Harvey (5-0), Recent Performance: NEF 35 SUB W.

Age: 28

Stoppages: 5

TKO/KO: 2

Submission: 3

Strength of Opposition: 1.6


  1. Kemran Lachinov (7-2), Recent Performance: Bellator 207 UD W.

Age: 27

Stoppages: 5

TKO/KO: 3

Submission: 2

Strength of Opposition: 1.82


Aged over 30

  1. Nate Andrews (14-1), Recent Performance: CES 51 SUB W.
  2. Marquis Brewster (5-0), Recent Performance: CES 49 UD W.
  3. Dinis Paiva (11-7), Recent Performance: CES 50 SUB L.
  4. Reginaldo Felix (5-2), Recent Performance: CES 50 TKO W.
  5. Bruce Boyington (16-11), Recent Performance: CES 52 SUB W.
  6. Dan Dubuque (6-2), Recent Performance: CTFC 38 TKO W.
  7. Rodrigo Almeida (14-4), Recent Performance: AFL 5 SUB W.
  8. Rico DiSciullo (9-2), Recent Performance: DWTNCS TKO L.
  9. Johnny Campbell (16-10, 1 NC), Recent Performance: CTFC 40 UD L.
  10. Alex Ortiz (1-0), Recent Performance: PFC TKO W.

Honorable Mentions

Honorable will have to suffice. These fighters simply do not fit the guidelines but are still names to look out for.

Randy Costa (2-0)

Kylie O’Hearn (1-0)

Kylie O'Hearn
Kylie O’Hearn doesn’t mind a bit of blood. Photo courtesy of Crossface Productions.

Brendon Marotte (4-0)

Brendon Marotte
Brendon Marotte lines up a strike at CZMMA 58. Photo Courtesy of WesternMassMMA.com

Kin Moy (8-3)

Kin Moy
Kin Moy walks away after defeating Blair Tugman by submission at Bellator 140. Photo Courtesy of Sherdog

Kody Nordby (9-4)

Kody Nordby
Kody Nordby gets his hand raised at CES. Photo Courtesy of Will Paul and CES.

Danielle Hindley (3-0)

Danielle Hindley
Danielle Hindley lays down the ground and pound during CTFC 40. Photo Courtesy of Igdalia Photography.

New England’s Top Prospect

Vovka Clay (8-2)

Vovka Clay
Vovka Clay signals to the crowd before his fight with Frank Sforza at Bellator 185. Photo Courtesy of Bellator.
                       Upcoming Appearance: Combat Zone 68, November 17th.

Age: 27

Stoppages: 8

TKO/KO: 2

Submission: 6

Strength of Opposition: 2.1

Vovka Clay not only has an incredible combat sports name but an arsenal of attacking talent. Recently the Russian-American has been on fire. He is in the midst of 5 consecutive victories, each by way of stoppage. During that span, he competed for three different organizations, AMMO Fight League (AFL 1), the respected regional promotion Combat Zone, and Bellator. In his last two fights, Clay stopped two undefeated fighters in Frank Sforza (8-0) and Aaron Lacey (4-0).

At only 27 years old, Clay is just entering his athletic prime and with only 10 fights under his belt as a pro, his cage age runs low. The young fighter has an unassuming frame. Long limbs and a deceivingly skinny body. At 5’10, his height is a slight advantage for the featherweight division.

His style is high pace. Pressure from the opening bell. In his arsenal, good wrestling skills paired with a superb submission attack. Going back to his amateur days, Vovka Clay has 6 different submission finishes. Here’s a list of them:

  • Rear-naked choke: 2x
  • Anaconda: 1x
  • Guillotine: 4x
  • Triangle: 1x
  • D’arce: 1x
  • Von Flue choke: 1x

Measured Improvements

Although his submission attack is dangerous, the striking of Clay has readily improved from his amateur days. While he hasn’t displayed single punch knockout power, he moves crisply between strikes in order to set up combinations, and other heavy force strikes.

What impresses further, is his mental ability. In his fight with Brandon Odom at Combat Zone 61, put his brain on display. During the fight, Clay managed to powerfully slam Odom to the mat in the opening minute. After the slam, the two became squished against the fence, with Clay in half-guard. Moments later from this position, Odom managed to regain full guard.  In response to this, Clay strategically attacked the liver of Odom, striking it consecutively for nearly 15 seconds. The damage forced Odom to loosen his guard which allowed Clay to posture up and begin to strike the head.

30 seconds later, Odom brought Clay back into his closed guard. This time in an attempt to tangle the arms of Clay as they dropped in on his face. Vovka Clay then struck the body of Odom once. This again forced him to loosen the guard. Once the opponent did, Clay passed to mount and poured strikes to the vulnerable head of Odom. The bout was stopped shortly after this.

The Russian fighter returns to action in November. He makes his 2018 debut on Combat Zone 68. Clay headlines the event alongside New England MMA veteran, Rodrigo Almeida. Almeida is a good test for Clay, he holds a 14-4 record. He recently competed at AMMO Fight League 5 defeating Seth Basler by first-round submission after a two-year layoff.

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