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Top Prospects you probably haven’t heard of
Yuri Ivlev (14-5-0)
Yuri Ivlev is a Russian lightweight from Legion Fighting Team. The guy has top Sambo and Judo with most of his wins coming from first round submission. He will be involved in the M-1 Global Selection Finals for Europe after beating 2-1 Scott Hewitt, a BJJ practitioner in the first round via TKO (Strikes). His last loss was in 2008 against Daisuke Nakamura (22-12) via Unanimous Decision. Anyway, being from M-1 I think that if he keeps growing and utilizing his Sambo and explosiveness that Strikeforce will pick up on him eventually.
Tomasz “Giraffe” Narkun (4-0-0)
Tomasz “Giraffe” Narkun is probably one of the best upcoming submission artists I have seen in awhile. He has four wins to his name since last year, all from round one submissions. He is another fighter coming out of M-1 Global, he’s from Poland, and he trains with Berserkers Team. Honestly, I don’t know too much about the guy as of yet, but I do know that he is a force to be reckoned with. Gegard Mousasi has recognized him as a top prospect as well.
Alexander “Tiger” Sarnavskiy (10-0)
The first thing that needs to be said about this guy, is that he is one of the most exciting fighters to see live. I saw him beat Karen Grigoryan in a three round MMA masterpiece in Kiev, Ukraine. He has fought in ProFC and in the M-1 Global Selection shows. Wow, three fighters in a row that have all been from involved with M-1. Purely coincidence. It turns out Sherdog isn’t always the root of all idiocy, especially after finding out that this guy is ranked their number one undefeated prospect. Great boxing, and good submissions to follow up incase he gets taken to the ground. He trains with Alexander Shlemenko, so that right there is enough to lure newcomers to watch this guy fight.
“Wild Man” Cody McKenzie (11-0-0)
Have you ever wondered how Jesus would perform in MMA today? Well let’s just say that if someone tried to crucify this guy Roy Nelson / Kimbo style, he would guillotine choke them without his hands somehow. This guy has nine guillotine choke wins to his name, and the other two come via triangle choke and TKO. All but his very first match have ended in the first round. This guy is an amazing grappler, and even has his own style called Sikijitsu. Hopefully we get to see more Sikijitsu from this guy on The Ultimate Fighter: Team GSP vs. Team Koscheck. Yes, I said it. Incase you haven’t been keeping up on TUF or UFC, this guy will be a contestant and he is a heavy favorite of mine. Him, and of course Nam Phan. He fights with Fancy Pants Fight Team….what? This guy just keeps getting weirder.
“Hungry” Hae Joon Yang (5-0-0)
“Hungry” Hae Joon Yang has been on my list as a top prospect since he beat Joaquim Ferreira, then followed up that win by beating Gotoku Onda in the very first round. This guy is the epitomy of knockout power. All of his fights have been won in the first round via TKO or KO. He knocked out Ferreira in 14 seconds, that’s just incredible. He will be put to test, as most JMMA fighters are by fighting in American leagues. Few of them survive, will Hae Joon Yang be one of them? I do. I think this guy could easily be the Heavyweight version of Takanori Gomi. His next fight will be against Mike Hayes at Bellator 26. Hayes has only lost four times, each by decision too. Hayes went three rounds with Mario Miranda, who in turn went three rounds with Damien Maia! This will be the fight that determines his prospect status for me but win or lose he will still be an upcoming favorite of mine.
Yusup Saadulaev (7-0-1)
Yusup Saadulaev is a Russian MMA prospect now making his training out of Chicago, Illionois. He splits his training time between the Uflacker Academy, L.A. Boxing, and Team Toro Muay Thai and has shown versatility in his fight game early in his career. Entering the sport initially as a grappler, Saadulaev does possess a solid wrestling background including two years of experience he earned while training with Top Team Russia. Not only does he possess good grappling and wrestling background, but his ground and pound is probably the one thing he has differentiating him from other prospects I’ve been taking a look at. He is technical while smashing someones face into the ground, rather then hammer-fisting your way to a TKO victory. This guy looks to finish, and damn, he does a great job. Keep an eye out for this guy, I’m thinking Dream might pick him up, or even Bellator. He needs to move up to featherweight and dominate the WEC someday.
Magomed “The Eagle” Shikhshabekov (9-0-0)
Another Russian born fighter, Magomed “The Eagle” Shikhshabekov is THE top prospect to keep an eye out for. If you haven’t heard this name before, I can guarantee you will in the next year or two. Guaranteed. His record says 7-0 everywhere, but he’s actually 9-0. A few of his lesser fights over in Dagestan and St. Petersburg got lost. So why is The Eagle my prime candidate to make it big the world of MMA? Simple, he possesses everything a true Mixed Martial Artist needs. Heart, skill, and the ability to go into a fight with zero to no emotion. Sound familiar? This guy is the next Fedor Emelianenko. Everything about him screams The Last Emporer, and it screams it at the top of it’s Russian lungs. His striking, as unorthodox as it looks, lands with amazing precision. His Sambo and Judo background resemble that of Fedor too. It’s like his body is made of rubber the way he got a perfect triangle choke on Marvin Aboeli to win the M-1 Global Selection Final. I expect this guy to become the Strikeforce Welterweight champion someday.
Keep in mind, I realize there are plenty of other MMA prospects out there and plenty of other unknown prospects that I didn’t cover today. I don’t have all night writing about every one I come across, but when I do have time I will make sure to let everyone know as much as I can about them. Other MMA prospects you may not know are Ui Cheol Nam, Dave Jansen, Alexey Oleinik, Damian Grabowski, Ben Askren, Rob Broughton, Dan Hornbuckle, Un Sik Song, Yasuaki Kishimoto. Also, if anyone has any other prospects they would like to mention please do so. I would love to check them out and promote them as much as possible.