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Top MMA prospects of the week

By Jeremy Wall

A few notes before getting into the top nine prospects competing on indie shows this week.

I’m mainly looking at fighters between the ages of 21 and 34, which are the requirements UFC looks for when signing guys to The Ultimate Fighter. Not that I expect everyone listed to be a candidate for TUF (a lot of the fighters I’ve looked at may not speak English), but that age range gives a general guideline for a fighter’s potential to make the UFC.

Fighters should have begun fighting before the age of 26 and have between 2 1/2 and 8 years pro experience. American fighters typically have less experience before reaching the UFC compared to international fighters.

I look for guys who only have a couple of losses at most, but there are always exceptions. They should win about 80-percent of their fights and finish about three-quarters of those wins.

I also look for guys who hold titles with major feeder promotions, or who scored wins over UFC veterans.

I ignore guys who have fought for the UFC or Bellator, unless it was on a Bellator prelim. Also, I'm not looking at anyone who has fought on a WSOF broadcast. I will consider fighters who were on a season of TUF, but never competed in a fight at an actual UFC event.

The records for a fighter’s opponent are included in parenthesis. These records are not the opponent’s current record, but his or her record at the time of the fight. I look for fighters who have faced opponents with winning records.

Fighters who are natural athletes, come out of major training camps, or who have significant success in other pro or amateur sports are also people I look for.

These parameters are based research I conducted for this web site last year, and on research conducted by Patrick Wyman for Bloody Elbow and Sherdog over the past couple of years.

Fighters are listed in order of weight, from heaviest down.

I've also included links to video playlists I've created on YouTube.

Ion Cutelaba (10-1 1NC, 21 years old, 6'1") Heavyweight

"We're not saying this 18-year-old Moldavian heavyweight is the next Fedor, but he sort of is," wrote in 2012. Expectations might be a little high for Cutelaba, but he is one of the dominant heavyweights under the age of 25 in mixed martial arts. On April 4th in Kiev he submitted Vitali Onishchenko (2-1) with an omoplata at 2:37 of the first round.

Cutelaba has ranked up ten wins since turning pro at seventeen. His record is a bit misleading in a couple of ways, though. First, the single loss was a first round DQ in Cage Warriors due to illegal strikes to the back of the head against Michał Andryszak (9-3) in August 2013. He also has a no-contest from July 2013 at a show in Kazakhstan, which the Sherdog database has listed as due to "referee error" 24 seconds into the bout, whatever that means. So, realistically, the kid is 10-0.

The other way Cutelaba's record is misleading and leads to hyped comparisons to Fedor (really, every heavyweight out of Eastern Europe gets the misfortune of being immediately compared to Fedor) is that Cutelaba's quality of opposition is fairly poor. His last four opponents have a combined record of 16-26, with one fighter having never fought a pro fight when Cutelaba had already fought eight. So, maybe, don't believe the hype. Cutelaba has yet to beat a serious opponent.

He's still young, though, and has tremendous athletic skill and seems like he is being groomed slowly by WWFC, the promotion he fights for out of the Ukraine. He's a champion in judo and sambo in Moldova.

What has people excited about him is his fighting style. He moves like a much lighter man and is aggressive on his feet, with strong head movement and even stronger kickboxing. Besides Fedor, he's also been compared to a much larger Diego Sanchez.

I'm not totally sold on him because he's mostly beating up on dudes who aren't all that good. He needs to face stronger opposition to see where he stands as a competitive fighter. But he does have a lot of potential based on his natural athletic ability and exciting fighting style. Ion is also a bit undersized as a heavyweight and with many MMA fighters moving down in weight classes as they get older, I could see Ion competing at light-heavyweight in the future.

Dennis Goltsov (14-4, 24 years old, 6'6") Heavyweight

Goltsov (14-4) submitted Bellator veteran Peter Graham (10-7) with a kimura at 3:22 of the second round on April 3rd in Krasnodar, Russia. Goltsov was dominant throughout the fight, taking Graham down twice in the first round using trips and controlling the round by moving to side control. In the second round, Goltsov was able to take Graham down twice again, with a trip and a bodylock, before getting high full mount and transitioning to a kimura for the tap. Graham got in little offense besides some low kicks and knees in the clinch.

Goltsov, 24, has now won nine fights in a row, including wins over Graham, Strikeforce veteran Brett Rogers (16-8), and Bellator veteran Roy Boughton (10-3), among others. He is 9-1 in the last three years. The last nine opponents Goltsov has defeated have a combined won-loss record of 102-47. He has finished 11 of 14 of his wins.

His last loss came on June 21st, 2012, against Akhmed Sultanov (11-4) via leglock in the first round on an M-1 Global show in St. Petersburg. Although his record is the weakest part of his resume, all four of his losses came within two years of his pro debut. Goltsov turned pro in August 2010 at the age of 20, giving him nearly five years pro experience now even though he is only 24. Goltsov also has three other losses on his record for a total of four. Three of the four losses were by submission and the other fourth was by second round TKO to Bellator veteran Alexander Volkov (10-3) on an M-1 card.

Goltsov, typically, is a sambist. He trains with Sambo-Piter out of St. Petersburg, a camp that doesn't really include any other notable fighters. Most of his fights consist of Goltsov taking up the clinch and looking for the trip or bodylock takedown and then gaining mount to look for the tapout. He varies a bit from that formula sometimes, an exampole being against Rogers when the entire fight was standing. It was a slow fight and Goltsov's weakness is his kickboxing, as he seemed to be the more skilled fighter compared to Rogers, but wasn't ever able to come close to finishing him on their feet.

He has beaten solid veterans and the overall quality of Goltsov's opposition is quite good. It doesn't seem like he is signed to M-1 right now, which is something that has kept a lot of good Eastern European heavyweights out of the UFC. UFC's heavyweight division is aging badly and Goltsov is probably someone that could come in an compete immediately with at least the mid-level veteran heavyweight in the UFC.

Yaroslav Amosov (12-0, 21 years old, 5'11") Middleweight

Amosov (12-0) submitted Ravil Rizaev (0-0) with a choke in 1:27 in St. Petersburg on April 3rd. It was the undefeated Amosov's twelfth win in a row. Amosov made his pro debut in June 2012 at the age of 18. He has finished 11 of his 12 opponents and has fought his entire career at middleweight.

He is a natural athlete, as the majority of his toughest competition in combat sports have actually come in major sambo competitions. He won a gold medal at the European Men's Combat Sambo Championship at the age of 20 and has won a number of other medals in combat sambo competitions, faring well against Russian sambists, who have a reputation for being much better at sambo than their Ukrainian counterparts. He defeated Abubakar Nurmagomedov, Khabib's brother, at the Combat Sambo World Cup in Moscow in 2013, for instance.

The weakest aspect of Amosov's resume, though, is his lack of quality competition in MMA. His last five opponents have a combined record of 2-0. Four of them were making their pro debuts against Amosov. That's typically a red herring of a fighter who may not have the skill to make the jump to the next level of competition. Amosov has a great record, but needs to face tougher opposition in order to get a better read on his potential. Ukraine has a reputation among its promotions for creating lopsided fights, so Amosov will likely have to continue to fight elsewhere to face better competition, be in in Russia or somewhere else.

His toughest opponent was Vadim Sandulitsky (5-2), who Amosov submitted with a choke in the third round in August 2013. The fight took place on a card in Sochi that was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and Fedor Emelianenko.

"I also think that nobody expected I could win in this fight. It was really the most difficult in my fighter's career," Amosov told regarding his win over Sandulitsky. "I felt that my breathing was not good after the second round. So Sandulskiy became in full mount and began to break methodically my defense in the end of the second round. I went all out and only tried not to miss his strikes. I was almost exhausted when the gong rang. Therefore I felt I must do something to turn the course of the fight. Fortunately, Sandulsky was also very tired, though he was breathing better than I. He made ??a mistake at last and gave me the opportunity to spend a rear naked choke."

"I want to come to America in UFC in a few years. I'm not ready for it now, but I will strive to achieve this aim," Amosov also said in early 2014. TP Grant and Zane Simon at Bloody Elbow project him at being on the level of Jorge Masvidal in the UFC, or possibly a top ten fighter along the lines of Josh Thomson.

Khasan (9-1, 5'9", Lightweight) and Khusein Askhabov (10-0, 5'9", Featherweight) (20 years old)

Khasan and Khusein are twin brothers from beautiful downtown Grozny. They both competed at WWFC in Kiev on April 4th, with Khasan headlining the show by winning the vacant Lightweight title, submitting Damien Lapilus (10-4-1, 1NC) with a guillotine choke in 2:30. Khusein fought at featherweight and submitted Nicolae Negrea (6-2, 1NC) with an armbar in 1:49. Khasan was facing Lapilus in a rematch of a fight that took place in December when Lapilus beat Khasan due to an illegal knee thrown in the fourth round. It's the only blemish on the record of the twins.

The two moved to France in 2012 and began training with Gladiator Fight Paris. Khusein is a former champion sambist and won the 2011 World Championship in Ukado, which is some sort of Russian karate. They both debuted in March 2013, just a few weeks after turning eighteen. Khusein has finished seven of ten of his opponents, whereas Khasan has finished all nine of his wins. Only three opponents have been out of the first round with Khasan.

Khusein's opponents have a combined won-loss record of 16-9. Khasan's opponents of a combined won-loss record of 13-7-1. They are another couple of young fighters who need to face tougher competition in Europe to get a gauge on their skill level in relation to competitive opponents. They're only 20, so there is lots of time, although of course there is such a thing as real age and MMA age.

Jason Soares (8-0, 25 years old, 5'7") Featherweight

Soares (8-0) beat Paulo Silva (5-3) via unanimous decision at Fight Time 24 in Florida on April 3rd. The show was taped for broadcast later this month for CBS Sports.

Soares, 25, is undefeated and made his pro debut in March 2012 at the age of 22. He trains with Freestyle Fighting Academy in Florida. He's spent his entire career at featherweight. His opponents have a combined won-loss record of 32-26. He has finished seven of his eight opponents, with his only decision victory being his latest match against Silva. All of his fights except his pro debut in Mexico have taken place in Fight Time in Florida.

He was previously a coach on The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes, which aired in 2012, assisting Ross Pearson on Team UK. He also assisted Dominick Cruz's team as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter 15: Live in 2012.

“The goal is and has always been to be UFC champion,” Soares told “I don’t want anything else. I have connections. I’ll probably [move to the UFC] after this fight or the next. But I’m not one of those guys whose goal is to just make it to the UFC because they love putting that they’re a UFC fighter on their Instagram, Facebook and all that. I really don’t care about all of that. The goal is that when I get to the UFC that I’m ready to make my title run. Like Conor McGregor. He got into the UFC and went straight into making a title run. He didn’t fight a couple times, lose, do a few tune-ups… He got there and was ready to make his run. That’s what I’m doing. I should be there within a year. When I have been on The Ultimate Fighter and have trained those guys, I’ve never been overwhelmed. I’ve always done well and I’ve done well against every UFC fighter I’ve trained with.”

He's a natural athlete, who competed in wrestling, football, and track at Coral Shores High School in Monroe County, lettering in all three sports. He has competed twice on American Ninja Warrior on NBC, his second appearance having yet to air. Five years ago he was in a motorcycle accident, breaking all of his left ribs, his leg, tearing multiple ligaments and driving a bike peg through his foot. Five months later he was back in training and a year after the accident he was back in full-contact sparring.

Boyd Allen (12-2-1, 25 years old, 6'0") EFC Africa Featherweight Champion

Allen (12-2-1) successfully defended the EFC Africa Featherweight title by submitting Wesley Hawkey (11-5) with a choke in the first round in South Africa on April 4th. It was a rematch between the two, who previously met in EFC in September 2013 when Allen again submitted Hawkey with a choke in the first round.

Allen has now won three fights in a row and ten of his last eleven, with the only blotch on his record during that run being a split-decision draw with Don Madge (3-2) at EFC Africa 30 in June 2014. Allen's last loss was via unanmous decision to Ronald Dlamini in May 2011 in Allen's fourth pro fight. His only other loss was by choke in March 2011 in his second pro fight. Both losses came in the first five months of Allen's pro career.

He made his pro debut in January 2011 at the age of 21. He has finished 10 of 12 of his wins. Eight of those ten finishes have been by submission from a choke. His last ten opponents have combined won-loss record of 37-21.

He defeated Barend Nienaber (3-0) for the vacant EFC Featherweight title in August 2014, finishing Nienaber with a choke in round two. He then successfully defended the title by submitting Wade Groth (4-2) with a choke in the first round in December, before defeating Hawkey this past weekend. He trains with Fight Fit Militia in Johannesburg. Most of his fights have been at featherweight, although he has competed before at lightweight. He did some boxing before beginning his MMA career.

Ricardo Ramos (7-0, 19 years old, 5'9") Bantamweight

Ramos debuted with Legacy FC on April 3rd in Tulsa, stopping Justin Rader (3-0) in 32 seconds. It was Ramos' first fight outside Brazil. The show aired on AXS.

He made his pro debut in Brazil in May 2012 at the age of sixteen. “I think the main step that helped me become who I am today was when I was 15 years old and I moved from my home to my gym, to sleep on the floor, where I still sleep today to focus on my BJJ trainings,” Ramos told MMAJunkie. “It made me become a man and overcome a lot of hard stuff.”

He has finished six of his seven recorded wins and trains with Impact Jiu-Jitsu out of Sao Paulo.

His last five opponents have a combined won-loss record of 23-4. The highest level opponent Ramos has faced was Legacy veteran Allan Nascimento (10-1), who he beat via unanimous decision in October 2013. It was only Ramos' third pro fight. Ramos began his career at bantamweight before moving up to featherweight for a number of fights in Brazil. His debut in Legacy this weekend was at bantamweight, his first fight in that division since October 2013, although he did a catchweight fight at 137 pounds in Brazil last May.