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.
I look for guys who only have a couple of losses at most, but there are always exceptions.
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. 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.
Fighters are listed in order of weight, from heaviest down.
Jirí Procházka [12-2, 6'4", 21 years old] Light-Heavyweight
Prochazka, from the Czech Republic, is coming off a TKO win over Rokas Stambrauskas (7-3) in Prochaza's home country on March 27th. Prochazka has spent nearly his entire career fighting in the Czech Republic, with the exception of a couple of forays into Germany and into Russia, fighting for the Fight Nights promotion for the latter country. He started competing in 2012 and he has only lost twice in fourteen pro fights, the first loss by TKO in the initial months of his career and the second loss by first round submission to Abdul-Kerim Edilov (6-4), another prospects who Prochazka fought at Fight Nights in June 2013. Procházka has great athleticism for his size, having a rep as a great natural athlete. He has a quick, flashy striking style that can tend to be a little sloppy. Prochazka's wrestling and submissions defense are a bit weaker. He also looks small for a light-heavyweight, despite standing 6'4".
Neal Ewing [6-0, 6'1", 29 years old] Middleweight
Ewnig made his Bellator debut on the prelims of Bellator 135 on March 27th, where he defeated Logan Nail (1-0) by unanimous decision. Ewing turned pro in 2011, but only fought sporadically until last year. He's undefeated and he has finished five of his six opponents. He currently fights at middleweight, but has fought at light-heavyweight early in his career. He fights out of Texas and has a reputation for being able to control the cage and pushes the pace of the fight. He's still early in hsi career and has only fought lower level competition. He appears ready to move up and face tougher opponents in his next few outings, which could happen in Bellator or elsewhere depending on his contract status. Most fighters who appear in Bellator prelims continue to fight elsehwere and if Ewing continues to pick up more quality experience he'll probably be worth another look.
Ryan Janes [7-1, 6'2"] BFL Middleweight Champion
Janes defeated David Perron (7-3) via choke at 4:38 of the second round to win the BFL Middleweight title on March 28th in BC. It was a rematch of a fight the two had at WSOF Canada 2 last June when Janes submitted Perron in the first round. Janes has fought exclusively ini Canada, with his only loss coming in his second pro fight via decision in May 2009. He made his pro debut in October 2008. He has finished six of his seven wins and the majority of his opponents have been fighters with winning records. He will probably end up fighting again in WSOF, possibly moving up to their main promotion at some point in the future.
Handesson Ferreira [5-0, 6'0", 27 years old] Max Fight Welterweight Champion
Ferreira defetaed Roberto Neves (6-1) to win the Max Fight Interim Welterweight title via TKO at 0:17 of the second round on March 28th in Brazil. It was Ferreira's debut wth Max Fight. He made his MMA debut in January 2013 and has won all six of his pro fights, finishing four of his opponents. Five of his six bouts were in Brazil and one was for Clan Wars in Britain. Most of Ferreira's opponents have been inexperienced fighters, considering Ferreira hmiself only has five pro bouts. But the TKO win over Neves was a major victory considering Neves has only lost once earlier in his career and trains with Team Nogueira.
Marc Diakiese [7-0, 5'10", 22 years old] BAMMA Lightweight Champion
Diakiese defeated Jack McGann (7-0) via unanimous decision to win the BAMMA Lightweight title in Britain on March 28th. With Cage Warriors seemingly finished, BAMMA is more or less the top promotion in Britain right now. It was Diakiese's third win in BAMMA. He started his career in 2013 and has finished three of his seven opponents. The fight against McGann was a significant step up in competition for Diakiese, who had mostly defeated inexperienced opponents or opponents with lopsided records earlier in his career. Diakiese is only 22 years old, so there is lots of time for improvement. He has a reputation as an aggressive striker and has a good reach advantage for a lightweight. He also has excellent takedowns and is exceptional at fightng within the clinch. Even though he hasn't lost yet, he does have a bit of a rep for gassing late. He trains out of All Stars in Sweden.
Andrew Holbrook [9-0, 5'11] Lightweight
Holbrook is undefeated dating back to his career debut in November 2012. On March 28th at MFL 37, he submitted Ramico Blackmon (8-2) with a choke at 4:58 of the first round. It was his second win this year. He has finished every one of his opponents by TKO or submission and most of his opponents have been fighters with 50-50 records or better. He has spent his entire career fighting at lightweight. He hasn't lost a fought since his amateur debut nearly a decade ago. Season 22 of The Ultimate Fighter is casting and they are looking for lightweights and it wouldn't surprise me of Holbrook ended up on the cast list.
Emmanuel Sanchez [10-1, 5'9", 24 years old] Featherweight
Sanchez fought on the prelims of Bellator 135 on March 27th, defeating Alejandro Villalobos (17-3) via unanimous decision. It was Sanchez's second fight ni Bellator, the other taking place at Bellator 128 in October when he submitted Stephen Banaszak (3-3) with a choke ini 2:18. Both fights were at featherweght, although Sanchez has fought at lgihtweght and even welterweight in the past. He turned pro in 2011 and his sole loss was by decision to Lewis Gonzalez (7-0) in Sanchez's only welterweight fight, which took place in May 2013. Sanchez has finished six of his ten wins and the majority of his victories have come against opponents with winning records. He trains with Roufusport out of Milwaukee, one of the top gyms in the country. I normally hesitate to put fighters who have Bellator experience in this article, but I've included a couple of fighters from the latest Bellator prelims and Sanchez has only done two prelims with the promotion and lots of fighters who have been successful on Bellator prelims get scooped up by the UFC depending on the fighter's contract status. Either way, Sanchez has a future with one of the two major MMA promotions and could even wind up challenging for the Bellator Featherweight title sooner rather than later considering Bellator's general lack of depth at featherweight.
Paddy Pimblett [8-1, 5'10", 20 years old] Featherweight
Pimblett defeated Kevin Petshi (7-0) at Full Contact Contender 12 in Britain on March 28th, winning by choke at 1:56 of the second round. Pimblett looked like one of the top young prospects in Cage Warriors before the promotion ran into problems earlier this year and appears to have closed shop. Pimblett had picked up a three-fight winning streak in Cage Warriors and gone 4-1 overall in the promotion. His sole loss, the only of his career, was a fast submission loss in 35 seconds to Cameron Else (1-1) in October 2013. Pimblett turned pro in 2012, originally competing at bantamweight before moving up to featherweight. Moving up in weight as a fighter's career goes on is somewhat unusual in MMA, but that might be explained by Pimblett being so young as he is only twenty. He has finished six of his eight wins. The majority of his wins have also come against opponents with winning records, which is typically a strong indicator of a fighter who has upward potential, as opposed to a fighter who only crushes tomato cans. Considering how younger he is and how well he has done so far, he is a fighter who might have tremendous upside.
Klayton Mai [7-1, 5'9", 28 years old] Flyweight
Mai made his Bellator debut on the Bellator 135 prelims on March 27th, submitting Xavier Siller (5-3) with a choke in 3:55. Mai turned pro in 2011, fighting out of Texas. Six of his seven wins have come by choke. He picked up two wins and a loss fighting in Legacy before debuting with Bellator. He started his career fighting at featherweight, before moving down to bantamweight. He then made his flyweight debut with Legacy in June by submitting Matt Schnell (3-1) with a choke in the second round. His other win in Legacy was against Alex Russ (4-1) in December 2012. His sole career loss was in legacy, via third round choke in October 2013 to Matt Lozano (3-1). I'm not even sure why Bellator books flyweight fights on their prelims, considering they don't have a flyweight title and don't even run enough shows to have a flyweight belt. There also isn't enough depth at flyweight in the United States for a second major promotion to have a flyweight division, considering how shallow the flyweight talent pool is in the UFC alone. Maybe Mai can move back up to bantamweight with Bellator, or Bellator has other plans for a flyweight division. But either way, he is a talented fighter and good flyweights are hard to come by, so he might be someone the UFC wants to look at depending on Mai's contract status.