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.
Ramazan Emeev [12-3, 27 years old, 5'11"] M-1 Middleweight Champion
Emeev defeated Vyacheslav Vasilevsky (26-2) via TKO in 1:38 to win the M-1 Middleweight title for the second time. It was a rematch of a fight the two had in September, where Vasilevsky stopped Emeev in the fourth round to win the title.
Emeev had previously won the vacant title in November 2012 by defeating UFC veteran Mario Miranda (14-4) by unanimous decision after five rounds. He then successfully defended it against Miranda in a rematch in April 2013, stopping Miranda in the third round.
In M-1, Emeev also holds wins over Albert Duraev (2-1), Murad Magomedov (6-5), among others. The last five opponents he has beaten have a combined won-loss record of 49-12.
Emeev debuted as a pro in October 2009 at the age of 22. He lost his first fight by choke. Besides that loss and the avenged loss to Vasilevsky, the other loss on Emeev's record came by unanimous decision in October 2010, just a year into his pro career.
His coach Musail Allaudinov was gunned down with an automatic weapon while in his car in Dagestan in July 2013 in a suspected contract killing. "They still didn't find a murderer," said Emeev. "There was one guy under the investigation, but he was cleared after all. I'm glad, by the way, because I wouldn't like him to become a real murderer. I don't even know why police took him. This story is full of dark secrets."
He's a bit short for a middleweight at 5'11". "I’ve thought about going to another division," said Emeev. "My weight is a just bit more than 84 kilograms (185 pounds) after lunch and middleweights are used to cutting 15 kilograms (33 pounds) before their fight. I performed as a welterweight a couple of times and I felt okay. Though, it’s just what I think, we will see.”
He has a reputation for good striking and good takedown defense. He trains with Team Gorec, which includes Rashid Magomedov. He has finished six of his fights by submission and two by TKO, so he has a variety of skills, although his strength is his grappling.
Bruno Lopes [5-0, 21 years old, 6'2"] Jungle Fight Welterweight Champion
Lopes defeated Jose Diaz (5-0) via unanimous decision after three rounds to win the vacant Jungle Fight Welterweight title on April 11th in Brazil. It was the fifth straight win in Lopes' undefeated career.
Lopes' opponents have a career won-loss record of 8-2. He's mostly fought other inexperienced fighters, but has moved up quickly by winning two fights in Jungle Fight before winning his fight for the vacant Welterweight title. He has finished three of his five opponents.
Lopes is young, only 21, and fairly new, as he only recently turned pro in August 2013. Jungle Fight is one of the top Brazilian feeders to the UFC (the others being Shooto Brasil and XFCI, for the most part), so winning a title in Jungle Fight less than two years after his pro debut is impressive.
There isn't a lot of info on Lopes because he is so new. But if he continues to win in Jungle Fight, then we'll be hearing more about him in the future.
Islam Mamedov [11-1, 25 years old, 5'8"] Lightweight
Mamedov debuted for WSOF on April 10th, stoopping Leon Davis (5-2) in 4:41 in the prelims of WSOF 20. It was Mamedov's first fight in the United States.
Mamedov made his pro debut in Russia in June 2009 at nineteen. His only loss was in his second pro fight to current Bellator fightr Alexander Sarnavskiy by TKO. Since that loss Mamedov has won ten in a row, finishing eight of those opponents. Seven of the finishes came using an armlock.
Not a lot is known about Mamedov. He's training out of New Jersey now after relocating from Dagestan. Before signing with WSOF he has been mostly fighting on small shows against inexperienced opponents. His fight against Davis represented the biggest step up in competition for Mamedov, and with only seven pro fights it is not like Davis was high level competition.
Still, if Mamedov is being brought over from Russia to fight in WSOF and with his record of finishes he is a fighter to keep an eye on in WSOF. It will be interesting to see how he fares against tougher competition in the promotion in the future.
Ivan Buchinger [29-4, 29 years old, 5'9"] M-1 Featherweight Champion
Buchinger defeated Aliyar Sarkerov (13-4) via TKO at 1:54 of the second round at M-1 Challenge 56 on April 10th in Moscow. It was a non-title bout even though Buchinger is the M-1 Featherweight champion, having won the title in his previous bout in October by stopping Tural Ragimov (9-1) in the fourth round.
The win over Sarkerov was Buchinger's eighth win in a row. The last time Buchinger lost was to Conor McGregor (11-2) on December 31st, 2012, in Cage Warriors when Conor knocked him out in 3:40. Buchinger's other losses were to Anton Kuivanen, Sergey Golyaev, and Akira Corassani, all fights that took place four or more years ago.
Buchinger turned pro in June 2008 at the age of 22. He trains with Octagon Fighting Academy out of Slovakia. His opponents during his current eight fight winning streak have a combined won-loss record of 122-46. Besides Sarkerov and Ragimov, Buchinger's winning streak includes victories over recent UFC signee Stevie Ray (14-4), who he tapped with a choke in the fourth round, among others. He has finished 24 of his opponents.
He has competed at Lightweight in the past. He was the former Cage Warriors Lightweight champion, defeating Ray for the title. Buchinger, however, vacated the title when he left Cage Warriors in 2014 over a contract dispute, opting to signed with M-1.
Jonas Bilharinho [6-0-1, 24 years old, 5'11"] Jungle Fight Featherweight Champion
Bilharinho defeated Fabiano Nogueira (8-3) to win the vacant Jungle Fight Featherweight title on April 11th. Bilharinho stopped Nogueira in 1:26 to win the belt. This made Bilharinho Jungle Fight's first ever two division champion, as he also holds the Bantamweight belt.
It was also the sixth straight win of Bilharinho's career after he went to a draw in his pro debut back in January 2011. Bilharinho, nicknamed "Speed" for his excellent striking, was 20 when he debuted. He trains with Team Nogueira.
Bilharinho's last five opponents have a combined won-loss record of 29-5, which is impressive for someone who is only 24. He has finished five of six of his wins.
His biggest win came against Mario Israel (9-0), who he defeated via a controversial split-decision to win the Jungle Fight Bantamweight title last March. He never defended the title before moving up to featherweight this year. He also tried out for the current season of TUF Brazil at bantamweight, but didn't make it.
Bilharinho also declined a contract offer from Bellator last summer. "I declined (the offer) for two reasons," Bilharinho told MMA Fighting. "I have a fight coming up at Jungle Fight and I know how important that is for the promotion. I respect Wallid Ismail and I would never do something like that to him. Secondly, everybody knows that I always wanted to go to the UFC, so I’m really waiting for an offer from them."
"It was a good offer (from Bellator). If the UFC doesn’t call me before 2015, who knows?"
Geane Herrera [8-0, 24 years old, 5'5"] Flyweight
Herrara made his debut with RFA on April 10th, defeating Josh Rave (21-11) via TKO in 4:09. It was Herrera's eighth win in a row. Herrara was able to throw Rave, before Rave got back to his feet. Herrara took Rave down again, got mount, and caused Rave to verbally submit to punches on the ground.
Herrera is a former RFC Flyweight champion and made his pro debut in March 2011 at the age of twenty. He has finished six of his eight opponents either by TKO or submission. The combined won-loss record of his last four opponents is 39-26.
Herrera made news toward the end of last year when he got involved in trash talking with one-legged fighter Matt Betzold (6-5), which was almost lead to a match in WSOF that never happened. Betzold last fought for Legacy on March 20th, losing a decision to Rodrigo Lima.
“Me and him have a history together – not a good one,” Herrera said. “A lot of beefing going on between the both of us. Normally, I like to be the respectful fighter, and I’m still going to be respectful, but this one is a bit personal.”
Herrera trains with Banks MMA out of Tampa. He doesn't have a lot of experience against higher level competition, but now that he has debuted with RFA he should get a chance to move up and face some tougher competitiion at flyweight.
Ericka Almeida [7-0, 26 years old, 5'5"] Jungle Fight Women's Strawweight Champion
Almeida defeated Jennifer Gonzalez (1-0) to retain the Jungle Fight Women's Strawweight title in Brazl on Aprl 11th. Almeida submitited Gonzalez with a choke in 1:52, keeping Almeida's undefeated record intact at 7-0.
Almeida turned pro in December 2011 at the age of 22. She has finished all six of her opponents, five by submission and four of those submissions coming by choke. She trains under BJJ black belt Herman Gutierrez with Team Nogueira in Sao Paulo.
Her opponents, however, have a combined won-loss record of 9-10, which is poor. Her toughest opponent was Maiara Alves (4-0), whom she defeated for the vacant Jungle Fight Women's Strawweight title via submission in September. Otherwise, she has faced mostly inexperienced fighters and tomato cans with lopsided records.
A fighter who attains an impressive record by fighting cans and inexperienced opponents is usually someone whose record is better than their actual skills. It all depends, though, because in Almeida's case she is early in her career and is facing increasingly difficult competition. Obviously the question is if she continues to win against harder opponents.
She signed with Invicta over a year, but has to debut for whatever reason. The better female fighters in Brazil are also mostly with XFCI, so I don't think Almeida's level of competition is all that high in Jungle Fight. She'll really need to move up to Invicta at some point to get a better idea of what she is capable of.