It’s going to be a great weekend for the bantamweight division worldwide. Five of the very best 135 pound prospects on the planet will be in the spotlight this weekend as Brazilian Leandro Higo fights for the Bellator title, countryman Matheus Mattos makes his ACB debut, Nebraska wrestling star Raufeon Stots challenges for the VFC belt, and top Russian prospects Magomed Magomedov and Petr Yan reprise their 2016 ACB Fight of the Year. Read on to hear the MMAWizzard’s thoughts on those talented fighters and the other prospects that he has his eye on this weekend.
Bellator 177, Friday (Hungary)
135, Leandro Higo (16-2): Leandro Higo has a lot of experience at age 28, including a decision in a great fight agaisnt Steven Peterson for the LFA title in January and a submission of Joey Miolla for the RFA title last June. The Pitbull Brothers protégé is solid everywhere, and on the feet he’s very aggressive. He has good all-around striking but mainly it’s his kickboxing that has brought him the most success. On the feet, he does a good job of mixing it up, going to the legs, body, and head. He also does a nice job of throwing his kicks at the end of combinations. I think Higo is even more dangerous off the mat, though. He has very precise and aggressive jiu-jitsu, he can attack from top or bottom, and once he gets a limb he is hard to shake loose. He fights Eduardo Dantas (19-4) for the Bellator bantamweight title, who at 28 is also a great young Brazilian talent who has proven himself with wins over Joe Warren, Marcos Galvao, and Mike Richman.
145, Adam Borics (9-0): The kid from Hungary is still green, but he is a solid featherweight prospect. Borics like to keep distance at times, only throwing a shot here and there, but makes up for it with his accuracy and his great ability to counter strike. He has a background in Thai boxing and karate so there’s tons of potential for him to grow more on the feet. On the mat, he has solid jiu-jitsu. His TDD isn’t where it needs to be, but he is excellent at locking up the triangle which he’s used to earn 3 of his 4 submission wins – see the video for a glimpse of Borics’ triangle skillsraufeon stots. Overall he needs work but can develop over time to become an even better fighter. He fights recent James Gallagher opponent Anthony Taylor (1-2) who talks a very good game but has only won one fight in his last 8 fights (including amateur) so don’t expect too much from him.
Victory FC 56, Friday (Nebraska)
135, Raufeon Stots (7-0): Stots has a great wrestling base from his time competing at University of Nebraska-Kearney and he has perfect top control and grappling. His stand-up is only getting better as he’s already very skilled in his kickboxing and striking and getting better all the time by working with top trainers at Roufusport. Stots is super athletic and quick, throws a powerful head kick, and is always trying to outwork his opponents. Yet unlike some great athletes he also approaches the sport with good tactics and fight IQ. He fights longtime big show contender and reigning VFC bantamweight and featherweight champion Rob Emerson (19-11) who is a solid vet but who has his fair share of losses. Stots is a different breed of beast who should take Emerson out easily, and if that happens look for his next fight to come in the UFC.
155, Sodiq Yusuff (3-0): This 23 year old kid is the brightest prospect from Team Lloyd Irvin. Yusuff comes from a wrestling background but it’s the striking that he has mastered so well. His blows are very surgical as he picks his opponents apart with accuracy and quickness. At 7-0 as an amateur and 3-0 as a pro and with plenty of tools at his disposal, Yusuff seems to have a very high ceiling. He fights Chuka Willis (9-3), another solid prospect who has fallen in his tougher fights against Brandon Phillips, Jake Roberts, and Hakeem Dawodu. I’m not sure who wins this fight.
Hoosier FC 33, Friday (Indiana)
155, Mike Santiago (19-9): It’s hard to find much footage of 27 year old Mike Santiago’s recent fights aside from his RFA 39 co-main event win, but he has an impressive resume. Despite having 9 career losses he is on a 9 fight win streak, finishing 8 of his 9 wins and beating some good regional competition like Kenny Foster, Bill Kamery, and Luis Saldana. During that 9 fight win streak he won the HFC and ROC 145 titles, and now moves up to a bout for the HFC 155 pound title. He fights Kenn Glenn (7-4) who, in my opinion, isn’t very good but who has is coming down from welterweight and could use his size to give Santiago problems. The embedded video shows how Santiago fared against strong competition early in his career when he took on Phillipe Nover.
Road FC 38, Saturday (South Korea)
135, Soo Chul Kim (15-5-1): This Team Force representative is a very well-rounded fighter at just 25 years old. He’s very hard to attack since he’s very quick at changing levels and shooting for a takedown. Kim can use the power in his striking, or he can tie you up in clinch which is his go-to range for now. I don’t like how he keeps his hands down low and he needs some work on his TDD. He is still very good though, and one of the best Korean fighters not in the UFC. Kim goes in for attacks at odd angles and it’s hard to tell what he is going to throw next, making him very dangerous all-around. His resume includes several top level like Marcus Brimage, Marlon Sandro, and Leandro Issa and Tuerxun Jumabieke. He fights 23 year old countryman Min Woo Kim (8-1) for the ROAD bantamweight title, who looks pretty good from what I’ve seen but I see nothing that makes me think he can beat Kim.
ACB 57, Saturday (Russia)
135, Magomed Magomedov (13-1): Team DagFighter’s Magomedov is alright on the feet, with decent hands but a better kicking game. He likes to get flashy at times throwing a lot of spinning kicks which may be his best weapon at range. More importantly he is an excellent wrestler with superb grappling control, and he can grapple for the duration of the fight due to his tremendous endurance. He rematches fellow high level prospect Petr Yan (6-1) in the ACB 57 main event, who he defeated by split decision at ACB 32 in the promotion’s 2016 Fight of the Year.
135, Petr Yan (6-1): Yan is a beast everywhere his fights could take place. The Tiger Muay Thai fighter has great striking and he loves to throw caution to the wind with a lot of power and aggressiveness. He isn’t necessarily the best wrestler but seems to have good judo throws and trips. On top, he likes to use a ground-and-pound assault but also offers up a submission game with one choke finish on his record. Yan barely finds himself on his back thanks to his superb TDD, though Magomed Magomedov did manage to score some takedowns during their first bout at ACB 32.
185, Albert Duraev (9-3): Duraev is mainly a grappler, though he does have moments on the feet showing off his leg kicks and he has also shown power in his hands. The ground is where he is most dangerous, mainly with his submission skills. He has shown versatile finishing ability including submissions via triangle, RNC, north-south choke, and armbar. After consecutive wins over top Russian welterweights Michail Tsarev, Ustarmagomed Gadzhiev, and Serget Khadozhko he now moves up to 185 to face Vyacheslav Vasilevsky (29-5), who is Tapology’s #2 ranked middleweight in Russia and who should put up a good fight.
205, Azamat Murzakanov (6-0): This multiple time judo champion is a great prospect to watch for. The guy looks like he’s been doing MMA his whole life, as every technique he does is flawless. He has solid wrestling, as he is able to drag you to the mat or slam you down. His ground and pound is very good but his striking is even better. Murazakhanov is aggressive, always the one attacking and looking for the knockout. He has one punch power and is an excellent counter striker. Basically he has everything you want in a fighter and I see no holes yet. He takes on Konstantin Erokhin (9-3) in his first fight since a terrible run of form in the UFC, and if he fights anything like that then Azamat should run through him.
135, Matheus Mattos (10-0): Mattos is very athletic and very powerful with a 100% finish rate, 6 by KO and 4 by submission. Once he starts getting into his rhythm he is hard to defend, and his takedown defense is good which affects a lot of opponents because they do not want to stand with him. He is so explosive and is always pressing forward looking for that kill shot, and he does have some solid ground skills as well. The 24 year old Team Nogueira member fights 22 year old Magomed Ginazov (11-3) who is decent but Mattos is for sure better everywhere.
Full Contact Contender 18, Saturday (England)
155, Lerone Murphy (2-0): This English prospect only has 2 pro fights but is 4-0 as an amateur and he’s shown a ton of potential. Even though the guys he’s fought have been very weak he’s been nothing short of impressive so far. He likes to keep the fight standing and throws both his right and left hand fluidly. He has good footwork and solid kickboxing and when he mixes it all together it’s perfect, especially when he explodes in and out landing combinations and then slipping right out of the way of counterfire. As of right now, I see no flaws. He fights Jamie Lee (3-2) who should just be a squash match for Murphy.
ECC, Saturday (Indiana)
155, Austin Tweedy (9-1): I haven’t got to see too much on him but was impressed with what I saw. His primary weapon is his wrestling, he’s very quick shooting in for the double-leg and can also use his physical strength to elevate his opponents and slam them to the mat. Once he’s on top, he possesses ferocious ground and pound and can execute a very slick back take. I haven’t got to see him on the feet as much, but he has pretty good athleticism and kickboxing. Tweedy has 100% finish rate with 8 submissions and 1 TKO. He fights Jay Ellis (13-64) whose record says it all.
RIZIN, Saturday (Japan)
265, Amir Aliakbari (3-0): The former Iranian National Wrestling Team member is very accomplished in Greco-Roman wrestling. He is excellent at takedowns, with the strength to suplex his opponents over and over early in the fight when he has gas. Aliakbari shows good pressure on top and also has good ground and pound. Sometimes he does so much with his wrestling that he is out of energy by the end of the fight but if he learns to be more conservative he will be a huge threat. He fights hulking Brazilian veteran Geronimo Dos Santos (39-17) who is a threat on the feet but there’s no way I see him staying off his back and his cardio isn’t any better than Amir’s.
W105, Rena Kubota (3-0): Rena is already a combat sports star in Japan as she is a professional shootboxer who won the championship in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014 with an overall record of 23-5. She has had a short MMA career so far but has looked very impressive with her striking, kickboxing as expected and surprisingly her submissions skills. So far she has hit two submissions, one a flying armbar and the other a cravat choke, plus she got a TKO in her last fight in RIZIN. She faces Dora Perjes (7-1) who is also crafty on the mat but hasn’t fought in two years so that could play a huge factor.
125, Tenshin Nasukawa (2-0): Tenshin is another cross-sports star who has a background in Muay Thai and kickboxing, with an amateur record of 99-5 and a pro record of 17-0. When you think of a flyweight you think of speed and Tenshin may be one of the fastest fighters I’ve seen in a while, from his hand speed to his kicking speed to his flow of combinations to his amazing reaction time. He has huge knockout power and has shown submission skills and defense in his short career. He fights Francesco Ghigliottin (0-0) who is debuting, so I have no idea what to expect.