Aaron Pico MMA Prospect
Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

There are always great talents coming up the pipeline in MMA, and this series will point out who you should keep an eye on in both the regional and international scene this week.

One Championship: Hero’s Ascent | Friday | Manila, Phillippines

Welterweight: Lowen Tynanes (9-0)

Tynanes is returning to action for the first time in nearly three years. the Hawaii native has been dominating his foes and it has mainly come from his wrestling and the work he does on top. He was a state champion in Hawaii and that has crossed into his MMA career very smoothly. Once on the mat, he’s shown to have a good jiu-jitsu base and good ground-and-pound. He transitions well, and his positional grappling is solid. It will be interesting to see how he looks with much time off. He fights Honorio Banario (14-7) who is a gimme fight for Lowen.

Light Heavyweight: Reinier de Ridder (9-0)

Don’t let de Ridder’s stand-up game fool you, eight of his nine finishes have come by submission. He’s great in the clinch, and Ridder fights well at a distance as he has an excellent jab and when he lets his hands go, he is really accurate. The mat is where Ridder wants to be, as he is expert jiu-jitsu practitioner – the sort who can time perfect double-leg takedowns. If Ridder is in the clinch expect him to get the takedown as his hips are excellent and judo tosses are his best weapon. On top, or even on the mat in general, Ridder is the one in control. He is always moving and searching for submissions and that’s why he has eight submission wins. He fights Rong Fan (12-1), who is a good grappler but Ridder is better everywhere.

Fight Night Medicine Hat 9 | Friday | Alberta, Canada

Welterweight: Chris Curtis (19-5)

Curtis is on a six-fight win streak including two title defenses for CES, winning a title on the Canadian scene for Fight Night Medicine Hat, and a hook kick knockout on the Contender Series last summer. When you talk about a technical striker, Curtis fits that to a tee as his boxing is outstanding. The way he uses head movement is so fluid and the way he mixes in body shots in with combinations is superb. Right now, he is the most deserving prospect for a UFC call-up. He fights former UFC fighter Matt Dwyer (11-4-1), who is on a three-fight win streak.

Future FC 1 | Friday | São Paulo, Brazil

Light Heavyweight: Acacio dos Santos (10-3)

Santos is an interesting prospect who is a towering 6’4″ at only 185-pounds for the most part. The Brazilian is limited on the feet, and while he does have heavy kicks his brawling style throws technique out the window. Santos does have raw strength and that has earned him these wins. If he gets taken down, he will just stand up and take top position, Derrick Lewis style. If he does get on top, then you’re most likely staying there due to his size and his best weapon, which is his ground-and-pound. He fights Matheus Scheffel (12-5) who is a big test for Santos.

Welterweight: Edson Marques (8-0)

Marques is solely a striker who has two finishes by one-punch knockout. Marques is very technical as he picks his shots very accurately. He will sit on the outside and use effective leg kicks and long punches and does an excellent job circling out with good footwork. Marques is a good MMA prospect to watch out of Brazil. He fights Adriano Rodrigues (11-3), who is another good test for Marques.

Bantamweight: Caiona Batista (9-2)

Batista is well-versed on both the mat and on the feet with stoppages coming from both sides. He’s very fun to watch on the feet as the Brazilian has big power in both of his overhands that he spams over and over. He will stay on the feet mainly, but he does have a wrestling attack to fall back on. He’s on a four-fight win streak and only 23-years-old, so his ceiling is high. He fights Paulo Pizzo (8-2), where Batista is better everywhere.

Lightweight: Mauricio Ruffy (4-0)

Ruffy doesn’t have enough fights nor the ring time to really tell how good he is but I feel this guy could be the real deal. The Brazilian hasn’t had much in-ring time because he has blitzed past his opponents, finishing three of his four fights in under two minutes. Ruffy holds a lot of punishing power in his hands, making his opponents just give up due to the big amount of damage they take. So much is still unknown about Ruffy, but he’s worth the watch. He fights Pedro Henrique (5-3).

Titan FC 52 | Friday | Florida, USA

Featherweight: Jason Soares (11-0)

Soares was a competitor on the 22nd season of The Ultimate Fighter, where he lost his entry fight to Julian Erosa. Soares is a really talented fighter with stellar skills on the mat. He has solid chokes, winning six times by rear-naked choke. He dominates on the mat, maintaining control when his opponent tries to scramble and generally living up to his status as a jiu-jitsu black belt. He does need to work on his striking defense, though. He fights Caio Uruguai (7-1) who is skilled on the feet and could very well beat Soares.

LFA 58 | Friday | New Mexico, USA

Lightweight: Jaleel Willis (9-1)

Willis is quite athletic and a top-notch wrestler. On top, he has the control, the transitions, and the ground-and-pound to excel. Willis is everything you want in a fighter, especially in terms of wrestling. On the feet, he does hold a lot of power in his hands. Willis still has some things to learn but is a bright prospect as his only loss is to UFC fighter Kyle Stewart. He is also making the move down to 155 for this fight. He fights Harvey Park (10-2), who he should beat.

M-1 Challenge 101 | Saturday | Harbin, China

Lightweight: Roman Bogatov (8-0)

Bogatov is a Russian prospect who has burst onto the scene quickly after starting his MMA career in 2016, already winning M-1 gold. Bogatov is solely a grappler. On the feet, he isn’t bad, but is just unpolished with his striking and his defense needs work. The Russian is aggressive from bell to bell and will constantly press forward and secure takedowns with exceptional cardio. His grappling is top notch as he is willing give up takedowns due to his scrambling abilities, and ability to gain top position. Bogatov wants to be on the mat as that is where he is very dangerous with his ground-and-pound, and where his positional grappling ties up his opponent’s limbs while firing punches. He’s always attacking submissions and he has four subs on his record, which is his best aspect of his skill-set. He fights Michel Siva (21-7), who has looked good but I don’t see him winning the grappling exchanges.

ACA 95 | Saturday | Moscow, Russia

Heavyweight: Roggers Souza (8-0)

Souza has some flaws as on the feet, as he stands upright with his hands low and his cardio isn’t the best. Despite that, Souza is a good striker with some good power, but better technique with some clean boxing. He’s a big dude, and if he winds up on top on the mat, he can very well get the stoppage. He’s still very green but I think he is arguably the best upcoming heavyweight prospect out of Brazil. He fights Kazbek Saidaliev (7-3), who is on a two-fight skid but is the toughest challenge to date for Souza.

Elite 1 MMA 35 | Saturday | New Brunswick, Canada

Welterweight: Christien Savoie (6-0)

Savoie was contacted to fight on the Contender Series last summer but couldn’t due to an injury. He’s making the move back down to 175 after competing at a catchweight of 200 and at 185. Savoie is mainly a grinder who will push the pace in close quarters. He wants to take the fight to the mat where his ground-and-pound is excellent, landing good shots at a solid rate from a short distance. He fights Alderic Keith (9-4), who he should easily beat.

Bellator 214 | Saturday | California, USA

Lightweight: Aaron Pico (4-1)

Pico has competed in folkstyle, freestyle, and Greco-Roman wrestling, winning a championship in all three. He has competed in multiple wrestling-based matches and has become very successful. Pico also has a background in boxing, winning many belts and also being named Junior Golden Gloves champion in 2009. He came up short in his first professional bout, but he has rebounded and won his next four, all via first-round finish. Pico has the finishing ability with his hands mixed in with takedowns here and there. The power and accuracy of his strikes are simply awesome. He fights Henry Corrales (16-3), who is on a four-fight win streak and a great test for Pico.

Featherweight: Ricky Bandejas (11-1)

Since losing to UFC veteran Nick Pace, Bandejas has gained momentum, now riding a six-fight win streak. In the process, he’s won the CFFC title and beaten Bellator’s golden boy James Gallagher. The book on Bandejas is that he is super aggressive, has great striking, owns good submissions and solid takedown defense. He fights Juan Archuleta (21-1).

Featherweight, Juan Archuleta (20-1)

Archuleta is a wrestler first who has yet to find a foe who can stuff all of his takedowns. Archuleta times his offensive wrestling well and he is very strong on top, and he moves well and constantly throws ground-and-pound in any position. He does have a knockout win but he has little time on the feet as he hasn’t found an opponent with the ability to stop his takedowns. He fights the aforementioned Ricky Bandejas (11-1).