MMA is off to a great start in 2019 with UFC Brooklyn, so now we’ll look towards the future at 10 light heavyweight prospects that should be in the Octagon by year’s end.
Here’s a look at last year’s list, featuring current UFC roster members Alonzo Menifield, Jim Crute, and Kennedy Nzechukwu both signing with the UFC in 2018:
- Karl Moore
- Kyle Noblitt
- Batraz Agnaev
- Alonzo Menifield
- Jim Crute
- Kenneth Bergh
- Klidson Farias
- Kennedy Nzechukwu
- Mikhail Mokhnatkin
- Jiri Prochazka
1. Dalcha “Champion” Lungiambula
33 | 5’10” | Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa | 9-1 | 5 Finishes | 4 KO/TKOs, 1 Submission (Armbar) | Combined Opponents’ Record: 63-23 | Best Win – Andrew van Zyl (16-3)
Lungiambula is a bit old at 33, but at heavyweight age isn’t much as a factor, with most reaching their peak at a higher age. His age may stand out to many but his impressive record against fair competition should stand out more. Lungiambula usually fights at light heavyweight, but last June, he moved up to take on Andrew van Zyl to go on and win and become a two-division EFC champion.
Dalcha is all explosion. His striking comes in with a huge burst of energy lunging forward with bombs and his takedowns are the same: in a hard, straight line, but so strong and powerful, he gets the fight to the mat. Dalcha has knockout power, but he wants to be on the mat where he has nasty ground-and-pound and a solid submission game. The UFC could also use another representative out of South Africa, and Lungiambula fits the bill.
2. Klidson Farias
26 | 6’1″ | Curitiba, Parana, Brazil | 14-2 | 100% Finish Rate | 5 KO/TKOs, 10 Submissions (7 Rear-Naked Chokes, 2 Armbars) | Combined Opponents’ Record: 117-43 | Best Win – Johnny Walker (7-1)
Farias signed with M-1 Global about a year ago that would have made it hard for him to sign with the UFC. But now, as both promotions have a partnership, the UFC can now sign M-1 champions. Farias isn’t a M-1 champ yet, but he is certainly on his way. Farias is a solid BJJ guy that is very physically strong, but for a bigger guy, he is really light on top and his transitions are very smooth.
Farias does well on the feet, he lacks footwork at times but is explosive and the way he strikes his way into the clinch is efficiently done. Farias has good wrestling which compliments his BJJ and overall he’s just a very good prospect. Farias has beat some good prospects such as Nemkov, Timo Feucht, Leonardo Santos, and UFC fighter Johnny Walker while winning the Brave CF title in the process.
3. Jiri “Denisa” Prochazka
26 | 6’4″ | Hosteradice, Czech Republic | 23-3-1 | 22 Finishes | 20 KO/TKOs, 2 Submissions (RNC, Triangle) | Combined Opponents’ Record: 137-53 | Best Win – Vadim Nemkov (5-0)
Prochazka is arguably the best light heavyweight prospect in the world due to his impressive list of accomplishments and having fought so many great talents at a young age of 26. He’s only lost to solid fighters but has beat guys like Vadim Nemkov, Karl Albrektsson, Jake Heun, and current UFC fighter Darko Stošić. At 6’4″, he is a massive fighter and he uses his height to his advantage, throwing leg kicks and knees at various ranges.
Prochazka is a very dangerous fighter, finishing 22 of his 23 wins with only one going out of the first round. He is great at putting pressure on his opponents with a lot of volume, and really excels at putting together his kicks and punches with fluidity. Along with such a dangerous striker, Prochazka is extremely athletic and he loves to launch himself in the air with flying knees. The UFC is coming to the Czech Republic on February 23. While it seems unlikely he will be on that card, I believe he doesn’t have many fights on his contract left with RIZIN. Jiri would be one of the biggest prospect signings in a long time.
4. Ivan “Ural Hulk” Shtyrkov
30 | 6’0″ | Yekaterinburg, Russia | 16-0-1 | 11 Finishes |
6 KO/TKOs, 5 Submissions (3 Armbars, Heel Hook, Scarf-Hold Armlock) | Combined Opponents Record: 266-139 | Best Win – Thiago Silva (21-7)
He has already beaten six former UFC fighters in Jeff Monson, Thiago Silva, Fabio Maldonado, Rodney Wallace, Phil De Fries, and Antonio Silva. Shtyrkov gets visibly tired but it’s a result of all the energy he puts into his fights. He has the power on his feet to drop anyone but tends to get hit a lot. Luckily, he has shown a good chin and is able to take one to give one.
Shtyrkov does have better wrestling, though, with a wide variety of takedowns from body lock takedowns, to double legs, to trip takedowns, showing both the power and athleticism that comes from his extensive sambo background. On top, Ivan is a strong fight-ending threat, with five of his wins ending via submission, four of them by an armbar.
5. Karl “No Worries” Reed
30 | 6’3″ | Simpsonville, South Carolina | 6-1 | 3 Finishes |
3 KO/TKO | Combined Opponents’ Record: 31-25 | Best Win – Adrian Miles (16-11)
Reed did fight on the first Contender Series in 2017 and came up short against Cameron Olson. Reed was only 2-0 at the time and now at 6-1 and on a four-fight win streak he finds himself in better shape and much more improved. Reed has a karate base and trains out of Upstate Karate in South Carolina with Stephen Thompson and his dad Ray Thompson. Before finding karate, Reed wrestled in college.
Reed has a karate stance and you can really see the influence of training with Stephen Thompson. The question mark kicks and the kicks he throws over the shoulder are beautifully done, and he has shown the ability to end a fight with his kicking skills. Reed may surprise people with his wrestling, which is fundamentally good and well-timed. Reed isn’t the strongest guy on top but he uses relentless chain wrestling. I can see him getting another opportunity on the Contender Series in 2019.
6. Karl “King” Albrektsson
25 | 6’2″ | Sweden | 8-2 | 7 Finishes | 4 KO/TKO, 3 Submissions (2 Rear-Naked Chokes, Arm-Triangle) | Combined Opponents’ Record: 43-23 | Best Win – Vadim Nemkov (5-1)
Albrektsson has only two losses in his career, both to stellar prospects Valentin Moldavsky and Jiri Prochazka. He has also beaten good competition such as former UFC fight Josh Stansbury and top Bellator contender Vadim Nemkov. “King” has a background in BJJ and in Sanshou, in which he was the 2014 European champion.
Albrektsson is well-rounded but moreso a strong grappler. He’s only 25, and he is only getting better. The UFC goes to Europe quite often and Albrektsson should be someone there looking at.
7. Nicolae “Nicu” Negumereanu
24 | 6’0″ | Brassó, Romania | 9-0 | 100% Finish Rate | 6 KO/TKO, 3 Submissions (Rear-Naked Chokes, Armbar, Brabo Choke) | Combined Opponents’ Record: 36-81 | Best Win – Dan Konecke (10-13)
Negumereanu is still unknown and very untested still but he does look apart and seems like someone to watch. His wrestling is awesome as his ability to suplex his opponents to the mat is just effortless. His judo is pretty slick as well. On top is where he wants to be as he has heavy ground-and-pound, and for a 205er, he has a good submission game.
He has shown development in his striking as he was too wild in the past. He still does have tendencies to throw wild, but he makes up for it with his output and power. Negumereanu has a good record and I think he has a high ceiling. He has a good chance of getting signed this year.
8. Andy “The Vice” Clamp
31 | 6’4″| England | 10-1 | 9 Finishes | 6 KO/TKO, 3 Submissions (2 Rear-Naked Chokes, Armbar) | Combined Opponents Record: 36-81 | Best Win – Dan Konecke (10-13)
I don’t think Clamp is ready for the like of the UFC right yet, but something like Cage Warriors makes sense. He can go the Cage Warrior route to win a championship and move onto the UFC at the end of the year. Clamp is a bit one-dimensional as he doesn’t ave much to offer on the feet. Clamp is a solid wrestler who has scored a takedown in all but one of his fights. “The Vice” is a strong guy as once he closes the distance he is relentless with his takedowns and can wrestle all fight long.
He’s even better once on the mat, always working to finish hence why he has nine finishes. He has his share of stopping the fight with his active ground and pound and once he finds an opening for a submission he will take it. He has been dropped, but he’s shown toughness. He’s been on his back but he has shown good jiu-jitsu once there. Overall, he reminds me of a Paul Craig who is limited on the feet, but a dangerous fighter once it hits the mat. I do think Clamp has a better future than Craig as his gas tank, wrestling, and defense all together seem much better.
9. Khadis Ibragimov
23 | 6’3″| St. Petersburg, Russia | 7-0 | 5 Finishes (1 DQ) | 1 KO/TKO, 3 Submissions (2 Rear-Naked Chokes, Bulldog Choke) | Combined Opponents’ Record: 36-12 | Best Win – Stephan Puetz (15-3)
The Russia native has a background in Sambo as he is the former World Universal Combat Champion, the winner of the Russian Combat-Sambo Cup, and a European Combat-Sambo Champion. Ibragimov is the current M-1 Global champion, so with maybe a title defense or two, the UFC could come calling. In only his third bout, he beat former M-1 champion Stephan Puetz, who is a very tough test.
He is still very green as he relies heavily on his strength and athleticism. He needs to work on not being so wild with his striking and needs to not allow his opponents to push him against the ropes as much. In the clinch, Ibragimov does utilize trips and has excellent judo throws he likes to use. At his age, I really like where he is and I think he has a bright future.
10. Alton “The Bo-man” Cunningham
25 | 6’5″ | Madison, Wisconsin| 7-1 | 100% Finish rate | 7 KO/TKO | Combined Opponents’ Record: 39-39 | Best Win – Erick Murray Jr. (4-1)
Cunningham fought this past summer on the Contender Series and lost to current UFC fighter Bevon Lewis. Since then, Cunningham is now 2-0 in his newly-adopted division, moving up from 185. “The Bo-Man” has looked much better at 205, where he is less depleted, looking much faster and still holding his knockout power. He’s a very talented fighter and a pure athlete. Alton has finished off all seven of his amateur wins and all of his pro fights.
He has a solid top game that he’s used to knock opponents out cold, but he usually tends to stay on the feet, where he is a good boxer with the stopping power to put his opponents stiff. Cunningham also has very good kickboxing, even holding a head kick knockout. I’m really excited for the future of this 25-year-old and I expect another Contender Series offer this summer.