We take a look at the best MMA prospects to watch out for this weekend, from the US, to Italy, to Eastern Europe, and beyond.
PFL 3 2019 | Thursday | New York
Heavyweight, Muhammed DeReese (7-0)
After DeReese came up short on Season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter he took a two and a half year layoff. He is 2-0 since his return and has made a big splash taking out two veterans in Leroy Johnson and Mike Kyle. DeReese has a background in wrestling going 27-0 as a senior in high school. He’s powerful and explosive, being a dangerous threat anywhere the fight goes.
Heavyweight, Denis Goltsov (22-5)
Goltsov has beaten a string of well-known fighters in James McSweeney, Chase Gormley, Peter Graham, Brett Rogers, Konstantin Erokhin, Mike Kyle, and Paul Buentello. He is good everywhere and dominates fights. Goltsov has the laid-back style where he can work a precise and impactful jab for as long as he pleases, but then he can switch it up and launch a head kick out of nowhere. Goltsov is a multiple-time Combat Sambo champion and placed first at this year’s Euros. Goltsov is the finished product and is only getting better and better. He’s arguably the best heavyweight prospect out there. He fights former UFC fighter Jared Rosholt (17-6), who despite his boring style is a good test for anyone.
Invicta FC 35 | Friday | Kansas
Atomweight, Alesha Zappitella (5-0)
Zappitella started in wrestling before transitioning later into MMA. After a 2-2 amateur career, she hit her stride and is now 5-0 as a pro. “Half Pint” has fought at 125 and at 115 but in her natural weight class at 105 she’s undefeated. She stands at 4″11″ but has made up for that with her constant pressure getting into the clinch and fighting her fight. On the feet, she has some power in her overhands but she may struggle at range if she can’t close the distance. She is a fantastic wrestler who has been very impressive on top with her active movement and transitions. She fights former UFC fighter Viviane Pereira (13-3), who is the biggest test in the career for Alesha.
Strawweight, Kanako Murata (9-1)
Murata, the prospect out of Japan, has a background as she was a former 2011 Junior Wrestling World Champion. Her wrestling in MMA is excellent as her timing and her ability to explode to finish her entries is very well done. Murata has some solid chain wrestling. If her initial shot doesn’t get her opponent down, she can adjust and get the takedown. She also has some nice judo that she utilizes time to time. In terms of her skill on the feet, she is decent and getting better, but still a much better grappler. Murata is an excellent positional grappler with active ground-and-pound. She can also fight at a high pace for a solid three rounds. She fights Liana Pirosin (7-2), who is a good test, but I’m not sure if she can stop the takedowns.
Bantamweight, Brittney Victoria (3-0)
She is still green at 2-0 and there is not much footage, but what I’ve seen of her is quite impressive. She reminds me of the recent Ultimate Fighter Season 28 winner Macy Chiasson. Victoria has long length, uses her reach, and let her hands go. She is wild but she throws with bad intentions and is relentless with her attack. She looks solid but still has a lot to show. She fights Chelsea Chandler (1-1), who at this point is a good test for someone so young in their career.
Venator Fight Night 2 | Saturday | Italy
Bantamweight, Francesco Nuzzi (7-1)
Nuzzi is one of the shiniest prospects coming out of the Italian regional scene. From a technical standpoint, his stance kind of resembles Stephen Thompson’s, keeping his opponent guessing what his next moves will be and counter-striking with precision. Unlike “Wonderboy,” though, he’s not afraid to move forward, looking for an opening to put somebody to sleep. “The Berserker” is constantly improving on his wrestling while on the ground he’s getting close to being a polished product. He fights Ibragim Navruzov (4-0), who is decent but a good prospect should beat him.
ACA 96 | Saturday | Poland
Evgeny Goncharov is another solid heavyweight prospect out of Russia. On the feet, he does have some power, but on the mat is where he wants to be. Goncharov is an excellent wrestler who will get the body lock and get huge power takedowns, showing how strong he is. On top, he has some slick grappling for a big guy, but his ground-and-pound is his best aspect where he throws at a high rate and can do that all fight. He fights Tony Johnson (13-4-1), who is a veteran but shouldn’t beat Evgeny.
Lightweight, Denis Kanakov (10-1)
Kanakov is a good underrated prospect with a solid record over good enough competition. Kanakov has finished eight of his fights and has done it with his ground-and-pound and his stopping power in his hands. He’s aggressive and he does a great job getting the trip takedown with the body-lock applied. He doesn’t do much on top as he just keeps the position. I believe he’s better on the feet as he has heavy hands but is also quick and throws with a lot of volume. He fights Andre Winner (22-12-2), who is his biggest challenge to date.
Middleweight, Rodolfo Vieira (4-0)
Being overweight as a kid, Vieira found BJJ and started training at only 13-years-old. Since then, he has become very successful as he’s a six-time World Cup champion and a four-time world BJJ Champion. He’s only 4-0 in MMA, but has been nothing but dominant with all of his wins coming by stoppage. His finishes have all come on the mat, all on top with good submissions and solid ground-and-pound. He’s still green, but has a good base. He fights Vitaliy Nemchinov (10-0), who lacks footage, but this is still a big test for both guys.
Olympian Fight Night | Saturday | Denmark
Welterweight, Mark Madsen (7-0)
Madsen is a little too old for a prospect at 34 but still is young in his MMA career. Madsen is a very accomplished Greco-Roman wrestler who is an Olympic silver medalist. He is also a five-time Greco-Roman wrestling champion and won a bronze medal in the 2014 Greco European Championships. Madsen has run through all his opponents with four finishes as he has both finished it on the mat and on the feet. On the feet, he has big power in his right hand. He is a very strong wrestler being able to ragdoll his opponent. Madsen is aggressive and for his pace, he has solid cardio. He fights Patrick Nielsen (0-0).