Weekly MMA Prospect Report: Bellator’s Two Events and Beyond

AJ McKee Bellator 221 MMA
AJ McKee Credit: Mike Straus/Cageside Press

Bellator is holding two events this weekend (or three?) and they have a few notable prospects performing. On top of that, MMA prospects are fighting all over the world.

WXC 82 | Wednesday | Michigan

Welterweight: Willis Black (7-2)

Coming off two consecutive losses in 2017, Black is now on a four-fight win streak and the current WXC champion. Black, who has three wins by submission, is mainly a striker who has a 100% finish rate. “Silverback” relies on his striking power and explosiveness as he has that one-punch knockout power. He does need work on his takedown defense and off his back once against a good striker. He fights Anthony Ivy (7-2).

Welterweight: Anthony Ivy (7-2)

Like Black, Ivy is on a four-fight win streak with a 100% finish rate. Ivy has some good qualities on the feet with good clinch work and an explosive head kick. He’s primarily wrestler who chains his takedowns together well. In the grappling realm, Ivy can be a bit over-aggressive but has good BJJ. He fights Willis Black (7-2).

Bantamweight: Jose Johnson (10-5)

After starting out his career at 6-5, Johnson is now on a four-fight win streak. For someone that has half as many losses as he has wins, Johnson has looked stellar as of late. He’s a very technical fighter who uses a lot of teep kicks to maintain distance to where he can throw at a lot of angles. Johnson is excellent in the clinch with elbows and knees using his length. His takedown defense is much better than what it was and his BJJ is getting better and better. He’s only 24-years-old, so the future is bright. He fights Terrence Mitchell (12-2), who is a good test.

FFC 40 | Wednesday | Peru

Lightweight: Rudy Gavidia (12-2)

The Peru native is quite the showman and he has every right to be stringing together all his 11 wins in a row after losing his first two fights. Gavidia has a background in jiu-jitsu and was a boxing champion in China in 2008 and 2009. Gavidia is well-rounded as he has a good jab with leg kicks on the feet. He moves well on top but is very heavy as well and while he has good ground-and-pound, he does hold five submissions. Rudy still has a lot to prove as his competition has been weak and his takedown defense is a concern. He fights Alan Parra (9-4), who is coming off a loss.

United Donbass 2 | Friday | Ukraine

Middleweight: Vladimir Mineev (12-1)

Before transferring over to MMA, Mineev was an accomplished kickboxer holding titles as an amateur and a pro as he has a pro record of 23-2. Mineev has some glaring holes in his game like his cardio wears as the fight goes, his takedown defense could be better, and he lacks head movement. With that said, the Russian has a dynamic offensive striking attack with excellent output with his hands and kicks. Mineev is also very good at attacking the leg kicks. He fights Diego Dias (10-2)

GFC 17 | Friday | Kazakhstan

Lightweight: Usman Nurmagomedov (6-0)

Nurmagomedov on the feet is a kickboxer at trait. He doesn’t throw with much power but he’s flashy and diverse with his attack. He will throw spinning kicks, roundhouse kicks, and question mark kicks. Usman stays unpredictable attacking all limbs and throws combos alone with just his legs. His wrestling is good as well as timing double legs and on top, he is a big threat. He looks to be a good talent but he needs a step-up in competition. He fights Ruslan Tuyakov (3-0).

ACA 99 | Friday | Russia

Lightweight: Ali Bagov (27-10)

Bagov is a well-experienced fighter at only 28 years of age with 37 pro fights to his name. In those 27 wins, Bagov has beat guys like Bubba Jenkins, Eduard Vartanyan, Leandro Silva, Herdeson Batista, and current UFC fighter Ramazan Emeev. Bagov is totally a grappler/wrestler. He doesn’t have much on the feet, but his ability to close the distance and level-change to get the fight to the mat is quite smooth. His nickname is “The Hulk” and it suits him well as he is very strong and tough to get away from when he gets ahold of his opponents. Bagov’s jiu-jitsu is slick as displayed by his 22 wins by submission. His submission threats are complemented by heavy ground-and-pound. He fights Khusein Khaliev (19-1).

Lightweight: Khusein Khaliev (19-1)

Khusein Khaliev is a fantastic, well-rounded fighter. He has 11 wins by submission, but it’s his stand up that really illustrates his skill. The way he strings together his kicks, including his spinning kicks, in with his combinations is amazing. On the feet, he mainly relies on his kickboxing. He attacks every limb and has the ability to use spinning kicks, which he executes better than most fighters. He has good wrestling but he’s not the guy to pick his opponent up and slam him to the mat. He’s very good at timing his takedowns and getting trips. On the mat, he has excellent control and at times, he has relentless ground-and-pound. The prospect has a good submission base with 10 submissions. He fights the aforementioned Ali Bagov (27-10).

Flyweight: Azam Gaforov (11-0)

Gaforov is well rounded showing his background in Wushu Sanda. Being well-rounded, Gaforov prefers to stay on the feet where I would say he has a “controlled chaos” style. The Tajikistan born will always stay in his opponent’s face cutting off their angels and throwing hard looping punches over the shoulder landing flush. Gaforov has been in tough situations in the past but has always overcome everything to come back and win the fights, showing why he’s undefeated over some good talent. He fights ACA champ Yunus Evloev (23-8).

Lightweight: Denis Kanakov (11-1)

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 Baz Mohammad (10-4).

Middleweight: Magomed Ismailov (14-3-1)

With a background in combat sambo, Ismailov is a powerhouse athlete who is very fun to watch. He does have power on his feet but Ismailov has every desire to get his fights to the mat. When you tune in to watch Ismailov you would think you’re watching a professional wrestling match with the way Ismailov picks guys up and drives them to the mat. It’s just awesome. He’s insanely strong and can elevate his opponents at any time and put them down. He has a few submissions but has better ground-and-pound. He fights Artem Frolov (12-1), which should be a great fight.

Featherweight: Alexey Polpudnikov (28-5-1)

Polpudnikov is a very dangerous fighter who has finished 22 of his 28 fights. He likes to stalk his opponent down and pile on the pressure. Polpudnikov is a good, precise striker and is very proficient at attacking the body with his hands and knees, as he just has some beautiful boxing skills. His wrestling is also solid, as is his counter wrestling but needs to tighten up his takedown defense still. He fights Arman Ospanov (9-2), who is a good challenge.

Bellator 227 | Friday | Ireland

Featherweight: James Gallagher (9-1)

Gallagher fights at a karate stance who is a solid kickboxer. Gallagher is very unpredictable with his kicks he goes to the legs, body, and head and throws spinning kicks and throws with some heat. Even though he is so good on the feet, all of his best work is on the mat. James has very good wrestling and movement on the mat he can get dominate positions, rain down ground and pound, and go for the chokes. He fights former UFC fighter Roman Salazar (13-9), who he should beat.

Middleweight: Norbert Novenyi (3-0)

Novenyi is only 3-0 as a pro but had some experience as an amateur at 3-0 as well. He is a Hungary native, but he trains out of a top camp in the UK, London Shootfighters. Novenyi is a primary wrestler that has slick jiu-jitsu with three career submissions. He hasn’t stayed on the feet too much but has some nice footwork and a good kicking attack along with nicely cut angles showing his training with the London Shootfighters. The cardio does worry me so it will be interesting to see the longer his fight goes. He fights Will Fleury (6-1), who is a step up but someone I’m not impressed with.

Flyweight: Jake Hadley (3-0)

England’s Hadley may only be 4-0 as a pro but he went 7-2 as an amateur and has mainly been dominate thus far. He hasn’t really had much time on the feet, but it seems he knows what to do if he can’t get the fight to the mat. Hadley is a good wrestler but it’s his jiu-jitsu that is his best aspect. His transitions are smooth as his ability to take the back is well done. He’s a big submission threat with eight career submissions. He fights Blaine O’Driscoll (7-2), who is a good test.

Bellator 228 | Saturday | California

Featherweight: Juan Archuleta (22-1)

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. His striking has come a long way and that’s with his feints and big knockout power. Archuleta is riding a lot of momentum with 18-straight wins. He fights Patricio Pitbull (29-4) for the featherweight title.

Featherweight: AJ McKee (14-0)

McKee has very good wrestling and is able to get many takedowns in a fight. McKee’s athleticism means he can get the easy double leg or just suplex his opponent to the mat. On top, McKee moves well but his control and top position are what stand out. McKee’s striking is good and still improving, he is strong in the clinch and likes to use knees, and from range he’s started to use more of his kickboxing skills, even getting a head kick KO in his career. McKee is also getting better at keeping his opponent at his preferred range, even with his ever-improving striking, the mat is where he really shows his high skill level. He fights Georgi Karakhanyan (28-9-1)