MMA Prospect Watch: The Most Impressive Fighters from January

Jay Jay Wilson and Mario Navarro, Bellator 238
Jay Jay Wilson and Mario Navarro, Bellator 238 Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

2020 got off to a slow start for MMA, with nary a major event in the first two weeks of the new decade. But once it got going, did it ever. A number of prospects were in action as well, and we’ll take a look at some of the best up-and-comers in action back in January.

Welterweight, Tyler Ray (6-1)

Tyler Ray fought a very tough fighter in Josh Streacker and he dominated on the way to a second-round finish. The key to victory for Ray was wrestling and control. On the feet, the wrestler did show glimpses of improvement. He throws a good one-two and showed good head movement but doesn’t look fully confident yet. Ray got the finish eventually on the back of Josh sinking in the RNC. Ray is reminiscent of a very raw Ian Heinisch.
Grade: C

Featherweight, Steve Garcia Jr (11-3)

This was a hell of a fight between Steve Garcia and Jose Mariscal. Garcia dropped Jose early in round one and all hell broke loose after that. Mariscal survived and threw like a wild man. As did Garcia but he stayed calmer and picked his spots with head kicks and his left hand. In round two both fighters were throwing a some crazy pace. Garcia eventually finished the fight after some ground and pound. It was a poor stoppage but still a good performance.
Grade: A

Strawweight, Nong Stamp (4-0)

At the beginning of the fight, Stamp Fairtex (Nong Stamp) was way too flat-footed just standing in front of her opponent. Stamp was taken down but quickly got back to her feet and got the takedown herself. From there she did very well and the Muay Thai practitioner seemed at home on the mat. Stamp easily won positions getting the mount/the back and unloading punches until the ref stopped the fight.
Grade: C-

Flyweight, Ayaka Miura (10-2)

Although did get tagged a bit in round one, Ayaka Miura dominated the course of two rounds. She used the head and arm position to pull her opponent down in both rounds one and two. In round one, Miura threatened the whole time with an arm-triangle but couldn’t get the right position. The Americana has been her go-to submission and for the third straight occasion she finished with it, this time in the second round.
Grade: C+

Bantamweight, Shuo Wang (11-3)

This was my first time watching Shou Wang, and he had a really good fight with a decent opponent in Aydin Kodekov. Right away you could tell Wang is a talented fighter on the feet so Aydin tried to get the fight down. He had some success but Wang really showed some solid takedown defense. Wang did a nice job attacking the head, body, and legs up until the second-round finish. He attacked with leg kicks often even landing some nasty oblique kicks. Wang had some solid head movement slipping punches and countering. Both would sit in the pocket trading but Wang had more weapons throwing those kicks, knees, and short elbows.
Grade: A

Middleweight, Abusupyan Alikhanov (12-3)

Abusupyan Alikhanov dominated his opponent. The Russian quickly got the fight to the ground with a hard outside leg kick sweeping his opponent to the mat. Alikhanov would get into the crucifix position and he stuck there. He would land countless elbows and punches until the ref would finally step in. He fought a guy that was 9-4 but he fought like expected.
Grade: C+

Welterweight, Pedro Machado (3-0)

Pedro Machado opened up the fight with a body lock takedown. In half guard, Machado sliced right into mount. Soon after his opponent swept Machado to his back but Machado was still very much in control. He threw up a triangle but would lock in a heel hook to get the eventual tap. Machado showed some very slick jiu-jitsu.
Grade: C+

Lightweight, Mateusz Rębecki (11-1)

Mateusz Rebecki fought a really good Russian prospect in Magomed Magomedov and it was fairly one-sided. Rebecki was wild on the feet throwing looping shots including overhands. He did hit hard with thumping leg kicks and did drop Magomedov with an overhand left. He was at home on the mat winning scrambles and being in control. He almost secured a kimura in round two but instead got the finish with ground and pound. Rebecki in the crucifix position would land nasty elbows cutting up Magomedov s the ref stepped in.
Grade: B-

Middleweight, Phil Hawes (7-2)

Phil Hawes is finally living up to the potential he had when he started his career. In this fight, he displayed a technical game plan with heavy strikes. Hawes fought behind his straight left jab going up top and to the body. He threw the right hook continuously behind the jab landing every time dropping the Brazilian twice. Hawes had his foe hurt and as he fell to his back the third time Hawes forced the ref to come in after some heavy hammer fists.
Grade: C+ 

Light-heavyweight, Jakob Nedoh (3-1)

Jakob Nedoh, known as a submission specialist, got the job done solely with his striking. Every time Nedoh hit opponent Zarko Sedoglavic his head snapped back. The finishing sequence was when Nedoh landed two straight left hands and a right hook for the clean knockout victory.
Grade: B-

Featherweight, Jay-Jay Wilson (5-0)

Bellator MMA’s Jay-Jay Wilson fought Mario Navarro a BJJ black belt and easily out-classed him on the mat. Both round one and two Wilson got the quick takedown. He constantly worked to finish even almost getting his first ground and pound stoppage. Round two he went for a twister but lost position. Wilson was on his back but executed a beautiful sweep to get back on top. While controlling the back he set up an armbar and Navarro tapped. Just beautiful and stellar BJJ from Wilson.
Grade: A+

Featherweight, Collin Anglin (7-1)

It took a bit for Collin Anglin to find his range, throwing a lot of wasted motion and not hitting the target. In the final seconds of the first round, Anglin did drop his opponent with a nice right uppercut. Round two he was much more comfortable as his opponent still seemed a bit rocked. Anglin used a lot of feints and was coming over with the right hook. The right hook is eventually what landed after a feint, putting his opponent out cold.
Grade: B-

Featherweight, Jamall Emmers (17-4)

This was a good fight between two top-notch prospects in Jamall Emers and Rafael Barbosa. Emmers displayed some good fundamentals. He had excellent head movement, used a lot of feints, employed good footwork, and showed understanding of his range. His striking was on point landing counters and hard lead leg kicks. Round three he stepped on the gas landing more. He got Barbosa to the mat and took his back. He went for the RNC but locked in the arm-triangle instead for the technical submission.
Grade: A+

Flyweight, Lito Adiwang (11-2)

Lito Adiwang went completely off in this fight starting off with a thudding head kick that landed on his opponent Pongsiri Mitsatit. After that Lito chased him with wide rights and lefts dropping Mitsatit. Misatit survived for the time being but Adiwang was still in finish mode. Mitsatit did get the back but Adiwang had thekimura grip and eventually separated it from the body and Pongsiri tapped.
Grade: A