The amateur scene often gets overlooked, but it’s worth keeping an eye on some of the top talent, who could some day make an impact on the biggest stages of MMA. With that in mind, we’ve got five amateur prospects to watch out for in 2021!
Lightweight, Ashton Kirby (11-1)
Fighting out of North Little Rock, Arkansas, US
Fighting currently at the age of 20
Training out of Rock City MMA
A record of 11-1
Win streak of four
Nine finishes (2 KO/TKO’s, 7 Submissions’)
Combined opponents’ record: 36-5
Best win: Gauge Young (1-0, Pro)
Kirby is an impressive young man that could do very well in the pros right now. He’s primarily a wrestler and his striking is improving. On the feet, Kirby has that “herky-jerky” style throwing a lot of flashy attacks while using a lot of feints. He is explosive and he has a strong right hand he throws. Kirby stays busy and it helps his takedown entries.
Kirby is a strong wrestler getting on the inside landing emphatic takedowns. His grappling is where he shines. He is a very aggressive grappler easily passing guard gliding on top. His back take is insanely quick. Kirby has a dangerous RNC and he will attack triangles, kimuras, armbars etc. I would put him as a huge submission threat no matter where he’s at. Kirby at times will lose position but even off his back he’s a threat.
Lightweight, Johnson Nasona (20-3)
Fighting out of Bellevue, Washington, US but born in Khartoum, Sudan
Fighting currently at the age of 26
Training out of Marcelo Alonso BJJ
A record of 20-3
Win streak of three
Thirteen finishes (11 KO/TKO’s, 2 Submissions’)
Combined opponents’ record: 74-18
Best win: Jake Methric (12-0)
Nasona has more experience as an amateur than the majority of mixed martial artists. Nasona, who took his first fight in August 2014, has grown up right on the regional circuit. Over time he’s gotten better, has improved in a lot of areas, and has become ultra-confident inside the cage being very relaxed.
At the beginning of his career, it was the jiu-jitsu of Nasona that showed promise. Now, more relaxed and set in Nasona is darn good on the feet. He has quick hands and from the outside, he throws quick and explosive kicks. Nasona is very loose and effective on the feet. He is better on the feet though with his grappling, ground and pound, and scramble ability, he’s really good all over.
Flyweight, Sam Paneitz (13-1)
Fighting out of Wentzville, Missouri, US
Fighting currently at the age of 22
Training out of Wolves’ Den Training Center
A record of 13-1
Win streak of two
Six finishes (5 KO/TKO’s, 1 Submission)
Combined opponents’ record: 36-25
Best win: David Johnson (7-3)
Before even fighting in MMA Panietz was a three-time Greco-Roman state champion. He’s definitely a wrestler first and gets it done with his aggressiveness and strength. At times he will shoot from too far out but has shown the ability to just bully guys down once he gets a hold of them. Once Panietz does get the takedown he displays strong top control and active ground and pound.
Panietz hasn’t partaken in much on the feet but has a background as a silver and golden gloves finalists. “Night-Night” isn’t too technical but has power in those looping overhands he spams. Definitely a talented fighter but more experience as an amateur sure won’t hurt.
Bantamweight, Payton Talbott (4-0)
Fighting out of Reno, Nevada, US
Fighting currently at the age of ?
Training out of Reno Combat Academy
A record of 4-0
100% finish rate (2 KO/TKO’s, 2 Submission)
Combined opponents’ record: 7-0-1
Best win: Cameron Sandoval (4-0)
Talbott obviously still green with only four fights, but he’s shown a nice array of his skill-set. Through the span of his career fights, he’s mostly shown he likes to put on a fun fight. That results in his chin getting tested often. He does get hit a lot but his volume/output outmatches his foes.
Talbott is a long striker who lets loose as the fight goes on. In the same sense, he’s really good in the clinch using his leverage and landing excellent knees. Decent wrestling is shown with a better top game including solid ground and pound. What makes him dangerous is his volume and his work rate having excellent cardio.
Bantamweight, Luana Santos (10-0)
Fighting out of Sao Paulo, Brazil
Fighting currently at the age of 20
Training out of 011 MMA Team
A record of 3-0
1 Finish (1 KO/TKO)
Combined opponents’ record: 0-0
Best win: Karine Cristine (0-0)
Santos is only 20 and a highly touted women’s amateur fighter. She is a judo black belt and trains at Capital da Luta, under head coach Lucas Martins who is a former UFC veteran. Santos wants to fight long fighting with a long jab, straight punches, and a front kick. She has done well throwing in volume mixing in kicks and punches in combinations. With what she lacks in power she makes up for it with output.
Santos right away likes to get the fight to the mat. Many times she’s got the fight down it’s from judo throws while controlling the upper body and shifting her hips for beautiful takedowns. The grappling is a work in progress in tandem with active ground and pound. So far her ground strikes has been her best weapon.