Weekly MMA Prospect Report: Pico Returns, RIZIN in Action

Aaron Pico lands on John De Jesus, Bellator MMA
Aaron Pico vs. John De Jesus, Bellator 252 Credit: Bellator MMA

Top-shelf prospect Aaron Pico continues his build Friday at Bellator 260, while the PFL, ACA, and RIZIN are also in action this week. Here’s a look at some of the best MMA prospects who will be in action over the next several days.

PFL 2021 #4 | US | Thursday

Featherweight, Movlid Khaybulaev (15-0-1)

Khaybulaev is a very solid fighter all around, and he is really technical in his stand-up. He throws a lot of spinning attacks, not overdoing it, but that is a good thing. Khaybulaev uses the flying knee often, which he’s used to knock out opponents. With that said, he also has good wrestling; he is able to shoot in for a double leg or he can lift and slam you to the mat. Khaybulaev can usually get the fight down multiple times in a bout. He fights Sheymon Moraes (11-5).

ACA 124 | Russia | Friday

Lightweight, Pavel Gordeev (17-2)

Gordeev has shown he is a promising prospect, beating four undefeated fighters, former UFC fighter Mickael Lebout and Shane Campbell, and other solid competition. Gordeev is mainly a striker who loves to use the jab often. The Russian has good long straight punches and his speed can be a real factor. Gordeev has also shown the ability to land at a high rate as well. His wrestling is decent enough to be effective with good scrambles and an active ground game. He fights Denis Silva (16-5).

UWC 27 | Mexico | Friday

Featherweight, Aaron Cañarte (6-0)

Canarte is undefeated as a pro and went undefeated as an amateur going 5-0. Outside of MMA, Canarte has competed in kickboxing fighting for WGP. He has lights-out power in his hands and some heavy kicks as well. He’s well-versed on the feet throwing kicks and punches together. I’m not fully sold on him due to his lack of competition but his technical ability is good enough to keep an eye on. He fights Alexander Barahona (12-6).

Bellator 260 | US | Friday

Welterweight, Yaroslav Amosov (25-0)

In Yaroslav Amosov’s stand-up, he combines his kicks and punches extremely well. He moves in and out fluidly with his punches and uses his reach well too. Yaroslav doesn’t have a lot of knockout power, but he is a finisher, finishing all but four of his wins. Amosov also has very good submission skills with nine submission wins, using his long arms mostly for chokes. He also has excellent takedown defense and altogether has gotten better and better. He fights champion Douglas Lima (32-8).

Welterweight, Jason Jackson (14-4)

Jackson is a good striker who is technical with an excellent jab and a crushing right hand. This product out of the former Blackzilians gym is a very good wrestler as well as being very well-rounded. He’s super athletic and seems to get better every time he fights. He already has career wins against Benson Henderson, Jordan Mein, Neiman Gracie, Dhiego Lima, and Kiichi Kunimoto. The last few years Jackson has looked great. He fights Paul Daley (43-17-2).

Featherweight, Aaron Pico (7-3)

Pico has competed in folkstyle, freestyle, and Greco-Roman wrestling, winning a championship in all three. He has competed in multiple wrestling-based matches and has become very successful. Pico also has a background in boxing, winning many belts and also being named Junior Golden Gloves champion in 2009. Pico has had a few setbacks already but is back on a three-fight win streak. He has excellent boxing techniques with power and precision. Also, he has high-level wrestling. At only 24, he has the overall skill set to be champion one day. He fights Aiden Lee (9-4).

Welterweight, Levan Chokheli (9-0)

Chokheli is a little known but exciting prospect, finishing all nine (ten, but one was overturn to a no contest) of his fights. There’s not really a ton of footage out there on him, but from what can be seen, he’s one to watch out for. Chokheli is an explosive fighter with a lot of power and speed. He’s got good dangerous kickboxing, good hands, and has shown how explosive he can be holding a flying knee knockout. There still needs to be a lot more shown from Levan but he no doubt has the hype behind him. He fights a solid prospect in Kyle Crutchmer (6-0).

Featherweight, Justin Gonzales (11-0)

Undefeated as a pro, Gonzales also went undefeated as an amateur at 8-0. Gonzales has always been an excellent wrestler who was an All-American, but he’s been adding a lot of striking to his resume. J-Train could use better footwork, but he stays aggressive and has good right and left hooks. He really just uses strikes to set up takedowns. Overall, I think he’s good, but there is still room for improvement. He fights Tywan Claxton (6-2).

Open Fighting Championship 5 | Russia | Saturday

Welterweight, Sharaf Davlatmurodov (17-3-1)

Davlatmurodov is a fun fighter with a lot of good experience. He has wins over some good competition and has lost to only solid fighters. On the feet, Davlatmurodov throws a lot of volume throwing with different patterns and mixing it up very well. He has good kickboxing and from the outside has real good long striking. Mixing it up, Davlatmurodov will explode on the hips taking his opponents down. At times he can be too aggressive on the mat but has RNC’s for a reason. He’s really good. Mostly he just needs to improve small things— but the takedown defense should be his biggest concern. He fights Kleber Silva (20-10).

EFC 86 | South Africa | Saturday

Featherweight, Igeu Kabesa (12-1)

Kabesa’s only loss is to UFC fighter Danny Henry, which was a rematch of their first meeting, which Kabesa won. Of the two, Kabesa has a much higher ceiling. “Smiley” is one of the two best prospects out of South Africa along with Demarte Pena. He is the current EFC Worldwide featherweight champion and is on a four-fight win streak. Kabesa is a very decorated wrestler being a 10-time Wrestling Nationals Champion. He is young and solid everywhere. Kabesa has amazing wrestling and grappling, he can move well on the mat and can reach mount fairly easy. His striking is good too, moving in-and-out with explosive punches quickly and his slips and counters are solid. He fights Reinaldo Ekson (15-5).

Flyweight, Gian Souza (7-0)

Souza is another prospect who has been flying under the radar but has been killing it on the regional scene. He’s an aggressive fighter who is a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu. Across the span of his seven fights, Gian has been very successful with his wrestling. On the feet, the Brazilian is technical and possesses heavy hands. Training with Bellator MMA’s Pitbull Brothers, Patricio and Patricky Freire, should raise his ceiling even more. He fights Luthando Biko (7-2).

RIZIN 28 | Japan | Saturday

Lightweight, Tofiq Musayev (18-3)

Musayev shocked the world last December when he won the Rizin lightweight grand prix. Among the names he beat in the GP are former UFC fighter Johnny Case and the well-known Patricky Pitbull, which was a big shock. Musayev is good just about everywhere as he has striking with knockout power, combinations, and counter-striking. Along with some decent wrestling and some effective ground-and-pound. A plus to his output is that as the fight goes on he gets better and better. He fights Roberto de Souza (11-1).

Lightweight, Roberto de Souza (11-1)

Souza grew up training in judo and jiu-jitsu and would later become very successful in BJJ. His grappling record (as far as official matches go) is 61-15 with 37 submission wins. He has many achievements in BJJ. While MMA is an entirely different sport, Souza still has got it done on the mat with seven submissions. His striking has been coming around as well, meaning he can get it done on the feet with his hands also. He fights Tofiq Musayev (18-3).