MMA Prospect Watch: The Most Impressive Fighters from August

Elvin Espinoza following his submission of Hopeton Stewart at PFL 7 2021
HOLLYWOOD, FL - AUGUST 13: Hopeton Stewart and Elvin Espinoza in a lightweight bout during PFL 7 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on August 13, 2021 in Hollywood, Florida. (Cooper Neill / PFL)

August has come and gone, and brought with it key events from Bellator, the PFL, and even Invicta FC’s return to PPV. In terms of MMA’s top prospects, there were plenty. Here’s a look at who was in action, and how they fared.

Bantamweight, Gamzat Magomedov (6-1)

This was a huge win for Russia’s Magomedov, handing Mochamed Machaev his first career loss. In an exchange, Magomedov caught Machaev with a right hand flooring him. Machaev rolled and as he got back to the feet he was still throwing, which is when Magomedov caught him with a left hand. That dropped him and the follow-up shots put him out cold. All that happened in under a minute and moved the win streak to four for Magomedov.
Grade: A-

Welterweight, Benoit Saint-Denis (8-0)

Saint-Denis blazed through his opponent with an easy first-round stoppage. He got a quick double leg takedown to start the fight. It was not long before Saint-Denis got into the mount to land some good ground and pound. The second time he got into mount he locked in an arm-triangle and his opponent tapped. One-way traffic.
Grade: A

Featherweight, Inglesson de Lara (4-0)

This was a frantic fight between Lara and his opponent Alex Sombra. Lara asserted himself right away landing a good combination. He was taken down but it wasn’t long before he got back up. Lara dropped Sombra briefly with a left hand as he got back up. When they separated Lara started to let loose. He landed a nice left hook to the body, a good right hand-knee combination, and a right-left that dropped Sombra. The follow-up shots put Sombra out.
Grade: C

Middleweight, Brunno Ferreira (4-0)

Ferreira took his opponent down with an outside trip. When he got the takedown, Ferreira landed right into side control. He transitioned into the mount, took the back, and sunk in the RNC for the submission win. Ferreira remains undefeated and still holds his 100% finish rate.
Grade: B-

Featherweight, Damon Wilson (2-0)

In round one Wilson showed a diverse attack landing a lot of combinations from a lot of angels. He took a lot of good shots but landed a lot of volume. In round two in only 18 seconds Wilson blitzed forward and a power right landed. It dropped his opponent and the follow-up punches sent the ref in. I was impressed with the striking and output of Wilson.
Grade: C+

Lightweight, Zac Pauga (4-0)

Despite being dropped and mounted in round one Pauga looked good. He got the takedown in each round but it was his striking that set him apart. Pauga landed a lot with his lead left hook and right hand. He landed that right hand many times with the hook, overhand, and the uppercut. He was landing everything from his right hand to a knee and in the clinch landed a few good elbows. Pauga looked good.
Grade: B+

Featherweight, Busurmankul Abdibait Uulu (14-3-1)

Uulu fought a tough opponent in Ruslan Yamanbaev, who fought behind in this fight for the most part. Yamanbaev was cruising on the outside throwing a lot of kicks going to the body and legs. He started to take over in round one before Uulu slipped a punch and countered with a right-left. That put Yamanbaev on skates and Uulu landed a lot of shots to the jaw. In round two it was still a competitive fight as both were throwing heat. A right hand from Uulu and a flurry sat Yamanbaev down. It was a weird ending but Uulu showed good composure and picked his shots.
Grade: C+

Flyweight, Mansur Malachiev (10-0)

Russia’s Malachiev fought another good prospect in Rashid Vagabov who won his last five fights prior to this one. Malachiev threw an overhand to grab a leg to chain to a double leg to get a takedown. He had his arm trapped in a modified omoplata but was able to spin out. In a scramble, he locked in a ninja choke for the dub.
Grade: A-

Featherweight, Abdurakhman Gitinovasov (8-1)

Opponent Viktor Mitkov fought pretty carelessly in this fight, shooting in blindly against a much better wrestler in Gitinovasov. Round one and two were easy for Gitinovasov as he just defended a takedown and dominated with top control. In round three Mitkov threw a sloppy spinning back fist and Gitinovasov took the fight down. Mitkov was able to get back to his feet but Gitinovasov used a trip to a double leg for a beautiful takedown. A dominant showing from Gitinovasov.
Grade: B-

Welterweight, Imam-Shapi Mukhtarov (10-0)

Mukhtarov let his hands go in this fight throwing with volume while going to the body and head. He kept up the forward pressure lunging forward with two punches at a time. He landed at the same rate with both his hands while mixing in some kicks as well. His opponent changed levels for a takedown in round three. He left his neck exposed and Mukhtarov sunk in a ninja choke. It was in there good and it put the guy out cold face first. Just a nasty finish to the fight.
Grade: B

Welterweight, Shakhban Alkhasov (5-0)

This fight was nothing but domination for Alkhasov. With his long reach, he pawed with straight punches, head kicks, and even a wheel kick before he closed the distance. He used a strong body lock to get the takedown. When he landed in half-guard that’s where he finished it posturing up and putting his opponent out cold with the von flue choke.
Grade: A-

Bantamweight, Jean Matsumoto (9-0)

Matsumoto who is the SFT flyweight champion, moved up to bantamweight and won that title as well in August. His opponent Wanderley Junior was the champ and this fight was a back and forth scrap. Both men had a knockdown in round one. Matsumoto was dropped with a punch and he dropped Junior with a head kick. Both landed tons of volume with leg kicks, bodywork, and head strikes. Both scored takedowns and had submission attempts. Matsumoto just had more moments.
Grade: B+

Bantamweight, Francesco Patron Manzo (8-0)

Manzo looked outstanding here to keep his undefeated record. He marched his opponent down chopping the legs and throwing punches in bunches. He let go with his offense and was landing a lot of volume. At one point Manzo almost secured a kneebar finish. Manzo landed a left hook to the body to a right leg kick putting his opponent down. He jumped on the back and from there locked in an armbar for the tap. Excellent and beautiful transition to a submission.
Grade: A

Strawweight, Tania Torres (5-0)

LUX held an eight-women strawweight tournament and in the end, it was down to Torres and Saray Orozco. This fight was a war that came down to determination and heart. Torres was dropped with a head kick in round two but survived and bit down on her mouth guard and fought back. Torres, when she let her hands go, was ripping combinations to the body and head. She found the target frequently with her hands and threw a lot of knees as well. On the other side she took a lot of damage but just had more bright moments herself.
Grade: C+

Bantamweight, Ryan Kuse (4-0)

Kuse showed a good skillset overall in a second-round stoppage. On the feet he maintained distance very well landing at will with kicks and long punches. He got a takedown in round one and dominated in top position. He got a takedown in round two and that’s where he found the finish. Kuse went between the mount and the back multiple times before the ground and pound sent the ref in.
Grade: B

Featherweight, Tom Pagliarulo (2-0)

The 6’0″ Pagliarulo is a real problem and he showed that in this fight. He had good movement and was snipping on the outside with his punches and landed two glancing head kicks. Pagliarulo was landing at will and picking his shots. His opponent threw a blind leg kick and Pagliarulo caught it and countered with a straight right. The initial shot put the guy out cold and the ref stepped in. Brutal finish and perfectly set up.
Grade: A

Lightweight, Eddy George (4-0)

His opponent came out with some type of jumping wheel kick which missed by a mile. George responded with a combination to an easy takedown. He quickly got into mount and unloaded with ground and pound. George unloaded with elbows and even though his opponent was covering up he wasn’t moving. The ref eventually stepped in.
Grade: C+

Welterweight, Andreeas Binder (3-0)

Binder breezed past his opponent with a first-round stoppage. He opened up with a few hard outside leg kicks and looping hooks. He used a body lock to get the takedown into side control. Binder got into mount and went off with smashing ground and pound. Some punishing short elbows sent the ref in. Dominant showing and showed a bit of everything.
Grade: C

Flyweight, Andres Luna Martinetti (11-0)

In under 30-seconds Martinetti took the fight down. From there he put his opponent through a lot. While staying busy with ground and pound at a point he was in the mount. When he got on the back he even attempted a suloev stretch. When that didn’t work in a scramble he landed a ground shot that had his opponent cover up. Martinetti went after the finish and landed big punches until the ref came in.
Grade: B

Lightweight, Elvin Espinoza (6-0)

Espinoza made his PFL debut and fought his toughest test to date in Hopeton Stewart. Espinoza didn’t treat it as his toughest test as he had a spotless performance. He quickly took Stewart down. He got right into mount and had the back but Stewart escaped. Espinoza used a throw to get the fight down again and an adjustment got him in top position. Right back into mount and on the back, he sunk in an RNC and put Stewart to sleep.
Grade: A

Welterweight, Michael Lombardo (12-2)

Lombardo is someone that’s pretty conservative in his fights but he went after it in this one. He fought another Contender Series veteran in Kyron Bowen. It was a competitive fight but Lombardo was landing more impactful shots. He was doubling up on the jab and coming through with the right hand. Lombardo was landing a few leg kicks that were visibly bothering Bowen. He sat Bowen down with a hard leg kick and again a second time. As Bowen threw another kick to the leg as Bowen was down he grabbed his leg in agony and the ref stepped in.
Grade: B+


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