Weekly MMA Prospect Report: From Dublin to Russia to Japan

James Gallagher Bellator Europe 9
James Gallagher, Bellator Europe 9 Credit: Bellator MMA/Lucas Noonan

UFC 268 will no doubt take in the lion’s share of attention in the MMA world this weekend. How could it not? But there are other fights worth checking out over the next few days, and plenty of up-and-comers worth keeping an eye on. We’ve got you covered on that front!

 Open Fighting Championship 11 | Russia | Friday

Heavyweight, Alexander Soldatkin (10-3)

Soldatkin is a big, muscular guy and someone you don’t expect to throw a lot of spinning attacks — but that’s exactly what he does. The big man doesn’t overuse the flashy attacks but uses them just to keep his opponent guessing. His movement can be a bit stationary and he will let guys come to him instead of going forward himself. At times that works out for him because he can lull opponents into his power. Soldatkin does a fine job throwing kicks and punches together flowing through. He fights Jackson Gonçalves (10-3).

Bantamweight, Artem Semyonov (8-3)

Semyonov has seven of his wins via submission but is very comfortable on the feet. He throws a lot of output just letting loose with his hands and mainly his kicks. On the mat is where he wants to be even if it’s off his back. His takedown defense does struggle but off his back, with his guard he’s dangerous. In fact, most of his submissions are off his back. Semyonov is talented but he needs a lot of work. He fights Mukambet Kadyrali Uulu (5-0).

 Armia Fight Night 11 | Poland | Friday

Featherweight, Mansur Azhiev (6-0)

6-0 as and pro and 5-0 as an amateur, this young man from Poland has a bright future. On the feet, Azhiev has a good jab, long punches, and solid kickboxing. Azhiev will kick the legs and go up top quite often. He excels more on the mat and his wrestling to get it there is pretty strong. Azhiev has glue-like grappling, controlling every movement. His ground and pound is his best weapon. He will unload with punches in any position and getting into the crucifix is something he’s liked to finish with in the past. He fights Amaury Junior (13-9).

ACA 131 | Russia | Friday

Featherweight, Mehdi Baidulaev (11-2)

Baidulaev is a volume striker on the feet but is a much better wrestler and grappler. His wrestling as really good. Being able to shoot in and cut the corner and get the body lock and throw guys around. Baidulaev has five submission wins – attacking the neck is what he does so well. If it’s in a guillotine, darce, and taking the back for the RNC he goes for the neck. He fights Caionã Batista (12-4).

Bellator 270 | Ireland | Friday

Bantamweight, James Gallagher (11-1)

Gallagher fights at a karate stance but 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 dominant positions, rain down ground and pound, and go for the chokes. He fights Patchy Mix (14-1).

Gallagher recently made the move to the U.S. to train under James Krause — you can read up on that here.

LFA 117 | US | Friday

Bantamweight, Ricardo Dias (10-4)

Since moving to Huntington Beach, California from Brazil, Kings MMA has turned Dias into a much better fighter. He’s looked good in his last two fights and especially his last one. You can’t teach killer instinct and that’s what Dias brings to the cage. Dias has four submissions and four KO/TKOs which proves how well-rounded and dangerous he is. Everything he throw on the feet is with ill intentions. His hands are heavy, he throws a lot of elbows, a variety of kicks, and knees. His ground game is even better attacking limbs in a blink of an eye. Not fully sold on him but it will be interesting to see how good Kings MMA is making him. He fights former UFC fighter Michinori Tanaka (13-3).

Flyweight, Mark Climaco (6-0)

Climaco is a scrapper 125er that is a treat to watch. On the feet, he’s like a firecracker that is firing on all cylinders. He throws a lot of output and from all angles. Climaco hits hard, he’s quick, and throws in volume very well. The young 22-year-old is already very well rounded so the wrestling and ground game are there. Climaco can wrestle all fight with a relentless style. For a young flyweight prospect, he’s oozing with potential. He fights Yuma Horiuchi (8-4).

LUX Fight League | Mexico | Friday

Flyweight, Alessandro Costa (9-2)

Costa, although more of a jiu-jitsu player, is a dangerous guy on the feet. Costa’s right hand is his money shot. He has a good lunging right hook and when pressed back has a sharp counter right hand. Costa throws with some big power but his hand speed really stands out. The Brazilian doesn’t shy away from throwing explosive shots such as flying knees, rolling thunder, cartwheel kicks. He’s good at using trips/throws in the clinch.

Costa has the ability to chain wrestle as if he doesn’t complete the first takedown, he can cut a corner and adjust to get it down. What’s even better than his wrestling is his grappling. On top or on bottom Costa is a big submission threat. He has fluid hips off his back, being able to quickly attack an armbar. Even on top the armbar is what he likes to attack with. He’ll take risk going for armbars, jumping to a triangle, and taking the back because he’s so good in any position. He fights Kike Gonzalez (10-2).

VTJ 2021 | Japan | Friday

Bantamweight, Tatsuro Taira (9-0)

Taira is one of the brightest young prospects out of Japan. He’s well-rounded: on the feet, he’s got an explosive barrage of strikes he closes the distance with well. He’s got some solid takedowns and on the mat is where he’s best. Taira has fight-ending ground and pound and is a submission threat. He fights Alfredo Muaiad (6-2).

Brave CF 55 | Russia | Friday

Welterweight, Kamal Magomedov (8-0)

Magomedov is a really good well-rounded fighter that has tons of potential. He has very clean boxing skills and will change levels and shoot for a takedown at any time. The Russian is a big threat when it comes to catching a neck and on the feet, he’s a threat finding that jaw. He needs to just be more active as this is his first fight in two years. He fights Vitaly Tverdokhlebov (11-6).

Cage Titans 50 | US | Friday

Featherweight, Connor Matthews (4-0)

Matthews trains out of Lauzon MMA with a ton of talented fighters. His first three pro fights he finished in under a minute. The longest he’s fought has been a little over two minutes. Matthews doesn’t waste time taking the fight to his opponent. Sometimes it’s even his foes coming forward and walking into a punch or knee from him. When Matthews gets it to the mat his ground and pound is really good and he has three submissions. Just still really green right now. He fights Kody Allen Murray (1-0).