There's always a lot of talk about rankings in MMA, but most often they only include the established fighters. Prospects don't get a ton of love from most MMA fans, especially the casual ones, however the majority of them are every bit as exciting as those you see in the Octagon. This list is of the top 25 "prospects" in MMA.
My criteria for a prospect (completely subjective, just a simpler way to compile the list) is as follows: 1. They must be under 25 years old, and 2. Not employed by Zuffa. Of course, there are people who are over 25 and Zuffa-employed that could be considered prospects, but at this point they are probably already fairly well-known, so for the purposes of this list they are excluded
This is part 1 of 2. In this first part, I will list prospects 11-25 and in part 2 I will list the top 10. Follow me after the jump for the rankings.
#25 - Doo Ho "Super Boy" Choi (Age 20)
This Korean featherweight's strength lies in his striking. Choi possesses very fast hands and changes levels very well. He has crisp, accurate boxing, good footwork, and solid leg kicks. While not a tremendous offensive wrestler, Choi has shown good take down defense and is a very slick grappler on the ground. Super Boy is 8-1 with his only loss coming via split decision.
#24 - Antun "Killer" Racic (Age 21)
This Croatian featherweight is a tremendous grappler. A judo black belt by the age of fifteen, Racic won the 2010 FILA Junior No-Gi Grappling Championships in his weight class. He has very good clinch takedowns and a strong double leg. Racic is also very physically strong for his size and has a solid submission game. His striking still needs work technically, but his hand speed is already off the charts. Racic is 9-3 professionally, having never gone the distance and winning all 9 fights via submission.
#23 - Lukasz "Wookie" Sajewski (Age 21)
This Polish lighweight prospect has tons of room to improve, both physically and technically, and if I was to do this list again next year, he could very well be top 10. Sajewski is a very good all-around fighter, with no one area being a superior strength. On the feet, he strings together solid combinations, employing both punches and kicks, and has fantastic head movement. In the grappling game, he has a good power double and a great sprawl, and on the ground Sajewski has relentless ground and pound to go with great top game submissions. Wookie is 8-0 currently with 6 finishes, 4 coming in the first round.
#22 - Roy Boughton (Age 23)
This light heavyweight prospect is a member of Cesar Gracie's camp in California, training with the likes of the Diaz brothers and Gilbert Melendez on a daily basis. Boughton is still very raw, but uses his physical tools very effectively. In the striking game, though improving quickly, he lacks technical proficiency, however makes up for this with very heavy hands and a great chin. Boughton has great takedowns, both from the clinch and from the outside. On the ground he is relentless, using his strength to sweep, pass guard, and employ his ground and pound. Boughton is 7-2 with 6 finishes and notable wins over Ninja Rua and Misha Cirkunov.
#21 - Dhiego Lima (Age 21)
Bellator fighter Douglas Lima's younger brother has the potential to be just as good, if not better, one day. Lima is a very aggressive striker that employs his Muay Thai and changes levels very effectively. Lima's ground game is very different than his stand-up, yet equally effective. He is very efficient on the ground, using patience and technique to secure submissions and positional advances. This welterweight prospect is 6-0 and has never seen the judges scorecards.
#20 - Mairbek "Beckan" Taisumov (Age 23)
This Russian lightweight product is a very exciting striker. A former soccer player, this influence shines through in his stand up as Taisumov has great leg kicks and fantastic footwork. His hands are not lacking either, however, as he displays great speed and accuracy. Taisumov is a good offensive wrestler with competent takedown defense. Also, he has a great top game on the ground, mirroring the aggressiveness and accuracy shown in his standup. Taisumov is very experienced for his age, sporting a record of 16-3, with all wins coming via finish.
#19 - Rodrigo "Ratinho" Lima (Age 21)
Lima, like many young Brazilian prospects, can be described most accurately with one word - aggressive. His boxing is very crisp, and he possesses excellent power and an undeniable killer instinct. His takedowns are solid, and he is very dangerous on the ground, both from top position and off of his back. Lima has finished fights with his ground and pound, and also uses it to open up submissions. This bantamweight prospect is 10-0 with 8 first round finishes.
#18 - Bruno "Carioca" Santos (Age 24)
This Brazilian middleweight's strength lies in his capabilities on the mat. Carioca uses his strong stocky build to outmuscle his opponents from the clinch as well as power through takedowns. Once on the mat, he uses his great BJJ to secure top position and batter his opponent. Santos' striking is serviceable, as he is a good counter puncher and uses his striking well enough in order to get his fights to the mat. If there is one knock against Santos it is his lack of finishing ability, though his 12-0 record is nothing to shake a stick at.
#17 - Marcin Held (Age 19)
Held is the youngest prospect on this list; the Polish lightweight is not yet in his 20s yet already boasts an impressive 12-2 record (despite his last win coming in controversial fashion at the hands of typical Bellator judging). Held is quite possibly the best grappler to ever come out of Poland, holding a brown belt in BJJ already. His grappling is the cornerstone of his MMA game, as well, as he has great takedowns and is top notch both in top position and off of his back. His striking is also coming along nicely, especially shown with his effective use of the jab. What Held lacks in physical strength and maturity, he makes up for with technical prowess, which will only serve to benefit him as he grows into his frame.
#16 - Gregor Gracie (Age 24)
Honestly, there isn't much for me to say about Gregor that you could not infer from his last name. Training out of Renzo's camp in NYC, he is a world-class grappler with medals at ADCCs, Mundials, and Pan-Ams over the course of his grappling career. As far as the other parts of his MMA game, Gracie has very good clinch takedowns, and above average striking. Gracie is 6-1, with 5 submissions and his one loss via TKO.
#15 - Vyacheslav "Slava" Vasilevsky (Age 23)
Slava, like many Russian fighters, comes from a Sambo background. He employs this very well in MMA, utilizing a number of clinch takedowns and displaying a great top control on the ground. Slava has good ground and pound and is adept at finding submissions. His striking is also very good, as he is a very technical striker all the while continuously pushing the pace. He has great head movement and footwork, and is a proficient counter striker. Slava is 15-1 at light heavyweight with 5 wins each via TKO, Submission, and Decision.
#14 - Alex "The Dominican Nightmare" Garcia (Age 24)
Garcia is quite possibly the most athletic fighter on this list. Though not a overly technical fighter, he makes up for that with raw power and speed. He has lightning fast hands and knockout power in his fists. His striking attack is getting more diverse by the day though as he continues to train at Tristar under the tutelage of Firas Zahabi. Garcia also uses his superior athleticism in his wrestling game, employing an explosive power double. When on the mat, Garcia shows impressive potential in his top game. This welterweight prospect is currently 7-1 and has never seen the judges scorecards.
#13 - Jimmie "El Terror" Rivera (Age 23)
Rivera, most recently seen losing to eventual TUF finalist Dennis Bermudez in a closely contested fight to get into the house, is still a very formidable prospect in MMA. Rivera is at his best striking from the outside, using his speed and countering ability to pick his opponents apart. He does, however, possess an improving grappling game. He has a quick shot, decent takedown defense, and a solid submission game. Rivera is officially 8-1 as a professional, but with only 3 finishes.
#12 - Lance "The Party" Palmer (Age 23)
Palmer, out of Team Alpha Male, is one of the most decorated amateur wrestlers to try his hand at MMA. Palmer was a 4-time state champion in high school and a 4-time All-American in college at Ohio St. Palmer is not incredibly well rounded just yet, but has shown great potential in other aspects of MMA, seen in his constant ground and pound and power submissions. Palmer, a featherweight, is still undefeated, but is just 2-0 in his young MMA career.
#11 - Myles "The Fury" Jury (Age 23)
Jury is a very well rounded welterweight prospect whom you might remember for getting injured on season 13 of TUF. He would have made some serious noise had he not gotten hurt, however, as he was quite possible the best fighter on the show. The Fury is a very talented striker, possessing great punches and kicks from the outside and devastating clinch knees. He is also an excellent grappler, with a diverse array of takedowns, superb takedown defense, and brutal ground and pound. With his improving submission game, Jury has to potential to be a serious contender in the WW division one day. Jury is 9-0 professionally, with 9 first round finishes, 7 of these coming in the first 90 seconds.