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Opinion

Top five MMA prospects to watch

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18th September, 2020
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With the MMA world back in full swing, what better time than now to look into the top five prospects to keep an eye on in the years to come.

This won’t be a list of Paulo Costa, Sean O’Malley and Zabit Magomedsharipov. This will instead be five names that only the hardcore MMA fans will know as only one of these five have fought in the UFC.

The only parameter I set for this list is that they must be no older than 32 and cannot be ranked in the UFC. Now onto the top five below.

5. Aliaskhab Khizriev
Height: Five foot ten
Weight: 170 pounds
Age: 30
Team: Fight Club Scorpion
Nickname: Black Wolf
Stance: Southpaw
Nationality: Russian
Weight class: Welterweight
Record: 13-0-0

Khizriev won the Fight Nights Global Interim Welterweight Championship by ground and pound in the first round before making a statement in his most recent bout on the Contender Series, which saw him secure a rear naked choke a mere 50 seconds into the fight. Khizriev currently holds a perfect 13-0 record and is one to keep a close eye on as he makes his UFC debut in the not so distant future.

What really showcased his talent was in his Fight Nights Global title win where he took on a grappling phenomenon in Rousimar Palhares. Khizriev, who is predominately a grappler, happily engaged his counterpart in grappling exchanges before ending it via vicious ground and pound. To make that win even more impressive is that he took it on short notice.

Khizriev possesses a well-rounded skill set and always comes out aggressively, aiming to finish fights as swiftly as possible. He has also shown in the past his ability to keep his output for 15 minutes and while he is predominately a grappler, he possesses power in his hooks and overhands to knock opponents out on the feet.

Khizriev is a prospect to keep an eye on in the next couple of years and I expect him to cause some serious problems with his chain wrestling to the top UFC welterweights.

4. Jeffrey Molina
Height: Five foot six
Weight: 125 pounds
Age: 23
Team: Glory MMA and Fitness
Nickname: El Jefe
Stance: Orthodox
Nationality: United States
Weight class: Flyweight
Record: 8-2-0

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Molina has grown as a fighter over the last three years and has shown skills on both the feet and on the ground well beyond his years. He has racked up finishes in seven of his eight fights with his only decision victory coming in his most recent fight on the Contender Series, which earned him a UFC contract. He has since been booked to fight on November 14 against Zarrukh Adashev in what will be his UFC debut.

Molina has sharp, crisp boxing technique and a well-rounded kicking arsenal that was on full display in his most recent fight. He is also currently a purple belt in jiu jitsu and has a sneaky submission game that makes him a threat on both the feet and on the ground.

After starting his professional career with a 1-2 record he has strung together seven wins on the trot. He admittedly hasn’t had a great deal of opposition and he will be tested by joining the UFC. Similarly to Brandon Moreno, a current UFC flyweight who I have held a huge opinion of for many years, Molina may even find himself on the end of a bad loss or two, but I expect him to continue to grow and be a title challenger in the future.

UFC

(Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

3. Kayla Harrison
Height: Five foot eight
Weight: 155 pounds
Age: 30
Team: American Top Team
Stance: Orthodox
Nationality: United States
Weight class: Women’s lightweight
Record: 7-0-0

The only female on this list is Kayla Harrison, who holds a 7-0 record and is yet to join the UFC. Harrison is a Judoka World Champion, a two-time Olympic gold medallist at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and a sixth-degree black belt in judo.

Harrison only turned pro in MMA in 2018 and has had seven dominant victories since doing so. She is not on most people’s radar but should be. Her ground game could be likened to UFC legend Ronda Rousey and she has developed a striking game that has allowed her to close the distance more effectively than the former champion.

Now at 30 years old she is ready to hit her peak, showing vast improvements to her game and even showcasing a great gas tank in her most recent dominant victory over Larissa Pacheco. To put that win into perspective, Pacheco has beaten current UFC fighters Irene Aldana and Karol Rosa, both who are nearing UFC title shots. The UFC women should be on notice because it won’t be long until Dana White comes calling with a contract for this phenomenon.

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2. Sean Brady
Height: Five foot ten
Weight: 170 pounds
Age: 27
Team: Renzo Gracie Philly
Stance: Orthodox
Nationality: United States
Weight class: Welterweight
Record: 13-0-0

There is not enough hype around Sean Brady, who holds a perfect 13-0 record and is 3-0 in the UFC. Sean Brady is a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu under Daniel Gracie and it has shown in the octagon with his suffocating top control and submission hunting.

As a fan and practitioner of jiu jitsu, Brady’s control on the mat is something that only the elite black belts possess, and he has been near perfect in his octagon performances to date. Brady also has a striking game that is polished, which allows him to take his time in looking for a take-down opportunity. He has an even three submission and three knock-out victories and his last fight demolition of Christian Aguilera cemented that he is one to watch.

Brady is a main training partner of former UFC champion Eddie Alvarez, and that has shown with his durability and ever-improving striking. He is well-rounded and epitomises the new breed of MMA fighters who are well trained in a range of disciplines. Expect Sean Brady to get a ranked opponent in the next year and be climbing up the ranks very soon.

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1. Muhammad Mokaev
Height: Five foot nine
Weight: 135 pounds
Age: 20
Team: KHK MMA Team
Nickname: The Punisher
Stance: Orthodox
Nationality: English
Weight class: Bantamweight
Record: 2-0-0

Muhammad Mokaev is a Dagestan-born MMA fighter who fights out of the UK. His 2-0 professional record is deceiving as he has only recently turned pro. He held a 23-0 amateur MMA record and has shown raw talent both on the feet and on the mat.

At only 20 years of age, this prospect could be huge in the coming years as he continues to make a name for himself in organisations outside of the UFC. Mokaev has his third professional fight scheduled on October 1 in Brave CF against undefeated prospect Jamie Kelly, who I expect him to go straight through.

Mokaev is a five-time British Wrestling champion, the IMMAF world Junior Bantamweight Champion in 2018 and 2019 and recently has focused more on his jiu jitsu, competing on the local UK scene.

By signing for Brave CF, Mokaev has a chance – with a win or two – to fight champion Stephen Loman, who is the promotion’s longest serving active champion, which is the perfect chance to get him recognised by the top MMA organisations.

He won’t be a UFC champion in the next couple of years, but he is one to keep an eye on as he is an immense talent that is sure to be a champion of multiple organisations in the future. This kid is a star. Bookmark it and come back to this when it comes to fruition.