50 Best MMA Prospects of 2013

Middleweight Division

#41 MMA Prospect: Michal Materla



Michal Materla is the reigning KSW Middleweight Champion and with a 19-3 record with 4 straight wins over UFC veterans, the time seems ripe to test his skills in the UFC or Bellator.

Materla began his MMA career in 2003, competing on local Polish regional cards where he quickly built his record to 8-0 overall. At just 21 years old, Materla decided it was time to test his skills against one of the most dangerous strikers in the sport, Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos. Materla traveled to Brazil and met Santos at Jungle Fights 5. Materla showed a ton of heart as he absorbed some brutal shots from Santos, but he simply could not defend himself against Santos’ Chute Boxe-style. Materla returned 6 months later against Moise Rimbon, but suffered a decision loss, dropping his record to 8-2.

Materla redeemed his prospect status by competing in KSW’s 8-man, 1-night tournament. Materla defeated all 3 of his opponents via submission to impressively win the tournament and cement his status as one of Poland’s top MMA fighters. Materla looked to duplicate his feat just 1 year later as he entered KSW’s next 8-man, 1-night tournament. Materla won his 1st round matchup, but ended up losing a close decision to eventual winner Antonio Mendes.

Materla would struggle with injuries that kept him sidelined for nearly 2 years. He briefly returned in 2009 to win a fight via submission before once again going back on the shelf for more than 2 years. From 2007-2011, Materla only fought once.

In 2011, Materla returned to KSW full force. He defeated Gregory Babene and James Zikic within 2 months of his return. Materla moved on to face UFC veteran Matt Horwich in a title eliminator fight, winning a close decision that required an overtime period. Materla was eventually pitted against UFC veteran Jay Silva for the vacant KSW Middleweight Championship. Materla looked to be injured as he knee buckled following a kick from Silva. Materla battled through adversity as he battled back to win via decision.

Materla has since defended his title twice, knocking out UFC veteran Rodney Wallace and winning a controversial decision over TUF 3 winner Kendall Grove. Materla’s win over Grove required an extra overtime period though many onlookers had the fight going to Grove during the initial 3-round period. Materla is set to defend his title for a 3rd time later this year at KSW 24.

Camp/ Country:

Materla trains out the Berserkers Team, which is home to many of Poland’s top fighters like Maciej Jewtuszko, Rafal Moks, and Karol Bedorf. The camp hasn’t found much luck sending their fighters stateside though Jewtuszko did have a short stint in the WEC and UFC. That’s not to say some of their fighters don’t have the talent to fight in the UFC or Bellator, it’s just that many prefer to stay in Poland and fight under the KSW banner.

The UFC is rumored to be visiting Poland in 2014, but considering Materla is the KSW Middleweight Champion, it’s highly unlikely they would release him from his contract.

Career Forecast

Michael Materla has one of the most impressive resumes amongst any Middleweight prospect. His last 4 wins have all come against UFC veterans and his only losses have been hard fought efforts to big show veterans. Unfortunately, Materla is starting to suffer the same fate that has plagued Mamed Khalidov’s career. Both fight somewhat in anonymity, and even though KSW is considered the main MMA show in Poland, it has failed to catch on worldwide. KSW has made a strong effort to find Materla and Khalidov challenges, but they have likely come a point where they must know that the only challenges remained belong in the UFC.

Materla has a much different style of fighting compared to Khalidov. Materla is aggressive on his feet, but he is much more apt to initiate clinches and try to bring the fight to the floor. His ground game is good, though not elite by any means. His main weapon is a guillotine that he will attempt often while in the clinch or during transitions. Materla’s wrestling has improved over the years, but it still pales in comparison to the upper half of the UFC’s Middleweight Division. Materla is very crafty though, and he is very calculated with his movements and always seems to get himself out of dangerous positions.

Materla has an excellent chin, and he has been forced to use it throughout his career as his striking developed. Though Materla lost to Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos back in 2005, it was a true testament for the amount of punishment Materla is able to take. That toughness has helped him grind out victories and persevere through injuries. Materla is still a bit of a brawler, though he has become more calculated with his overall defense. He has a big right hand and uses it often. He also attacks with knees, but make no mistake about it, Materla would still rather contest most of his fights on the ground in top position.

Materla’s success at the upper levels of MMA will most likely come down to his wrestling. Materla will find it hard to finish his opponents at the UFC level. His overall skill set is somewhat reliant on him being the better conditioned, tougher fighter that can basically break his opponent’s will. If I had to compare him to someone in the UFC today, it would probably be Andrew Craig or Dylan Andrews. Both are examples of fighters that have been able to win fights due to their toughness and heart, rather than their overall technical skills. Materla is technically sound, he just wasn’t blessed with elite athleticism and has fought through his fair share of injuries over the years.

Nonetheless, if Materla were able to sign with the UFC, I could see him achieving Top 30 status. His best chance at reaching success stateside would probably be by signing with Bellator where he could easily be an immediate title contender for Alexander Shlemenko.


materlarecord materlachart


Video 1: Materla vs. Rodney Wallace (2012)

Video 2: Materla Highlights

Other Links

Twitter: None
Sherdog Profile: http://www.sherdog.com/fighter/Michal-Materla-10397

Middleweight Division

#42 MMA Prospect: Ramazan Emeev



Ramazan Emeev is the reigning M-1 Middleweight champion after defeating UFC veteran Mario Miranda in 2012. He is currently riding an 8-fight win streak and looks to be one one the top emerging talents from Eastern Europe.

Emeev is listed as being from Azerbaijan. It was difficult to uncover information surrounding Emeev’s martial arts background, so all I really have to go off is his fight history, which luckily is readily available on YouTube. Emeev made his MMA debut in 2009 as a Welterweight. He struggled out of the gates, going 3-2 overall, though he did face some fairly tough fighters during that stretch. Emeev soon moved up to Middleweight where he has gone unbeaten ever since. He won his final 3 fights in the ProFC promotion before signing with M-1 in 2011.

Emeev won his first 3 fights in the M-1 promotion, which ultimately earned him a shot at the M-1 Middleweight title. Emeev was matched up against UFC veteran Mario Miranda, who had just submitted Russian prospect Arthur Geseinov. Emeev and Miranda battled it out for 5 close rounds that ultimately ended with Emeev’s hand raised.

Due to the closeness of their first fight, M-1 booked a rematch between Emeev and Miranda. Emeev was able to land the crisper strikes early, but Miranda hung tough. With the fight once again looking like it would come down to the judges, Emeev struck with a heavy right hand that dropped Miranda to the floor. Miranda tried to get back to his feet, but Emeev poured on the pressure and earned the referee stoppage.

Camp/ Country:

Emeev is listed by Sherdog as being a member of Gorec, which houses M-1 stars Rashid Magomedov and Magomed Sultanakhmedov. Yet, from all of the articles I could find, they all seemed to say he was a part of Team Highlander, which is another feeder for M-1 fighters like Heavyweight Magomed Malikov. His latest fight with Miranda clearly stated he was a part of Gorec, so either Emeev made a move recently or he possibly trains at both locations. Regardless, Highlander and Gorec are considered solid training grounds in the region, though neither seems to have any connections to the UFC or Bellator.

Career Forecast

Ramazan Emeev looks to be just entering his prime as a fighter. He shares a ton of similarities with his teammate and fellow M-1 champion Rashid Magomedov. They are both well-rounded with excellent grappling and striking. The one noticeable difference though is Emeev’s punching power. Over his last 3 fights, he has really turned a corner regarding his striking.

Emeev’s back-to-back wins over Miranda are truly a sign that Emeev is ready for an opportunity against the world’s best. Miranda was once considered to be one of the top prospects in the world following wins over Rick Story, Joe Vedepo, and Mike Hayes. He only went 1-3 in the UFC, but only lost because his wrestling wasn’t up to par. That’s what makes Emeev’s wins all the more impressive in that he never really used his grappling to beat Miranda.

Emeev has showed off a power-packed right hand while also using kicks and knees. His takedown defense has looked superb as does his overall grappling. What makes Emeev so impressive is his quickness, accuracy, and adaptability. He is very light on his feet and on the ground he is ultra-swift with his transitions and reversals. He moves more like a Welterweight, which probably leads to my only main concern regarding Emeev’s future success at Middleweight.

Emeev is only 5’11 and does not seem to cut much weight. Miranda was considered to be a huge Middleweight at 6’3, but he did not have the high level wrestling that some of the elite in the UFC possess. I fear that Emeev will likely struggle against some of the top grapplers in the division. A move to Welterweight would likely be the optimal division for Emeev should he sign with the UFC or Bellator. The likelihood of Emeev signing with either promotion is slim at the moment due to his affiliation with M-1, especially considering Emeev is their reigning champion. M-1 has recently gotten into public spats concerning Vinny Magalhaes and Vyacheslav Vasilevsky.

Emeev’s style is very chameleon-like. He can win fights striking or grappling. If I had to compare him to someone in the UFC, it would be Gegard Mousasi. Both are talented strikers that somehow create the perfect blend of finesse, accuracy, quickness, and brutal power. If Emeev chose to fight at Welterweight I could truly see him project to be a Top 15 Welterweight, but at 185, I don’t think Emeev has the size to enter elite territory. Hopefully, Emeev will one day get to show off his skills stateside because he certainly has the talent to compete in the UFC.


emeevrecord emeevchart


Video 1: Emeev vs. Mario Miranda II (2013)

Video 2: Emeev vs. Albert Duraev (2012)

Other Links

Twitter: None
Sherdog Profile: http://www.sherdog.com/fighter/Ramazan-Emeev-72356

Lightweight Division

#43 MMA Prospect: Katsunori Kikuno



Most MMA hardcore fans already know about Katsunori Kikuno. He was supposed to be the next “can’t miss prospect” a few years ago. Yet, Kikuno never fully met the expectations most people had for him. He struggled as he moved up in competition level and ultimately finds himself at a crossroads in his career.

Kikuno seemed destined for martial arts greatness at an early age. He trained in Judo before finding a knack for Kyokushin Karate. Kikuno dedicated himself towards becoming one of Japan’s top practitioners, training exclusively in the art for nearly 5 years.

In 2005, Kikuno decided it was time to test his Karate skills in MMA. Equipped with a deadly crescent kick, Kikuno won the DEEP: 2005 Future King Tournament by finishing both of his opponents in the 1st round. Kikuno’s quick rise was soon stifled by a decision loss to Yukinari Tamura. Over his next few fights Kikuno struggled at times to apply his karate skills as many of his opponents looked to bring the fight to the ground. Nonetheless, Kikuno was able to build an 8-fight win streak over the next 3 years, capped off by a dominating 1st round knockout of former prospect Koichiro Matsumoto, which won him the vacant DEEP Lightweight championship.

Kikuno would not stay around to defend the DEEP title as he signed with Japan’s premier promotion, DREAM. Kikuno’s debut was much anticipated as some insiders felt that Kikuno had championship potential. He did not disappoint as he finished Brazilian Andre Amado in the very 1st round.

Kikuno would finally get to test his skills against a world-ranked opponent as Bellator allowed its Lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez to compete once more in DREAM. Kikuno arguably won the 1st round, but in trademark Alvarez fashion, he was able to shake off the cobwebs and storm back to win via submission. The loss did nothing to lessen Kikuno’s status as one of Japan’s top lightweights, if anything Kikuno’s stock was now at an all-time high.

Kikuno’s hype continued to grow as he knocked out UFC veteran Kuniyoshi Hironaka at DREAM 13. Kikuno would once again get an opportunity to face an elite-level talent as J.Z. Cavalcante was returning from injury. The time seemed ripe for an upset, but Kikuno was unable to keep the fight standing. Cavalcante used his wrestling and grappling advantage to grind out a unanimous decision. DREAM began having problems staying afloat and Kikuno would eventually return back to his former stomping grounds, DEEP.

Kikuno made his first DEEP title defense as he survived a late scare from Nobuhiro Oibya to win via decision. Kikuno competed for the final time in DREAM, defeating Daisuke Nakamura in a very underwhelming performance. Some of Kikuno’s hype had started to fizzle by the time he stepped into the ring with Sengoku champion and future UFC Featherweight Mizuto Hirota. Kikuno was thoroughly beaten to the punch by Hirota and lost his DEEP Lightweight crown as Hirota took home a unanimous decision victory.

Kikuno was able to rebound a few months later against Kwang Hee Lee before coming up short to Japanese veteran Satoru Kitaoka. Kikuno has since won 4 straight fights, his last 3 via knockout.

Camp/ Country:

Kikuno has been training for over 8 years at Alliance-Square under the tutelage of former PRIDE and UFC veteran Tsuyoshi Kosaka. Some have wondered whether Kikuno needs to change things up in his training, but at this point he seems unlikely to ever leave the confines of his home gym. Kikuno has been able to improve his overall grappling over the years, but it is still the main culprit for his losses. Alliance-Square has never sent one of its fighters to the UFC or Bellator.

Career Forecast

Katsunori Kikuno was thought to be Japan’s next big thing. He was also supposed to help fuel the surge of traditional martial arts back to MMA. Neither have happened, yet it will be a shame if stateside fans never get to experience one of Kikuno’s crescent kicks in the cage.

When Kikuno is the aggressor and is dictating the flow of the fight, he is an extremely dangerous fighter. Unlike Lyoto Machida, Kikuno is more of a pressure fighter with his Karate. He uses his kicks to continually close the distance and has a rare ability to generate power with either leg. He also has a sneaky, powerful right hand. Kikuno has developed a solid clinch game and some decent takedowns over the last few years, but he can hardly be described as an offensive threat from either position.

Kikuno is clearly one of Japan’s top fighters, but in order for him to take the next step in his career, he simply has to fight a smarter style. If he is going to stick with his current striking style he has to become more elusive. Standing straight in front of his opponent with his hands down may work on occasion, but it is unlikely to prove dependable against high level competition. Kikuno’s stance also does not lend itself towards defending takedowns. Kikuno’s submission defense has held up against some of the top ground fighters in the world, but he simply cannot win fights when he is on his back.

If he were to enter the UFC, I believe his fate will ultimately be tied to how well he can defend the takedown. For this reason, I think Kikuno would likely find himself outside the Top 25, but there are plenty of UFC Lightweights who would likely be willing to stand with Kikuno. Fights with Sam Stout, Spencer Fisher, Edson Barboza, or K.J. Noons all sound like entertaining affairs that could ultimately put Kikuno on the map.

The question is, will Kikuno ever get the opportunity? The UFC usually likes to sign Asian talent when they are heading to that region. There are also rumors of a possible Ultimate Fighter: Japan in the very near future. Both scenarios could see Kikuno being signed by the UFC. Kikuno is fully capable of winning at the UFC level, but it’s just going to come down to the matchups he receives and whether he can capitalize on those opportunities. One thing is for certain, if Kikuno can find his rhythm offensively, he is a legitimate threat to win “Knockout of the Night” any time he is fighting on the card.


kikunorecord kikunochart


Video 1: Kikuno vs. Kuniyoshi Hironaka (2010)

Video 2: Kikuno Highlights

Other Links

Twitter: None
Sherdog Profile: http://www.sherdog.com/fighter/Katsunori-Kikuno-16806

Light Heavyweight Division

#44 MMA Prospect: Steve Bosse



Steve Bosse was merely thought to be a brawler when he made the transition from hockey enforcer to mixed martial artists. Now, 6 years into his MMA career, Bosse has developed his overall fight game at the famed Tristar Gym and is likely on the brink of showcasing his skills in the UFC very soon.

Bosse grew up playing hockey around the Quebec area, and eventually tried to make a career of it as an enforcer in a lower-level professional league. Despite being one of the toughest players north of the border, Bosse eventually left the sport in pursuit of a MMA career.

Bosse made his debut in 2007 for the Canadian TKO promotion. He won his first 2 fights via 1st round TKO, but stumbled in his next fight against UFC veteran Icho Larenas. It was a war of a fight, but despite Bosse having Larenas badly hurt, he could not hold on and tired badly down the stretch, ultimately leading to a 3rd round TKO loss. Bosse bounced back with a submission win over TUF 10 alum Wes Sims and a 1st round TKO victory over Sebastian Gauthier.

Bosse’s career started to gain some buzz, but following a bizarre No Contest with PRIDE veteran James Thompson, which resulted in various items being thrown into the cage, most MMA media declared him as more of a sideshow than anything else. Bosse eventually moved on to the Ringside MMA promotion where he won both of his fights via 1st round TKO. Bosse once again test his skills against a UFC veteran, this time facing Marvin Eastman. Bosse scored a knockdown early, but he was unable to put Eastman away, settling for a unanimous decision.

Bosse picked up a win over journeyman Mychal Clark to raise his record to 8-1 overall, but injuries soon began to take their toll. Bosse was sidelined for over a year where he finally made his return against UFC veteran Houston Alexander. Bosse stood toe-to-toe with the hard-hitting Alexander, and in the 2nd round earned the knockout finish. Bosse seemed to be on the verge of signing with the UFC, but he never got the call, and instead set his sights on Renato “Babalu” Sobral. Despite both men agreeing to the fight, it never ended up going down as Bosse and Sobral suffered various injuries throughout 2012. Bosse moved on to schedule a bout with Martin Desilets, but Desilets went down with a should injury forcing a last minute replacement in Caleb Grummet. Bosse showed off some improved grappling and conditioning as he finished the bout via 1st round TKO. Bosse was scheduled to face UFC veteran Victor Valimaki in 2013, but Bosse suffered an injury leading up to the bout.

Camp/ Country:

Bosse now trains at the Canadian powerhouse Tristar gym, which is famously home to stars Georges St.Pierre and Rory MacDonald. Bosse previously trained under Mark Colangelo and was also a member of Brazilian Top Team Canada. Bosse is rumored to be considering a move to Middleweight, and it is obvious from recent footage that he seems to be in much better physical shape than at any time in his career. Bosse’s grappling and wrestling also look to be revamped. Bosse always had power in his hands, but it also looks as if his technique and footwork have improved.

Career Forecast

So, why hasn’t Steve Bosse been signed by the UFC by now? It’s an interesting question, considering the UFC is always in search of MMA talent north of the border. Bosse is an exciting fighter that is always looking for the knockout, and with the lack of elite level Light Heavyweight talent, he figured to be a lock to be signed following his KO win over Houston Alexander. Yet, maybe there’s something we don’t know about Bosse. He’s never fought out of Quebec, which is a bit bizarre. Now that Bosse has joined forced with Tristar, the odds are high that Bosse will somehow land in the UFC or Bellator in 2014.

Bosse just turned 32, so he’s no spring chicken at this point. He does possess above average athleticism for his weight class and he looks to be in the best shape of his career. There were times that Bosse was fighting catchweights against Heavyweights, but now it looks as if a move down to Middleweight could be in his future. There are some decent tests in Canada for Bosse, like Desilets or Valimaki, but at this point, these are lose-lose situations for him after knocking out Alexander in 2011.

Bosse has excellent power in his hands. He also has an iron chin, which forgives his knack for keeping his chin too high. Bosse is usually the aggressor in his fights. He has paced himself a bit more lately, but make no mistake, if Bosse sees an opening, he will look to take your head off. Bosse’s wrestling looked much improved during his fight with Alexander, routinely taking Alexander down to the floor. It’s still not where Bosse wants to be, but he has proven that he can go there and be somewhat effective. His submission defense has improved as well and has worked his way up to a purple belt in BJJ.

Bosse used to struggle mightily with his conditioning. His lone loss was purely due to him tiring down the stretch. His wrestling also used to be atrocious, but as stated earlier, he has nearly come full circle in that area. Bosse’s weaknesses are being masked thanks to the high level training he’s receiving at Tristar.

Bosse will need to leave the Quebec scene in order to gain more credence from the top promotions. He’s had his time to shine in his hometown, and despite a 10-1 record, it just hasn’t led to the type of hype he should be receiving at this point in time. Leaving Quebec is quite a risk for Bosse at this point in his career, but it’s now or never on whether he makes it to the UFC.

Should Bosse finally sign with the UFC, he clearly has the potential to earn a few Knockout of the Night awards. He is still a brawler by heart and will likely struggle with consistency at the UFC level, but make no mistake, he has the skills right now to compete with the bottom half of the UFC Light Heavyweight roster. In the best case scenario, he finds similar success to heavy hitters James Te Huna and Ryan Jimmo, but more than likely he’ll fair more closer to the likes of Joey Beltran or Fabio Maldonado. As we all know though, in the heavier weight classes, all it takes is one good shot, for a fight to be over, and Bosse has that one-punch knockout power. The UFC Light Heavyweight division is perilously thin, and Bosse could bring some new excitement to the division in 2014.




Video 1: Bosse vs. Houston Alexander (2011)

Video 2: Bosse vs. Caleb Grummet (2013)

Other Links

Twitter: None
Sherdog Profile: http://www.sherdog.com/fighter/Steve-Bosse-22732

Heavyweight Division

#45 MMA Prospect: Satoshi Ishii



Satoshi Ishii is still considered to be one of Japan’s most prized athletes. Ishii won Gold in Judo at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, and has since attempted to capitalize on his popularity and skills by entering mixed martial arts.

Ishii followed in his father’s footsteps as he began practicing Judo. At 18 years old, Ishii went on to win the Junior World Championships in Judo. More accolades quickly followed as he claimed Gold once again in the 2007 World Championships. In 2008, the Olympic games ventured to China where Ishii defeated all competitors to earn the most prestigious award possible, an Olympic Gold Medal.

Following the Olympic games, Ishii’s popularity was at an all-time high. He announced his intentions to pursue an MMA career and contract offers soon began to fly in. FEG thought they had the inside track, but Ishii was soon seen sitting cageside at a UFC event with Dana White. The UFC helped arrange for Ishii to train at American Top Team as Ishii stated in various interviews that he was going to sign with the UFC. Somewhere along the way, those plans were scrapped and in a stunning move, World Victory Road, representing the Sengoku promotion, swooped in and signed Ishii.

Ishii’s first career MMA fight did not live up to expectations as Ishii struggled against 40-year old PRIDE veteran Hidehiko Yoshida. Ishii was unable to sway the judges after a lackluster 1st round and ultimately lost via unanimous decision. Ishii was able to bounce back with 4 straight wins, though some of his performances were still being panned as unimpressive. Japan’s fight scene began to crumble as both DREAM and Sengoku were struggling to stay afloat. Without a fight for over 9 months, Ishii traveled to Brazil where he faced off against former WEC champion Paulo Filho in what was supposedly a Light Heavyweight bout. Ishii controlled nearly the entire fight, but the fight was strangely ruled a Draw, even inciting the pro-Filho Brazilian crowd to boo the final outcome.

Ishii returned home to Japan and was offered a fight he simply could not refuse. Ishii was set to face the former #1 Heavyweight in the world, Fedor Emelianenko, at DREAM’s New Year’s Eve event. Come fight night, few people were giving Ishii any shot of winning, and despite bravely hanging in the pocket early, he was swiftly overwhelmed by Fedor’s power and finished via strikes. Following the bout, Ishii was rumored to have suffered a brain injury that would force him to retire, but conflicting reports continues to surface.

Ishii was once again set to fight in Brazil, this time against Sokoudjou, but he missed weight for the 205 lbs. contest, and the bout was scrapped. Ishii soon announced his signing with India’s Super Fight League, but he never ended up competing for them after his scheduled bout with Jimmy Ambriz was cancelled.

After being out for nearly all of 2012, Ishii signed with the Inoki Genome Federation, which is mostly known for their professional wrestling events. Ishii has since fought 5 times for them, winning each contest against former UFC veterans such as Tim Sylvia, Pedro Rizzo, and Sean McCorkle.

Camp/ Country:

Satoshi Ishii currently trains out of Reign MMA, which is home to some of the best MMA talent in the world. The camp is spearheaded by the likes of Mark Munoz, Jake Ellenberger, and most recently Chael Sonnen. Ishii has also trained out Black House, American Top Team, Xtreme Couture, and too many others to list. His training partners have always had good things to say about Ishii’s work ethic and skills, despite him bouncing around so many camps.

His management team may still be K-Dash, which ultimately guided Ishii to signing with Sengoku back in 2009. Ishii seemed to have a relationship with FEG, but considering their struggles in DREAM, ties may have been severed. Whoever is managing Ishii has gotten him some big paydays throughout his career, but I’m not so sure he’s making the type of money he was earlier as the Japanese fight scene has struggled to put on their extravaganza type events, which usually led to the bigger paydays.

Career Forecast

Satoshi Ishii’s career has been horribly mismanaged over the years. It’s just been one thing after another, from bouncing around to various training camps, flying to Brazil to fight Paulo Filho, supposedly missing weight against Sokoudjou, his rumored medical issue following the Fedor fight, and his association with India’s Super Fight League. From one standpoint, Ishii is getting paid good money to step into the cage or ring, but at what stage does Ishii actually stop and realize that he has completely wasted away his potential by attempting to be more of a novelty act than an actual future UFC contender.

Ishii needs someone that is going to sit him down and basically humble him into understanding that he should not be competing at Heavyweight if he is serious about a potential UFC career. In all actuality, I truly believe Ishii could be fighting all the way down at 185 lbs. I’ve seen Ishii stand right alongside Mark Munoz, and there is very little difference in their statures. So, why is Ishii competing at Heavyweight then? Well, he has had relative success there dating all the way back to his Judo days. Another issue is that there are few big money Light Heavyweights walking around the free agent market. If Ishii cut down to 205 lbs., the only fairly big names out there are Sokoudjou or Vinny Magalhaes, and neither would Ishii much acclaim.

It’s hard to argue against a fighter signing with the organization that is going to pay him the most. So, it makes sense that Ishii primarily still fights in Japan. Yet, due to Ishii’s immense popularity, the Japanese fight scene will always be there for him. He could sign with the UFC and go 0-3 in the promotion, get released, and still fight for big money in Japan.

Ishii just has to be more careful with the fights he accepts at this point in time. Coming off that controversial Draw to Paulo Filho in Brazil, the last thing he needed was to go get knocked out by Fedor. Everyone knew Ishii stood no chance in that fight, and yes he probably got paid well, but it soured him in the eyes of a lot of MMA media. Ishii basically went in there and looked like a novice, and I’m not sure his career has ever recovered.

This could all change at the drop of the hat though. If Ishii’s people reached out to the UFC under the premise that Ishii will compete at 205 lbs., I truly believe the UFC would sign him immediately. There may supposedly be a medical issue stemming from his fight with Fedor, but that might be just hearsay. The UFC is trying to break into that Asian market, and they have shown interest in Ishii all the way back from 2008. Ishii has continually hinted at being in talks with a big stateside promoter, but beyond a brief flirtation with Strikeforce, nothing has came of it.

The UFC Light Heavyweight division is in transition right now. They desperately need new blood as most of their top contenders are well over 30 years old. The question will come down to whether the UFC is willing to competitively offer Ishii a deal that somewhat matches what he makes in Japan. Some might claim, Ishii doesn’t deserve more money than a regular signee, but in all truth, he does because of the fanfare he will bring from Japan.

Ishii’s striking is still limited at this point in his career. He has some big power in his left hand, but he tends to rely on it a little too often. He does throw some decent leg kicks and his overall footwork and defense are improved from his earlier days. He still barrels in at times with his hands down and will struggle if he is forced to backpedal. His lack of reach has also hurt him and he doesn’t extend his punches to begin with, so you can imagine his limitations of fighting at Heavyweight.

Ishii’s Judo is outstanding. It’s truly going to be the difference maker in close fights against similarly skilled competition. His throws are powerful and usually allow him to claim side control fairly quickly. He is strong in the clinch and has more than held his own against guys 30-50 lbs. heavier than him due to his knowledge of leverage and technique.

Projecting Ishii’s potential success in the UFC’s Heavyweight Division is a difficult task. He may be able to use his Judo to get some one-dimensional strikers to the ground, but I just don’t see that happening against any of the Top 20 fighters in the UFC. He has yet to beat anyone that could be considered at the UFC level. The UFC does have a few lower level Heavyweights they recently added to their roster, which gives me hope that Ishii could be brought along slowly until he realizes it’s time to cut to 205 lbs. I highly doubt that the UFC would sign Ishii and throw him to the wolves. They sort of did that with Yoshihiro Akiyama and it didn’t really help either party. The UFC usually likes to throw high priced talent right into the fire to see if they deserve it. So, there may not be any cakewalk type fights for Ishii unless he’s fighting in a UFC Japan event. Something tells me though that they would treat Ishii like an Ultimate Fighter winner and carefully look to book him in favorable matchups. For that reason alone, Ishii may have an edge amongst all Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight prospects.

The bottom line is that the UFC is looking for a new Asian star to build around. Yoshihiro Akiyama and Kid Yamamoto have struggled to win, Yushin Okami lacks in entertainment, Takanori Gomi is nearing retirement. That somewhat leaves Ishii in a very advantageous position. If Ishii can surround himself with the right people, continue to train at Team Reign, and seriously consider a move down to Light Heavyweight should he sign with the UFC, he could be the UFC’s next big international star a la Conor McGregor.


ishiirecord ishiichart


Video 1: Ishii vs. Tim Sylvia (2012)

Video 2: Ishii vs. Sean McCorkle (2013)

Other Links

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SatoshiIshii
Sherdog Profile: http://www.sherdog.com/fighter/Satoshi-Ishii-41887

FeaturesMMA Prospects Reportprospect of the week