50 Best MMA Prospects of 2013

Welterweight Division

#1 MMA Prospect: Alex Garcia



Alex Garcia has all the physical tools to one day become an absolute beast in the UFC Welterweight Division. Out of all the prospects researched in this report, no one rivals Garcia’s pure athleticism and explosiveness as a fighter.

After originally being born in the Dominican Republic, Garcia eventually made his way to Canada. He made his MMA debut in 2009, winning his first 2 fights via 1st round finish. Garcia soon signed with Ringside MMA, where he has spent the vast majority of his career competing in. Garcia gradually stepped up his competition level, improving to 6-0 overall, winning every fight via finish.

Garcia soon started to find it hard to find willing opponent to step into the cage with him. He finally got a taker and his first true test in UFC veteran Seth Baczynski. Garcia started out the fight in his usual fashion, pushing the pace and dominating the action, but he soon made a mistake and was put on his back. It seemed to be foreign territory for Garcia as he was unable to weather a storm of strikes from Baczynski. The UFC was likely set to sign Garcia had he won, but instead re-signed Baczynski following the win.

Garcia’s prospect status lost some of its luster, but he has since bounced back by winning his last 3 fights, including victories over respected Canadians Matt MacGrath and Ryan Dickson. Garcia’s next fight is tentatively scheduled for August as he faces undefeated prospect Chris Heatherly in Canada’s Challenge MMA promotion.

Camp/ Country:

Garcia’s training environment is another reason why he is considered one the sport’s elite prospects. He trains out of Tristar Gym alongside UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St.Pierre and other high-level veterans Rory MacDonald, Brandon Thatch, Ivan Menjivar, and Yves Jabouin. Garcia’s training partners have raved about his potential and they all seem to share the similar feeling that Garcia should be fighting at the UFC level.

Career Forecast

Dana White has recently been amazed by Uriah Hall and Diego Brandao during recent seasons of TUF, even commenting that these guys came out of nowhere. The truth is Hall and Brandao were solid prospects that were simply never given the opportunity to perform on the big stage. Garcia faces that same dilemma. He has basically been fighting in obscurity up in Canada, but once Dana White and Joe Silva are finally able to see this guy fight in person, there is absolutely no way the can ignore the raw talent that Garcia possesses.

Garcia fights a very similar style to that of Hector Lombard. They are both compact, powerhouses with speed and explosiveness. Garcia has displayed huge KO power and big highlight-reel slams that are sure to make him a fan favorite once he signs with the UFC. Garcia’s takedowns and overall grappling prowess have continually improved over the years as he has worked alongside the Georges St.Pierre and Rory MacDonald at Tristar.

Garcia’s striking is not as technical as it could be. He will swing for the fences, which at times can leave him open for big counters. He has rarely faced opposition that can expose that weakness, but once in the UFC, he will need to tighten up his striking. Also, as we have seen with other thickly muscled, 1st round finishers, if Garcia does not stop the fight early, his conditioning quickly becomes an issue. In his sole loss to Baczynski, we saw firsthand how Garcia’s lack of stamina can affect the outcome of his fights. Garcia will have to learn to pick his spots in which to unleash his combinations or risk being beaten by lesser fighters with better cardio.

Overall, Garcia is capable of being a Top 10 fighter and a legitimate future contender if he can address his conditioning issues. Garcia has the raw physical skills, an excellent killer instinct, and one of the top MMA teams and management to hopefully take his career to the next level. I can guarantee that when Garcia finally gets his opportunity in the UFC, people are going to wonder where this guy came from. Hopefully, Joe Silva is reading because the time is now to give Garcia the proper platform he deserves to showcase his skills.



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Video 1: Garcia vs. Seth Baczynski (2011)

Video 2: Garcia Highlights

Other Links

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlexGarciaMMA
Sherdog Profile: http://www.sherdog.com/fighter/Alex-Garcia-54124

Middleweight Division

#2 MMA Prospect: Mamed Khalidov



Mamed Khalidov has long been considered one of the top Middleweights never to have stepped foot inside the octagon. Khalidov has found a home in Poland’s KSW organization, and seems content to finish his career there. The UFC has attempted to sign Khalidov on numerous occasions, but has thus far been rebuffed.

Khalidov was born in Chechnya, which has been plagued by warfare for as long as anyone can remember. At the urging of his parents, Khalidov soon traveled to Poland as a teenager in order to study abroad in Poland. In 2003, a local MMA gym opened up and Khalidov began training in mixed martial arts. Just a few months later, Khalidov made his pro debut in the Shooto promotion. Khalidov struggled out of the gates, going 3-3 overall, admitting afterwards that he was not prepared to compete at that level. Khalidov continued to train and soon used those early losses as learning lessons as he won his next 8 fights, all coming via finish.

Khalidov was soon discovered by the promoters of KSW and was signed to their promotion in 2007. He won his first 5 fights with the promotion while also scoring a 1st round submission win over future UFC veteran Igor Pokrajac at another regional event. KSW began heavily promoting Khalidov as their headlining attraction, but just as he seemed to be on the verge of stardom, he struggled to a Draw with future Bellator veteran Daniel Tabera. Khalidov bounced back by winning his lone appearance stateside, defeating journeyman Jason Guida in the ShoXC promotion.

Khalidov’s next fight was for KSW’s Light Heavyweight Championship as he easily defeated PRIDE veteran Daniel Acacio via 1st round TKO. In a bit of a surprise move, Khalidov was allowed to compete in Japan’s Sengoku promotion, where he was immediately matched up against their Middleweight Champion Jorge Santiago. Though the title was not on the line, Khalidov reigned supreme as he scored a stunning hammerfist strike from his back that dazed Santiago and led to the finish. Santiago would get his revenge just one fight later as the title was on the line in a 5-round affair. Khalidov looked to be on his way to victory, but he faded badly down the stretch, ultimately losing via decision.

Khalidov returned back to KSW where he was set to defend his KSW Light Heavyweight title for the first time. Though most expected a quick finish for Khalidov, battle-tested challenger Ryuta Sakurai gave him all he could handle, once again taking advantage of a fatigued Khalidov to arguably win the decision. Yet, in a highly questionable decision by the judges, the fight was deemed a Draw. It would be the last time Khalidov would compete at Light Heavyweight as he vacated the KSW title and officially moved down to Middleweight.

Khalidov competed once more for Sengoku, defeating Yuki Sasaki via 1st round TKO, and has since competed exclusively for KSW. KSW has valiantly tried to feed Khalidov former UFC and PRIDE veterans to prove his talent, but despite 6 straight finishes over James Irvin, Matt Lindland, Jesse Taylor, Rodney Wallace, Kendall Grove, and Melvin Manhoef, Khalidov is still largely unknown to the common MMA fan.

Khalidov was rumored to have signed with Strikeforce in late 2012, which granted him the non-exclusivity to continue fighting in KSW. Unfortunately, Strikeforce soon ceased operations. Khalidov had also been rumored to have been in talks with the UFC and Bellator during 2012 and 2013. The UFC publicly acknowledged their contract offer to Khalidov, but Khalidov supposedly found it unsatisfactory.

Camp/ Country:

Khalidov trains out of Arrachion MMA Olsztyn, which has a small collection of Polish talent, highlighted by KSW Welterweight Champion Aslambek Saidov. Khalidov also trains out of KSW’s sponsored team, which houses other KSW fighters like Jan Blachowicz, Antoni Chmielewski, and Lucasz Jurkowski.

Khalidov’s management team ultimately coincides with his promoter, KSW. They have allowed Khalidov to compete in other organizations like EliteXC and Sengoku, mainly under the premise that the contract was non-exclusive. The UFC and Khalidov have failed to reach an agreement, partially because Khalidov earns more in KSW with sponsorships, but also because of the loyalty KSW and Khalidov have shown to each other over the years. Khalidov has stated in past interviews that he feels an obligation to see out KSW’s goals of being a worldwide promotion. KSW puts on one of the best shows in the sport, but beyond hardcore MMA fans and those watching in Poland, it’s mostly happening in a bubble of sorts. Unfortunately, Khalidov is starting to watch his prime years slowly tick away as KSW has come no closer to becoming a worldwide promoter than they were 3-4 years ago.

Career Forecast

Khalidov has gone an astonishing 24-1-2 in his last 27 fights. During this time, he has not only defeated, but finished a long list of current and former UFC veterans. Khalidov’s recent 7-fight win streak may be the most impressive of all though as he has beaten the likes of Kendall Grove, Jesse Taylor, and Melvin Manhoef.

Khalidov is one of the elite finishers in MMA today. He has knockout power and solid submission skills, and is extremely explosive when he needs to be. He is very unorthodox with his heel kicks and rolling for leg locks. Khalidov’s aggressive style has led to 96% finishing rate, which is literally unheard of in a fight career spanning over 30 bouts. Khalidov’s striking offense usually revolves around a variety of kicks, which include heavy leg kicks and spinning attacks. He favors his right hand, and though at times can be a bit lunging, he is usually fairly accurate. He also has a big uppercut that has led to some past victories.

Though Khalidov’s takedown defense looks solid, it is still a bit of a question mark should he eventually sign with the UFC. Khalidov is not considered to be an overly large Middleweight despite the fact that he used to compete at 205 lbs. We have seen him struggle in fights with Ryuta Sakurai and Jorge Santiago because of wrestling and conditioning. Khalidov is very dangerous from his back, but knowing his conditioning issues, I’m not sure he would have as much success rolling for leg locks against elite level competition.

Khalidov is at the stage in his career where it’s either now or never on whether he will test himself against the best in the world. KSW has tried to market fighters like Grove and Lindland as being world class Middleweights when that is just simply not true at this stage in their respective fight careers. Thus, Khalidov can easily continue to rack up wins over former UFC veterans or he can try to bring Poland’s MMA fight scene to prominence by bringing his talents stateside. The UFC is rumored to be visiting Poland in 2014 and it would be a shame for Khalidov to not have the opportunity to compete on the biggest stage possible. His talent level deserves that honor.

I still think Khalidov has the capability to go into the UFC and be a frontline contender with Top 5 potential. He is such a dangerous finisher that you legitimately cannot count him out of any fight, regardless of the matchup. Though Khalidov is north of 30, he still fighting as if he is in his prime. His recent fight against Kendall Grove was extremely telling due to the stakes involved. Grove had recently been released by the UFC just a year prior. He was 5-1 since being cut and was told by UFC executives that if he beat Khalidov he would be brought back to the UFC. Yes, Grove had to deal with traveling and the absence of a full training camp, but nonetheless he came into the fight motivated to win. Khalidov not only controlled most of the fight with his striking, he finished the fight via submission, once again proving his merits an elite level talent. Grove may not have been a Top 15 fighter, but he was tough to finish, having recently gone to decisions with Demian Maia and Tim Boetsch. The UFC likely had a close eye on the fight, knowing that Grove would be a good barometer for Khalidov’s capabilities against UFC level competition.

It is fairly certain that the UFC knows Khalidov is one of the top Middleweights in the world. They have made it known that they have attempted numerous times to sign Khalidov in the past, but they are not willing to overpay and possibly blow up their business model just to bring Khalidov stateside. Khalidov has a true affinity for his adopted home of Poland. The fans cheer his name in the KSW promotion. It is a true sign of love and respect for a fighter that has never left them for the riches and fame that could await a UFC career.


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Video 1: Khalidov vs. Kendall Grove (2013)

Video 2: Khalidov Highlights

Other Links

Twitter: None
Sherdog Profile: http://www.sherdog.com/fighter/Mamed-Khalidov-10489

Bantamweight Division

#3 MMA Prospect: Henry Cejudo



Henry Cejudo is an Olympic gold medal wrestler, winning the Freestyle 55 kg (121 lbs.) weight class in Bejing’s 2008 Games. Cejudo was unable to earn a return trip back to the Olympics in 2012, and has now set his sites on the MMA world. Cejudo made his mixed martial arts debut earlier this year, and has since run off 4 straight wins in just over 2 months time. Cejudo has mentioned in interviews that his goal is to fight 8 times per year.

Cejudo has been working on his boxing as of late and he has thus far been willing to stand and trade with some of his opponents, though he has left himself open to some counter punches. Don’t be fooled though, Cejudo’s powerful double leg takedowns are what will likely make him a future title contender in either the UFC or Bellator. Cejudo wrestled at 121 lbs., and has already hinted at fighting as a Flyweight if pushed to do so, but for now he seems content to test his skills in the Bantamweight Divison.

Camp/ Country:

It has not been announced where Cejudo is currently training, though it is likely somewhere around his home base of Arizona. Cejudo has mentioned that he is just starting to train in BJJ and Muay Thai. He would be wise to link himself to a camp that can truly build around his wrestling prowess.

Career Forecast

It’s not if Cejudo will become a world champion in MMA, it’s just a matter of when. Cejudo’s wrestling skills alone would make him a likely Top 10 contender in either the UFC’s Flyweight or Bantamweight divisions. That is a bold statement, but after watching Cejudo’s first few fights, his explosiveness and finishing skills already look to be at an elite level.

Cejudo still has to round out his game with BJJ and increasing his overall awareness with the diverse striking games his opponents may have such as Muay Thai. Cejudo is on the shorter side for the Bantamweight division. In fact, if he were to sign with the UFC today, he would be tied (Jorgensen, Yamamoto) for the shortest height in the division. Cejudo’s wrestling would more than make up for his lack of size, but the question becomes, is Cejudo fighting at his optimal weight. Only time will tell, but at least Cejudo will have the option of cutting down to Flyweight should he run into some difficulties at 135 lbs. Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez both followed that path after coming up short in their pursuit of Bantamweight gold.


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Video 1: Cejudo vs. Michael Poe (2013)

Video 2: Cejudo Interview on InsideMMA

Other Links

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/HenryCejudo
Sherdog Profile: http://www.sherdog.com/fighter/Henry-Cejudo-125297

Featherweight Division

#4 MMA Prospect: Lance Palmer



Lance Palmer was a decorated wrestler, having been a 4-time High School State Champion before moving on to compete collegiately at Ohio State University. Palmer earned All-American Honors all 4 years at OSU, including a 2010 runner-up finish for the NCAA National Championship.

As Palmer’s wrestling career came to a close he immediately looked to follow the path set forth by former OSU wrestlers Mark Coleman and Kevin Randleman. Palmer brought his talents to Sacramento, CA where he began training at Team Alpha Male. Palmer immediately got to work, making his official MMA debut in 2011. Palmer won his first 4 fights, increasingly stepping up his level of competition until signing with Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) in 2012.

Palmer’s hype was finally put to the test against UFC veteran and BJJ expert Fredson Paixao at RFA 4. Palmer started out strong, using his wrestling and timely striking to keep Paixao from landing any significant offense of his own. In the 3rd round, Palmer once again took the fight to the floor, but was opened up by one of Paixao’s elbows from the bottom. Palmer was able to hold on for the decision win, but it ended up being a much closer bout than it should have been.

Palmer made quick work of his next opponent in Utah’s Showdown Fights promotion before once again competing under the RFA banner. This time Palmer would be fighting for RFA’s Featherweight Championship, which was held by fellow prospect Jared Downing. Palmer started off a bit slow, but he eventually went back to his wrestling roots and simply outworked Downing for a decision victory.

Camp/ Country:

Palmer trains out of Team Alpha Male, which is home to many of the world’s best lighter weight fighters. Palmer nearly chose American Kickboxing Academy, but upon visiting Team Alpha Male, it was an obvious match that Palmer seemed destined for. His BJJ has made noticeable strides in the last few months, and with the recent addition of striking coach Duane Ludwig, Palmer’s striking should improve as well. Palmer emulates many of the trademark qualities of his fellow training training partners Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes, and T.J. Dillashaw.

Career Forecast

Lance Palmer is UFC-ready at this point in his career. Some may argue that his split decision victories over Downing and Paixao in RFA were hardly reflective of a top-flight prospect and possible future UFC contender. Yet, the fact remains that Palmer is 7-0 and his wrestling will make him a force wherever he signs. The UFC’s Featherweight Division is extremely deep, but we have seen fighters like Nik Lentz and Darren Elkins rise up the ranks on the strength of their wrestling. There is absolutely no reason that Palmer could not do the same.

The lingering questions I have about Palmer’s future are the possible roadblocks of fellow training partners in his division as well as his lack of striking. Palmer wrestled at 149 lbs. in college, so it is doubtful that he could ever make the cut down to Bantamweight, but depending on which MMA database you look at, his height is listed between 5’4 and 5’6. That would make him one of the shortest fighters in the division, and this lack of reach does him no favors in the striking department, where he is forced to lunge with his punches in order to hit his target. Palmer’s striking has not proven to be as effective as some of his fellow brethren at Team Alpha Male.

Speaking of Team Alpha Male, could there simply be too many fighters in the UFC’s Featherweight and Bantamweight Divisions for Palmer to possibly consider singing with Bellator. Thus far most of Team Alpha Male’s fighters have steered clear of Bellator, but Palmer could look to carve out his own path, separate from the one UFC stars Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, Chad Mendes, and T.J. Dillashaw have taken.

My inclination is still leaning towards Palmer signing with the UFC in the very near future. He has a charismatic personality and he should be able to continue and make the necessary improvements towards building up his overall skill set in order to make him a future Top 10 Featherweight. For those that don’t agree, please once again take notice that Nik Lentz is currently a Top 10 Featherweight, and that is not due to his striking or submission skills, it is simply based off his wrestling and grinding style, both of which Palmer possesses.


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Video 1: Palmer vs. Patrick Reeves (2013)

Video 2: Palmer vs. Jordan Chandler Highlights (2012)

Other Links

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LancePalmer‎
Sherdog Profile: http://www.sherdog.com/fighter/Lance-Palmer-80836

Lightweight Division

#5 MMA Prospect: Bubba Jenkins



Bubba Jenkins has that “it” factor about him. His wrestling and athleticism are simply on another level compared to other Lightweight prospects and it should not be long before he is eventually competing for a title in either the UFC or Bellator.

Jenkins already has one title on his resume that immediately commands respect. Jenkins won the 2011 NCAA wrestling championship (157 lbs.) his Senior year while competing for Arizona State University. Jenkins had previously attended Penn State University where he had reached All-American status before running into some academic troubles. Following his 2011 NCAA Championship run, Jenkins began training at American Top Team in preparation for his MMA debut.

Jenkins debuted in the Tachi Palace Fights (TPF) promotion where he faced fellow newcomer Josh Williams. Jenkins shot in for a takedown immediately, and after avoiding a few submission attempts, was able to earn the 1st round finish via TKO. Jenkins fought once more for TPF, defeating journeyman Chris Gomez by 1st round submission.

Jenkins soon moved on to sign an exclusive 6-fight contract with the prospect-rich promotion, Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA). In his RFA debut he faced Jesus Adame. Jenkins wasted little time bringing the fight to the ground and immediately began showing off some improved ground ‘n’ pound to earn the quick stoppage.

Jenkins was set to face Jimmy Spicuzza in his next fight, but he was ultimately forced off the card due to injury. He has yet to compete in 2013, though he was busy coaching Jon Jones’ team on The Ultimate Fighter 17.

Camp/ Country:

Jenkins trains out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida. ATT head coach Ricardo Liborio has raved about Jenkins’ potential. Liborio has been in the fight game a long time and knows what it takes to be a championship level fighter. Though he admits Jenkins still needs to work on his striking and overall skill level, he truly feels that Jenkins has the tools to one day be a champion. By aligning himself with ATT, Jenkins has enabled himself to receive world class training and test his skills daily in the gym around UFC-quality competition.

Career Forecast

Bubba Jenkins is the only Lightweight I felt had true championship potential. When you look at the landscape of MMA today, it is glaringly apparent how much wrestling plays an integral role in a fighter becoming a champion. Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones, Chris Weidman, Georges St.Pierre, Ben Henderson, and Demetrious Johnson are all wearing championship gold around their waists because of their wrestling backgrounds. Each of these champions have arguably added to their skill sets over the years, and that will ultimately be the deciding factor in whether Bubba Jenkins reaches the great heights some have him pegged for.

Jenkins’ finishing skills are still limited, but with each fight you can see him gaining more confidence. He has yet to truly face an even mediocre-level fighter, so there is concern there, but I can see no reason why his takedowns would somehow become ineffective against even the most skilled competitors.

Could Jenkins sign with the UFC today and become an instant Top 10 fighter? At this point in time, I’m not so sure. Don’t get me wrong, Jenkins can win fights in the UFC right now. Just look at a guy like Jacob Volkmann, who went 6-2 in the UFC’s Lightweight division by pretty much relying solely on his wrestling. The issue with the Volkmann comparison is that both Jenkins and his ATT coaches don’t want him to be just known as a lay ‘n’ pray wrestler. Jenkins is capable of so much more due to his explosiveness and speed and it’s telling that he signed a 6-fight contract with RFA because that’s likely how long Jenkins is going to take to finally put all the pieces together to make him him a dangerous well-rounded fighter that is ultimately able to compete with the best in the division.

Jenkins is scary-gifted when it comes to his raw athleticism and speed. You simply can’t teach those types of things. There’s a reason NFL general managers salivate year after year at the NFL Draft combine watching the newest incoming class of genetic freaks. Sometimes their picks are hit and miss, but when they do hit on a talent, one who has that rare athleticism, that if paired with the right amount of coaching and the necessary will to succeed, there is no stopping that player’s future star potential. Jenkins is that 1st overall pick type of talent. If he can put it all together, we might be looking at a future UFC champion.


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Video 1: Jenkins vs. Chris Gomez (2012)

Video 2: Jenkins Interview

Other Links

Twitter: https://twitter.com/2sinsurrJenkins
Sherdog Profile: http://www.sherdog.com/fighter/Bubba-Jenkins-85196

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