Inspired by Tom Grant's take on his 10 off-the-beaten-path fighters to look out for in 2009 (can be found at http://bleacherreport.com/articles/99845-ten-off-the-beaten-path-fighters-i-cant-wait-to-watch-in-2009 ), I've decided to write my own piece chronicling 10 fighters who are not fighting in the UFC you should look out for in 2009.
Some you've heard of, some you haven't, and some are flat out treasure troves of highlight reels!
Haven't heard of Megumi Fuji? That's alright, most people aren't too versed on Japanese mixed martial arts, let alone FEMALE Japanese mixed martial arts.
Megumi Fuji is the Gina Carano meets Royce Gracie of Japan. 16-0 in her professional career, with 13 wins via submission. Two of those submission wins have even come via leg holds!
Hopefully we'll be seeing more of Megumi in 2009.
Another Japanese fighter to look out for in 2009. Though his professional record is 19-9, he's currently boasting a nine fight win streak. Much like Megumi, Daisuke is a submission specialist with 12 of his victory coming by way of submission.
And if winning by leglock is usually enough for praise, Daisuke has won three of his fights via FLYING ARMBAR! THREE times!
Look for more crazy submissions by Daisuke on either Deep, the M-1 Challenge, or in Dream.
King Mo recently made waves with his impressive entrance and equally impressive debut victory over seasoned veteran Travis Wiuff.
King Mo finished second in the US Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling, just barely missing a chance to compete in Beijing.
He's currently 2-0 in his MMA career and we can only hope his career will continue to be as impressive as his entrances.
Kharitnatov has been fighting for years now, but has never really had a breakout year. With a 16-3 record though, this Russian heavyweight is as good on the ground as he is with his hands.
Coming off a win in September at Dream, we can only hope Kharitnatov will fight more in 2009 than he did in 2008.
Arona is another seasoned veteran who has not made an appearance since his devestating loss at the hands of Sokoudjou in April of 2007.
An absolutely HUGE light heavyweight, Arona is probably best known for the highlight-reel slam he suffered at the hands of Quinton Jackson. Rumors abound for when his next fight will be.
Horodecki fought in the IFL before it was disbanded and has acquired a 12-1 MMA record as lightweight. Just 21 years old, Chris has a very promising career ahead of him.
A real test is ahead of him at the Affliction event in January when he squares off with Dan Lauzon (11-2).
Matyushenko is yet another seasoned veteran who's been flying under the radar.
With a professional record of 21-3, the 37-year-old Russian light heavyweight is going to start off 2009 with a bang when he takes on Little Nog at the Affliction event in January.
A former King of the Cage middleweight champion, Villasenor had just two fights in 2008 under the Strikeforce and than EliteXC banner.
You could easily make the case that he single-handedly sent Phil Baroni down a weight class.
With the contractual troubles that the EliteXC fighters are in, it might be some time before we see Villasenor in the cage again. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
Another Russian fighter to the make list, this 21 year old Heavyweight has burst onto the MMA scene this year with a 5-2 record, and all of his fights in 2008!
Nicknamed Baby Fedor, Sidelnikov is young, good, and fighting on the Affliction card in January against Paul Buentello.
Ahh yes, the 21-year-old 2008 Judo gold medalist in the 100kg division has said he wants to fight in the UFC.
Unlike Hidehiko Yoshida, who made his MMA debut years after taking the Gold in 1992 Olympics in Judo, not to mention way past his prime at the age of 32, Ishii has the potential to be an MMA superstar with the right training.
Here's to hoping this Olympic Gold Medalist will successfully transition into MMA in 2009.