MMA: Who Will Be the Next Breakout MMA Star from Europe?

Levi NileContributor IIIApril 9, 2013

Right now, fighters like Michael Bisping, Ross Pearson and others are enjoying a good deal of success in the world of MMA, but as fans of an ever-changing and evolving sport, we always have our eyes peeled for the next big thing.

It’s not that we don’t appreciate what we have; it’s that we want more.

And when it comes to that, there’s not a whole lot more you could want out of a budding MMA star than what you find in heavyweight hopeful Tyrone Spong.

Although born in Suriname, Spong was raised in the Netherlands since the age of five and learned much of his considerable Muay Thai skills under the tutelage of such greats as Ernesto Hoost.

Another shocking thing is how experienced he is for his age; he’s acquired a kickboxing/Muay Thai record of 69-6-1-1 (43 victories coming via KO/TKO) and he’s only 27.

Watching Spong fight in the ring, one of the first things you notice is how well balanced and relentless his attack is. He mixes things up very well, attacking the head one second and blasting the legs the next with the accuracy and authority of a veteran.

And truth be told, that is exactly what he is. When you look at the names on his resume—men like Peter Aerts, Melvin Manhoef, Alistair Overeem, Ray Sefo, Jerome Le Banner, Remy Bonjasky—there is no denying his pedigree is one of an accomplished striker who has learned to ply his trade against the best.

And now he is entering the world of MMA.

Training out of the Jaco Hybrid Training Center alongside some of the most well-rounded fighters in the sport, Spong won his first MMA bout via first-round KO in November of 2012.

But what truly bodes well for Spong is that Olympic gold medalist in Wrestling in 1988, Kenny Monday, has been hired at the Jaco Training Center. Monday comes along at the perfect time for Spong, who is still very early into his career in the sport.

Monday isn’t just a good wrestler; he’s incredible—one of the main inspirations of Randy Couture. Having such a talent help guide a new fighter from the ground up is invaluable. It’s how champions are made.

While much has been made of how members of “The Blackzilians” have stumbled as of late, the simple fact is that Spong is really in the perfect camp to make him an MMA champion.

Often times we’ve seen gifted strikers end up handicapped when they don’t have enough confidence in their grappling abilities. They can’t commit to striking because their attentions are divided, and while they are trying to anticipate the next shot or takedown attempt, they end up getting popped in the mouth.

Working with Monday so early into his career is exactly what such a Muay Thai wrecking machine needs. Being able to stuff or avoid the takedowns on par with vintage Chuck Liddell is a gift Monday can give, and that is going to free up Spong to attack with all the weapons in his considerable arsenal.

And if Monday can really get his grappling to the level where he can strike freely and without fear, we will finally get to see what a competent and consistent body attack really looks like. Spong could end up being the Julio Cesar Chavez or the Micky Ward of MMA—a fighter so slick and deft at attacking the body with devastating punches, armor-piercing knees and sledge-hammer kicks that he could end up changing how the body attack is seen in the sport.

Of course, he’s got a lot of hard work to do, but this is also a man who is used to training year-round. In 2003 he fought nine times, and from 2004 to 2007 he was fighting six times a year.

Granted, his activity rate has slowed drastically over the past three years, but he’s still young and clearly loves to fight—two things that mean the world to a fighter with such skill and promise.

And so, while we watch men like Ross Pearson, Alistair Overeem and Michael Bisping continue to push hard for a chance at championship gold, we know that another serious contender is throwing his hat into the cage, and he is one to watch.

His name is Tyrone Spong.