June was a relatively quiet month for all levels of MMA. Turns out it was the calm before the storm.
There are really good fights to be found throughout the year, of course, but July is in a state of hyperdrive. It wasn't excessively challenging to throw a dart at the event calendar and hit a top prospect in action here at the midpoint of 2013.
As you may know, that's what The Beaten Path is here to do. We interview some of the sport's best young fighters, but we also make it easier to follow. It was hard to narrow it down in July, but here are five non-UFC prospects to watch this month, including viewing coordinates. Video also provided as available and permissible. Let's get it on.
I've never done this before, but there were so many good candidates this month that I felt the need to go beyond a top five. Fighters and their promotions listed in no particular order:
- Darrion Caldwell (Legacy FC)
- Holly Holm (Legacy FC)
- Andre Fili (Pancrase)
- Bola Omoyele (Cage Warriors)
- Kikuyo Ishikawa (Pancrase)
- Mirsad Bektic (Victory Fighting Championship)
- Chris Fishgold (Cage Warriors)
- Danny Roberts (Cage Warriors)
Next Fight: Ben Askren, Bellator 97 (for welterweight title)
See It on: July 31, Spike TV
Sometimes life tosses you a meatball. I realize this isn't the world's sexiest pick, but when Andrey Koreshkov is in action, you identify him as a top prospect and that's what you do.
Part of MMA's ongoing Russian talent tsunami, Koreshkov first turned heads in earnest in October when he out-fireworked a master fireworker in Marius "Whitemare" Zaromskis. Check the video if you haven't seen it, need a refresher or just enjoy watching knockouts (though as an unfortunate aside, this fight doubles as one of the most egregiously late stoppages I've ever seen).
It's hard to pick against a promotional champ as dominant as Ben Askren. But if any Bellator fighter is going to get it done, it's the young headhunter Koreshkov.
Next Fight: Angel Huerta, Legacy FC 21
See It on: July 19, AXS TV
Matt Hobar would be undefeated if not for the freak elbow dislocation he suffered while punching Steven Peterson's face at LFC 13. Hobar doubled back four months later, though, and corrected the record with a unanimous decision win in the rematch.
Hobar's a wrestler at heart, but he's expanding his arsenal with every bout. I like this guy a lot, and when it comes to the vacant LFC bantamweight fight later this month. I like him to do some mettle-proving against a tough opponent in Huerta.
Division: Women's strawweight
Next Fight: Norma Rueda Center, Invicta FC 6
See It on: July 13, pay-per-view
Six fights, zero losses, four knockouts. And now, two opponent changes in advance of the Scottish striking sensation's third Invicta bout.
Scotland and Muay Thai may appear to combine like Tom Yum and Laphroaig, but in the person of Joanne Calderwood, they're two good tastes that go great together. Calderwood shouldn't have any problem making offal out of this replacement replacement.
Next Fight: Jose Alexandre, Bison FC 1
See It on: July 4, though I'm not sure it's accessible in North America. More info at www.facebook.com/BisonFightingChampionship (it's in Portuguese, though).
Until now, I'd never heard of this Bison Fighting Championship. But I've sure heard of Thomas de Almeida.
The common thread in his resume is an utter lack of adversity. He has yet to leave the first round; six knockouts, four submissions on that resume.
Apparently, he figured that if he wanted to be challenged, he'd have to do the job himself. At least for now. That must be why he has three—count them, three—fights scheduled in July. This is just the first one on the calendar.
A 3-0 run through the month of July would be helpful to his career. That's my edgy analysis, and I'm sticking to it.
Here he is doing some crushing last fall at Legacy FC 15.
Next Fight: Ryan Martinez, Bellator 97
See It on: July 31, Spike TV
If you have any familiarity whatsoever with my prospect-selecting tendencies, you'll be entirely unsurprised by my selection here of Vitaly Minakov.
My top prospect of 2013 has so far rewarded my faith and remains, to my mind, the brightest up-and-comer in this very formidable crop of Russian talent.
He's a sambo standout with daisy cutters in his gloves. After mowing down Ron Sparks in 32 seconds at Bellator 96, I remain convinced he has the tools to get a major league belt. If he takes care of Ryan Martinez, the big man will have that opportunity.