The Beaten Path: 5 Non-UFC Prospects to Watch in January
The month of January does not look to be the busiest month in terms of action, but there are definitely some top-notch prospects in action. Between World Series of Fighting and Resurrection Fighting Alliance, you should see some stars of the future in action.
Prospects are the lifeblood of MMA. They keep the body going. When stars begin to fade, new stars step up, and they always have to start somewhere.
Here at The Beaten Path, we do the research and relay the information to you, the fans. So, here are five guys you should keep your eye on this month that are respected prospects in this crazy sport we call MMA.
5. Giovanni da Silva
Next Fight: Rayner Silva, Jan. 17, Jungle Fights 64
See it on: TBD
Jungle Fights is one of several organizations that have UFC implications written all over its fighters. This could be especially true when the flyweight championship is on the line and a man by the name of Giovanni da Silva is vying for it.
Da Silva is one of the top prospects currently at 125 pounds not in the UFC and a top Brazilian prospect in any weight class. He is incredibly well-rounded, though his ground game is where he does his best work.
He hasn't lost since his pro debut, meaning that he is on a 14-fight win streak. All of these fights have come in Brazil, and his last three fights have come via submission.
Winning the Jungle Fights Flyweight Championship all but ensures that da Silva will get the call from Sean Shelby and Co. Disposing of Rayner Silva in impressive fashion could make that call come sooner rather than later.
4. Anthony Hamilton
Next Fight: Darrill Schoonover, Jan. 17, MFC 39: No Remorse
See it on: AXS TV
The heavyweight division isn't the most stacked in terms of depth and prospects, but Anthony Hamilton has floated to the top of a shortlist of coveted prospects in that weight class.
Hamilton jumped onto the heavyweight prospect radar in his last fight, a bout in which he brutally put fellow heavyweight prospect Smealinho Rama to sleep with a brutal head kick. It was a highlight-reel knockout that contended for Knockout of the Year in many respects.
He now trains with Greg Jackson and Co. in New Mexico, meaning that he is getting great training, refining his skills and working with the best game-planner in MMA. That could be attributed to his current five-fight surge.
His only losses are to UFC vets Fabiano Scherner and Walt Harris, which is nothing to be ashamed of. A win over another UFC vet in Darrill Schoonover this month could have the UFC paging Hamilton.
3. Henry Cejudo
Next Fight: Elias Garcia, Jan. 31, Legacy FC 27: Means vs. Young
See it on: AXS TV
An Olympic-level wrestler, Henry Cejudo is a guy that you can almost guarantee will be in the UFC sooner rather than later.
Undefeated at 5-0, Cejudo won all five of his fights in an eight-month span in 2013, finishing all but one of those fights. In that time, he also went from bantamweight to flyweight, settling into his new weight class where he could easily make a run at a large MMA organization's title.
Before he can make the jump to the major leagues, he has to get through Elias Garcia at the end of the month. With his level of wrestling and improving all-around game, Cejudo could be a future champion.
2. Pedro Munhoz
Next Fight: Billy Daniels, Jan. 24, RFA 12: Ortega vs. Koch
See it on: AXS TV
Currently undefeated and holding the bantamweight title in RFA, Pedro Munhoz is another guy on the fast track to the UFC. This is not only because he is incredibly skilled, but because RFA is like an unofficial UFC feeder.
Munhoz is a masterful ground worker, owning five submission to his name, including a rear-naked choke, heel hook and two guillotine chokes. His most recent win was his biggest, knocking off MMA pioneer Jeff Curran via decision.
Munhoz's stock has quickly risen, and with RFA as a platform to perform, the sky is the limit. A win over Billy Daniels this month could put him on the UFC's immediate radar, especially with the organization signing all sorts of prospects lately.
1. Justin Gaethje
Next Fight: Rich Patishnock, Jan. 18, WSOF 8: Gaethje vs. Patishnock
See it on: NBC Sports
World Series of Fighting is home to some really great fighters, but perhaps none are as good or have as bright a future as Justin Gaethje.
A pro since just 2011, Gaethje has gone undefeated, using a combination of brutal leg kicks, powerful striking and sturdy takedown defense. When he gets on top, he doesn't just lay there and hold people down, rather, he throws hammers at his opponents' heads.
He is also 3-0 with three stoppages in WSOF. He had the doctor step in against JZ Cavalcante, leg kicked Brian Cobb into oblivion and knocked Dan Lauzon silly with his hands.
With gold on the line, Gaethje now draws tough veteran Rich Patishnock. This win would legitimize everything he has done and put him into top lightweight talks.