The Beaten Path: 5 Welterweight Prospects the UFC Should Sign
Another week, another continuation of the self-proclaimed best series on all of the Internet. That's right, the "Prospects the UFC Should Sign" series is back with a vengeance. We left off with the middleweights, and now, we move on to the welterweight division.
The welterweight division is one of the most stacked and talent-laden divisions in the UFC and all of MMA. The landscape has greatly changed as well, as long-time champion Georges St. Pierre is no longer the king of the division. Johny Hendricks now holds that distinction.
Even though there has been a changing of the guard, that doesn't mean we shouldn't be replenishing our welterweight talent. So, with that in mind, here are five welterweight prospects that the UFC should sign with the intent of keeping a talent-rich division.
As this is the third annual installment of the list, it's good to look back and see what fighters were included in the previous years.
Of the 10 participants included in this series, four have been inked by the UFC. Those men are Icelandic sensation Gunnar Nelson, Dominican-Canadian terror Alex Garcia, multifight veteran Kenny Robertson and future TUF 19 competitor Cathal Pendred.
Nelson is 3-0 in the UFC, but he hasn't kept very busy due to injuries. In that time, he has defeated DaMarques Johnson, Jorge Santiago and Omari Akhmedov, all of whom are respectable opponents.
Robertson got put on this list after going 0-1 and being cut from the UFC. It didn't seem like a rational cut, especially considering he was only given one chance against a tough guy like Mike Pierce. He did make it back, but right now, he is 2-2 with the UFC in his current run, holding wins against Brock Jardine, via highlight-reel Suloev Stretch, and Thiago Perpetuo.
Garcia has become a recent phenom with the company, already holding a 2-0 mark in the UFC. He annihilated Ben Wall in his premiere before outslugging Sean Spencer in a fun bout at UFC 171.
Pendred is a cast member of TUF 19 who is already considered a favorite to win the show. The Irishman seems to be someone that it can use when the UFC pushes into Ireland later this year, as the teammate of Conor McGregor is a high-level guy with a bright future.
Here are all 10 names of the men included on the series. You will see that one man from a previous ranking set returns this year.
|Gunnar Nelson||Cathal Pendred|
|Kenny Robertson||Jim Wallhead|
|Alex Garcia||Ryan Ford|
|Gregor Gracie||Tyler Stinson|
|Chidi Njokuani||Assan Njie|
Last Fight: Knockout win vs. Bruno Carvalho
At 34 years old, Gael Grimaud is definitely no rookie in the game of MMA. However, the Frenchman is a good prospect that has a chance at becoming a very strong competitor in the UFC, especially given that the UFC is invading Europe more consistently in the future.
Grimaud has gained notoriety in the Cage Warriors promotion, where many top Europeans go to hone their craft. In that time, the 6'0" welterweight has blasted through Bruno Carvalho and tapped out UFC veteran Jesse Taylor.
The French fighter is a skilled grappler and submission fighter, but his fight against Carvalho showed that he has developed his hands and power. He knocked the Brazilian clean out, announcing that he is ready for bigger and better things.
He has won 10 of his last 11 bouts, with his only loss coming to the nasty Pendred. Should the UFC be in the area, Grimaud would be a fantastic grab for the world's largest MMA promotion.
Last Fight: Decision win vs. Jack Mason
Britain has some untapped talent that is just ready to break out. In Ali Arish, you have a 22-fight veteran just chomping at the bit to prove himself on the big stage.
Arish is on a nine-fight winning streak and has finally been given a chance to prove himself in the Cage Warriors promotion. He has beaten some tough opposition, including Cage Warriors staple Jack Mason, BAMMA vet Wayne Murrie and Arni Isaksson.
Arish is a well-rounded guy, being more of a jack of all trades, master of none. He is extremely tough and durable, with him being finished only because Jack Hermansson kicked his head halfway off his shoulders.
His home is on the ground, though, as he has both good ground striking and respectable submissions. His top control is hard to deal with, making him the ultimate pest on the mat.
The UFC will be returning to Ireland soon, and it should swoop up some local talent. Arish would fit the bill nicely and add to a welterweight division stacked with talent.
Last Fight: Decision win vs. Benjamin Brinsa
The most inexperienced man on this countdown, 22-year-old Russian Eduard Vartanyan, has a bright future ahead of him. Just six fights into his pro career, the man has already beaten some established talent that was projected to go over him.
Vartanyan is a well-rounded guy who is only getting better. His last two fights have seen him take out two scrappy vets in Florent Betorangal and UFC fighter turned outcast Benjamin Brinsa.
Vartanyan has dynamite in his hands to go along with his strong mat skills. It may take him a couple of months or a couple of years, but this developing Russian is bound for big things in this sport which may take him to the big stage.
Also, consider that most of his MMA work has been completed in the last year, and you have yourself the ultimate definition of an MMA prospect. His best years are ahead of him, which is a very scary thought to anybody opposing him in the cage.
Last Fight: Knockout win vs. Sergei Churilov
Literally, just crowned the Cage Warriors welterweight champion Saturday afternoon, Nicolas Dalby is the best Danish fighter since Martin Kampmann. That is a huge accolade.
Dalby is undefeated at this point in his career, as the 5'11" Dane has been buzzsawing the competition in Europe with his well-rounded skill set. The Dane can handle himself on the mat, but it has been his striking that is turning heads in the MMA community. This was especially proven Saturday, as Dalby dominated Sergei Churilov on the feet before putting the Ukrainian down with a vicious head kick.
He isn't even in his 30s yet either. Dalby is approaching the prime of his career, which is a scary thought considering how good he already is.
Like others included in this series, Dalby is a good candidate for an upcoming UFC in Europe event, especially one that could happen in Sweden. He has a chance at being a threat with the company, following in the foot steps of Kampmann.
Last Fight: Knockout win vs. Joel Powell
A veteran of this series, Ryan Ford returns for the second year in a row in what can only be described as an ultimate gesture of confidence from myself. Ford is true to his nickname, as he really is The Real Deal.
The only problem we see in this Canadian stud is that he has visa issues that may further prevent him from the leaving the country. This stems from a home-invasion crime he committed in his younger years, though he has served his time in prison and seems to be a reformed man.
Ford is a vicious striker and has only gotten better in working with Tristar Gym as of recent. He is riding a six-fight winning streak as of now, putting away the likes of Luis Santos, Joel Powell and UFC vet Michael Hill.
The knockout of Powell was especially violent. Ford utilized a vicious front kick that connected with Powell's chin and sent him to the loony bin in his own mind.
It's those type of finishes, combined with his athleticism and explosiveness, that make him a coveted asset to any company. The UFC should take notice when it invades Canada several times this year.