The Beaten Path: 5 Lightweight Prospects the UFC Should Sign

Riley Kontek@@BigRIlesMMAFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2014

The Beaten Path: 5 Lightweight Prospects the UFC Should Sign

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    TIM LARSEN/Associated Press

    We kicked off the week on Monday with the welterweights. Now, the "Prospects the UFC Should Sign" series moves onto the lightweight division.

    The lightweight division is a shark tank that is stacked with talent from top to bottom. Anthony Pettis is the champion, but he is always in danger with guys like Gilbert Melendez, TJ Grant and others waiting in the wings.

    We already missed out on what would have been our top prospect in Carlos Diego Ferreira, who just inked a deal with the UFC to debut in San Antonio against Colton Smith. However, there are still many prospects to choose from who could bolster the roster.

    Without further ado, here are the five lightweight prospects the UFC should ink.


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    Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

    As this is the third annual installment of the list, it's worthwhile to look back and see which fighters were included in the previous years.

    Of the 10 men included in this series, three have gone on to work for the UFC. All three of them are still on the roster.

    Mairbek Taisumov has gone 1-1 with the company so far. He debuted in dominating fashion, taking a decision from Tae Hyun Bang. However, last weekend, he was thoroughly dispatched by Michel Prazeres in a bout that saw Taisumov lose two points for holding the fence.

    Jesse Ronson is 0-2 with the company, despite the fact he took his first fight on short notice against Prazeres and arguably should have won. He took his sophomore effort against Francisco Trinaldo, who used superior ground skills to beat the Canadian in a split decision.

    The last man to make the UFC is James Krause, who is 1-1 with the company. He choked out Sam Stout in a wildly entertaining debut but fell via body kick to Bobby Green in his last fight in a controversial stoppage. He complained that the kick hit him in the cup, although the ref ruled it didn't.

    Here are the lightweights who have made it on the list in the past years:

    Mairbek TaisumovJesse Ronson
    Guillaume DeLorenziJames Krause
    Alexander SarnavskiyJadamba Narantungalag
    Lukasz SajewskiLuiz Firmino
    Gordon BellJonatas Novaes

Ivan Buchinger

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    Record: 25-4

    Last Fight: Submission win vs. Steven Ray

    Slovakia isn't exactly bursting with MMA prospects at this point in the game. However, Ivan Buchinger is one man who is definitely flying the flag in an impressive light.

    He is just 28 years old and has already competed 29 times. That is incredible, as many fighters wish they could stay that busy.

    Not only that, but he has been successful. The Cage Warriors champion has beaten the likes of Steven Ray, Magomedrasul Khasbulaev and Mairbek Taisumov, showing that he can hang with respectable talent.

    He is talented on the ground, as showcased with 15 submission victories. He is 4-1 in his last five fights, only losing to Conor McGregor while tapping out the other four men.

    Buchinger has lost three of his fights to UFC vets but has looked greatly improved in his last few bouts. He could be a very pleasant surprise in the UFC if given the chance.

Marcus Edwards

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    Record: 6-2

    Last Fight: Submission win vs. Sean Powers

    Marcus Edwards is a dark horse in the lightweight division at this point, but keep an eye out for him as he is ready to burst onto the mainstream.

    He is a Factory X Muay Thai product who has been a pro since mid-2012. In that time, his only losses came to WSOF stud Justin Gaethje and UFC vet Efrain Escudero, the latter of whom won in very controversial fashion.

    Edwards started off his career by knocking guys out on the feet, but he has quickly turned things around and showed off his ground game, which features slick submissions and devastating ground-and-pound. All but one of his wins have come in the first round, showing he does not waste time to finish his foes.

    The 5'9" powerhouse may not be UFC-ready tomorrow, but a win or two more could get him a contract with the world's largest MMA promotion.

Mansour Barnaoui

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    Record: 11-2

    Last Fight: Submission win vs. Colin Fletcher

    When you think of Tunisia, I bet you don't think of MMA right away. Once you get to know Mansour Barnaoui, you might start to consider it, as he is a potential top prospect in the sport.

    Barnaoui, who now trains out of France, is just 21 years old and has already been beating UFC prospects. At 6'0", he is a tall lightweight with a lanky frame.

    He is a gifted submission fighter and grappler, as most of his wins have come via tapout. His last two fights have been his best performances, as he knocked out Curt Warburton and choked out Colin Fletcher.

    Seeing that he trains out of France, he could be a great addition to the UFC on a card in Europe. There is a great chance Barnaoui could be successful in the UFC.

Lowen Tynanes

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    Record: 5-0

    Last Fight: Knockout win vs. Felipe Enomoto

    Five fights into his pro MMA career, Lowen Tynanes has already become a hot prospect that the UFC needs to pursue. He is part of the recent surge of Hawaiian talent that is showing up on the MMA scene.

    He has been running in the Pacific MMA scene, beating the likes of notables Eduard Folayang, Vuyisile Colossa and Felipe Enomoto. Beating those guys that young in his career is impressive and should get him some attention from the UFC.

    Not only that, but Tynanes is young at 23. He has many years left in his sport, and one has to think his best years are ahead of him.

    He is well-rounded, having an underrated ground game and solid striking. Once he gets top position on the mat, he throws a bevy of ground-and-pound and searches for the submission with ease.

    Lightweight is stacked, and it could become even more stacked in the UFC if Tynanes makes his way into the company.

Musa Khamanaev

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    Record: 14-3

    Last Fight: Knockout win vs. Vladimir Nikolaev

    In my opinion, Musa Khamanaev could be a top-30 guy in the UFC if given the chance. Take that how you will, but he is incredibly skilled and hard-nosed, which could take him a long way.

    He is just 26 years old and has some great experience at a high level in MMA. He has formidable takedowns and submissions on the mat, as well as striking on the feet and ground.

    He is just one of the many Russians who have much promise in this sport. This is evident in his notable wins over Niko Puhakka, Daniel Weichel and Artiom Damkovsky.

    He has great leg locks and ferocious ground-and-pound. That is the type of skill set that makes him an interesting fighter, and I would love to see him match up against some of the men the UFC has to offer.