The Beaten Path: 5 Featherweight Prospects the UFC Should Sign

Riley Kontek@@BigRIlesMMAFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2014

The Beaten Path: 5 Featherweight Prospects the UFC Should Sign

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    Eric Jamison/Associated Press

    We left off with the lightweights. It's now time for the featherweights.

    That's right, the Prospects the UFC Should Sign series is back with a vengeance. 

    The featherweight division has recently become one of the deepest divisions in the UFC. Jose Aldo is the champion, but there is a seemingly endless stream of challengers in his way of staying champ.

    Mirsad Bektic and Chas Skelly were set to make the list, but they are now set to fight next month at UFC on Fox 11. That shows the UFC is intent on replenishing their talent at this weight class.

    With that being said, there are still many featherweights that could be signed by the UFC.

    Here are five such prospects the UFC should sign to further strengthen its ranks. 

History

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    Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

    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 eight men that have been featured in the series, two have made it to the UFC. Those men are South Korean Doo Ho Choi and American wildman Andre Fili.

    Choi has yet to make his UFC debut, but will do so at UFC 173 against Sam Sicilia. He is one of the handful of Korean fighters making waves with the company as of late.

    Fili is 1-0 with the company, smashing his way through Jeremy Larsen in his debut on very short notice. He is now slated to meet Max Holloway at UFC 172, which will see the two prospects kick off the main card.

    Here are all eight men included in the last two years.

     

    20122013
    Lance Palmer Deividas Taurosevicius
    Doo Ho ChoiDoo Ho Choi
    Joe SotoAndre Fili
    Henrique Bilcalho Rick Glenn
    Georgi Karakhanyan Georgi Karakhanyan

Raoni Barcelos

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    Record: 7-0

    Last Fight: Decision win vs. Tyler Toner

    Brazil will be heavily represented in this countdown, and we kick it off with RFA veteran Raoni Barcelos.

    Barcelos is a 5'6", 28-year-old mixed martial artist. He is very well-rounded. That being said, Barcelos' jiu-jitsu is underrepresented in his record, as most of his wins come via knockout.

    Of course, to neglect his striking would not be wise. Two fights ago, he smoked Erinaldo dos Santos Rodrigues with a flying knee, showing he is competent in all areas of fighting.

    RFA is definitely a platform and proving ground for the UFC. If he continues to win in impressive fashion, Barcelos could be flying the UFC flag very soon. 

Alexandre Bezerra

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    Record: 16-3

    Last Fight: Submission win vs. Bruno Dias

    Bellator had its hands on a strong featherweight competitor in Alexandre Bezerra. Why they let him go, I have no idea, but it was a big blunder in my eyes.

    Bezerra is just 26 years old and has 19 pro fights. He has been immensely successful so far in his career, beating the likes of Genair da Silva, Kenny Foster and Scott Heckman.

    "Popo" is a jiu-jitsu fighter whose only two losses in Bellator, to Mike Richman and Marlon Sandro, were controversial split decisions. Other than that, the submission specialist has been impressive with the company, owning 11 total wins via tapout.

    He is now on the free market and out of Bellator's grasp. He would be an excellent candidate to join the UFC ranks. 

Bekbulat Magomedov

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    Record: 12-0

    Last Fight: Decision win vs. Guan Wang

    At one point this year, Bekbulat Magomedov was linked to the UFC and was thought to be signed with the company.

    While that was not the case, many wish it was.

    Magomedov is a high-profile prospect. The sambo specialist is undefeated thus far in his career. He has run through every guy in the Russian MMA circuit.

    He has only gone to decision twice, showing he is a finisher. He is only 23 years old, meaning his best years are certainly ahead of him.

    He needs to get out of his RUFF contract in China first, where he is champion. When that happens, he can certainly be a force in the UFC featherweight division to reckon with. 

Gleristone Santos

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    Record: 25-4

    Last Fight: Decision win vs. Evandro Oliveira

    Brazilian Top Team has produced some top-notch fighters over the years. Gleristone Santos is definitely one of those guys.

    The 25-year-old is incredibly well-rounded and one of the best prospects in all of the sport. He is on a seven-fight winning streak, using his striking and grappling to run through opponents in that time.

    He is quick and athletic as well. He uses those intangibles to his advantage in the cage, getting the upper hand early and often by being the better athlete.

    Santos is currently signed with Titan Fighting Championship, but can leave for the UFC whenever he wants. He could easily make a run at the top 15 from the onset of his campaign. 

Marat Gafurov

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    Record: 8-0

    Last Fight: Knockout win vs. Yuri Ivlev

    Marat Gafurov is an in-demand commodity that many MMA organizations want in their ranks. The UFC should be one of the interested parties in this featherweight prospect.

    Gafurov, a 29-year-old sambo practitioner, is undefeated in his career. He hasn't even looked in danger in any of his fights. He owns victories over the likes of Mairbek Taisumov and Yuri Ivlev, showing that he can hang with top-notch guys.

    He has solid striking, but it's his ground game which is his crown jewel. He puts guys on their backs and beats them up with ground-and-pound and precision submission attempts.

    He has a style that is a tough matchup for anybody in the UFC. Should he make it there, he could really be a threat in their 145-pound ranks.