The Beaten Path: 5 Flyweight Prospects the UFC Should Sign
We're back! The "Prospects the UFC Should Sign" series is in its second-to-last installment. We left off with the bantamweights and now move onto the flyweights.
The flyweights are one of the newest additions to the UFC roster and have been a fine addition at that. They consistently put on great fights, and the division is quickly becoming stacked with contenders.
The weight class is under the rule of Demetrious Johnson, but it boasts a deep lineup that includes Joseph Benavidez, Ian McCall, Zach Makovsky and Ali Bagautinov, among others.
Without further ado, let's look at the five flyweight prospects that the UFC should sign.
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.
Since the flyweights were only included in last year's edition, there have only been five fighters. That being said, four of them have made it to the UFC. Those four are Josh Sampo, Alptekin Ozkilic, Darrell Montague and Sergio Pettis.
Sampo and Ozkilic are teammates who are 1-1 with the UFC. Sampo defeated Ryan Benoit in his debut before falling to former Bellator champion Zach Makovsky. Ozkilic beat Darren Uyenoyama before being outpointed by fellow prospect Louis Smolka.
Darrell Montague is only 0-1 with the company but drew a former title challenger in his promotion debut. He fell to John Dodson but has a chance at redemption soon against Kyoji Horiguchi at UFC Fight Night 40.
Pettis is one of the youngest fighters on the roster and is already 1-1 with the UFC at bantamweight. He beat Will Campuzano in his debut before falling to Alex Caceres in his follow-up.
Here are all five men who made the list last year.
Last Fight: Submission win vs. Mamoru Yamaguchi
Czar Sklavos didn't jump onto the top prospect radar until a recent win in Japan. That victory came over longtime top-10 flyweight Mamoru Yamaguchi and really put him on the map.
Sklavos is 31 and runs his own gym in Idaho. He is a medium-sized flyweight, standing at 5'5" with a decent muscle frame.
He is a grappler who uses a savvy submission game and great jiu-jitsu in his fights. All but one of his wins have come via tapout, as he quickly closes distance and searches for takedowns.
He needs to improve his striking, but his ground game is so refined that he could be a good staple of the UFC flyweight division. One has to think he is a win or two away from getting a call from Sean Shelby and company.
Last Fight: Decision win vs. Lincoln de Sa
Nova Uniao has consistently produced high-level talent in MMA. Alexandre Pantoja is one of those high-level guys who is a potential future champion in this sport.
Like many of the Nova Uniao fighters, he is a heavy top-game grappler with good ground-and-pound and a savvy submission game. He has been a terror in Brazil, where he has been running through the competition. His only blemish in the last five years came against contender Jussier da Silva.
Pantoja is coming off an entertaining 2-0 rivalry against Lincoln de Sa. The 5'5" Brazilian can fit the mold of a UFC veteran, as he can be competitive with most of the division.
I would be shocked if he didn't snag a UFC contract by the end of 2014. He is too good a prospect to leave off the roster.
Last Fight: Decision win vs. Sotir Kichukov
The U.K. is the home of one of the best, under-the-radar flyweights in the world: Pietro Menga.
He is a big, 5'7" flyweight with a well-rounded skill set and great durability. He started off his career showing great striking, but his ground game and submission ability have garnered more attention as his career has progressed.
Brits aren't known for wrestling, but he is better than most of his countrymen at this point. He has good hips and balance, which allow him to stay up and take others down.
With the UFC traveling to Ireland later this year, it will need to stockpile some key, young talent. Menga fits the bill and could be a tough competitor in the UFC flyweight ranks.
Last Fight: Submission win vs. Dave Morgan
Making his second appearance in two years on this countdown is Sean Santella, an AMA Fight Club member who works with Frankie Edgar and company. He is a jiu-jitsu black belt with a fantastic wrestling base.
He is a ground fighter through and through. He has proved this in the cage, where he has put away nine of his 13 foes via submission.
Not only does he have a menacing top game, but his guard is something to be reckoned with. One of his favorite techniques is the triangle choke. If you jump into his guard, you need to be on high alert.
I would venture to say the 29-year-old grappler is a top-three flyweight outside the UFC. The promotion needs to consider adding him to the roster as soon as possible.
Last Fight: Decision win vs. Elias Garcia
Henry Cejudo is a former Olympic wrestling medalist who has made a seamless transition to MMA. With his background, he is one of the best prospects in the entire sport.
The 5'4" Legacy FC champ has only been a pro since March of last year but is already 6-0. His strategy is simple: Close the distance, ground his opponent and pound him from the top.
The big knock on him has been his trouble to make weight. In his last two fights, he has come in heavy, which is unfair to his opponents and unprofessional. If he gets a nutritionist, he would better cut the weight and be the threat he can be at 125 pounds.
He has an opportunity to become a world champion wherever he goes, including the UFC. That's why he needs to be signed, but again, he needs to address his weight issues, or he could become a John Lineker guy who wins fights but can't secure a title shot.