The Beaten Path: 5 Prospects to Watch in June

Riley Kontek@@BigRIlesMMAFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2014

The Beaten Path: 5 Prospects to Watch in June

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    Another month, another set of MMA madness. That's right, there's no rest for the wicked. The MMA world marches on.

    Outside of the UFC, fans have many options. If you are a lover of prospects and watching up-and-coming talent, this month is chock-full of future contenders that could be stars in the sport.

    At the Beaten Path, our job is to steer you toward these fighters and help you get to know them a little bit more. That way, you will have an idea of who they are when they make the big time.

    Without further ado, let's take a look at five prospects to keep an eye on this month.

5. Andrew Sanchez

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    Division: Middleweight
    Age: 26
    Record: 5-0
    Next fight: vs. Kevin Casey at RFA 15, June 6
    See it on: AXS TV

    In terms of prospects, the middleweight division might be the shallowest division when it comes to able bodies ready for the next level. With Andrew Sanchez, he represents a small minority of guys who can compete at the next level.

    Sanchez, who will be vying for the RFA Middleweight Championship, fights like a madman, hosting knockout power in his hands, solid wrestling and vicious ground-and-pound. His latest win over Miles Marshall, another guy who was considered an intriguing prospect, was a dominating performance that really lifted Sanchez into the spotlight.

    A win over Casey, a UFC and Strikeforce veteran, would truly be a feather in the cap of Sanchez. It could be his ticket to the UFC, as many RFA veterans have begun to make the move as the company is almost an unofficial feeder for the biggest promotion in the world.

4. Czar Sklavos

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    Division: Flyweight
    Age: 32
    Record: 9-3
    Next fight: vs. Ryuichi Miki at Vale Tudo Japan, June 28
    See it on: TBD

    The flyweight division is still experiencing growth as it becomes more popular. For a guy like Czar Sklavos, that could be beneficial to him on his path to the big show.

    Sklavos, a submission specialist, has been a terror on the ground, earning eight wins via tapout. His only losses come in the form of top fighters, as he has fallen only to current UFC champion TJ Dillashaw, flyweight contender Josh Sampo and Cuban wrestling powerhouse Alexis Vila.

    On the other side of things, the methodical Sklavos has picked up his two biggest wins in his last two fights against Nick Mamalis and the legendary Mamoru Yamaguchi, whom he tapped via guillotine choke and rear-naked choke, respectively.

    He is still currently participating in the Vale Tudo Japan flyweight tournament, so he may be off the table for the UFC until that clears up. However, if he continues winning fights over notable guys, including his next opponent, Ryuichi Miki, there is no doubt he will be flying the UFC flag sooner than later.

3. Thomas Almeida

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    Division: Bantamweight
    Age: 22
    Record: 16-0
    Next fight: vs. Caio Machado at Legacy FC 32, June 20
    See it on: AXS TV

    It seems like Thomas Almeida is a permanent fixture on the Beaten Path, but there is a reason for that. The dude is just 22 years old and holds an impressive undefeated record of 16-0.

    Sometimes with Brazilian prospects slugging it out on the Brazilian regional circuit, they get their records padded by inexperienced fighters or low-level fighters. For Almeida, that has not been the case, as he has since relocated to the United States for fighting, specifically the respectable Legacy FC promotion.

    His biggest win has to be against George Pacurariu, a guy who many hold in high regard for his power and ferocity. Almeida struck him down in just a round, using his powerful punches to earn another one of his 12 knockout stoppages.

    The Chute Boxe fighter is a throwback to the Pride days when that gym had killers left and right. It's surprising the UFC hasn't snagged Almeida yet, but perhaps a win over Caio Machado could get him there.

2. Scott Askham

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    Division: Middleweight
    Age: n/a
    Record: 11-0
    Next fight: vs. Max Nunes at BAMMA Fight Night, June 7
    See it on: TBD

    Remember when I said there weren't a lot of high-level, next-level-ready prospects at middleweight? Well here's another one of the few that breaks that mold.

    Scott Askham, who in my opinion is Britain's top unsigned fighter to one of the major three organizations (UFC, Bellator, WSOF), is a devastating striker who has yet to taste defeat. Six of his 11 wins come via knockout, showing his technical and power abilities.

    It's not like he's been beating chumps either. He has been putting down UK staples such as Denniston Sutherland, Harry McLeman and Jack Marshman with ease.

    He now has another top middleweight prospect (it's a good month for middleweight fights) in Max Nunes in the headliner of BAMMA Fight Night. You best believe Joe Silva will keep an eye on this fight and take the winner of the bout to the UFC.

1. Philipe Lins

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    Division: Light Heavyweight
    Age: 28
    Record: 8-0
    Next fight: vs. James Austin Heidlage at Bellator 121, June 6
    See it on: Spike TV

    Nowadays, you don't see Bellator snagging up the top prospects in the sport anymore like they used to. With Philipe Lins, they have themselves a gem.

    Lins, who had been under contract with Bellator for a while before finally taking a bout in April with the company, ran through his first opponent, Travis Clark. That got him his eighth win in eight tries, which includes six stoppages via knockout or submission.

    The Nova Uniao Kimura rep is physically imposing and lives up to his "Monstro" nickname in the cage. His chokes are killer, and his punches are conscious-stealing. He takes on another solid-looking fighter in James Austin Heidlage in the quarterfinals of the summer series tournament next at Bellator 121, where he looks to remain unbeaten.