The Beaten Path: Top 10 Featherweight Prospects Outside UFC

Riley Kontek@@BigRIlesMMAFeatured ColumnistSeptember 26, 2013

The Beaten Path: Top 10 Featherweight Prospects Outside UFC

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    Here at the Beaten Path, our job is to give the average fan a look at some of the best prospects in the world. These are guys that have UFC potential written all over them.

    Before fame and glory is achieved through the fandom that is the UFC, fighters have to embrace the grind that is regional MMA. This is where these fighters cut their teeth to see if they are ready for the next level.

    Although I hate to give spoilers, I will note that guys like Pat Curran and Patricio Freire won't make this list because they are past the "prospect" level. The men who grace this list are looking to make the big show soon and could become future champions.

    Without further ado, here are are the best 10 featherweight prospects outside the UFC.

10. Marat Gafurov

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    Record: 8-0
    Age: n/a
    Promotion: M-1 Global

    If you're from Eastern Europe or Russia (which is in both Eastern Europe and Asia), there is a good chance that if you are an MMA fighter, you probably got your start in sambo. Marat Gafurov of Ukraine is one of those sambo practitioners.

    The submission specialist has gone undefeated, mostly in the M-1 promotion. There, he owns notable victories over Mairbek Taisumov and Yuri Ivlev.

    Sambo fighters and fighters from the Russian area have been successful in MMA. This top-heavy grappler is no exception to that.

9. Gleristone Santos

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    Record: 25-3
    Age: 25
    Promotion: Bitetti Combat

    It's hard to call a 28-fight veteran a prospect of the sport, but when he is just 25 years old, it's a bit easier to understand. That's exactly what Gleristone Santos is.

    The Brazilian native has fought since 2005, meaning he began to professionally throw down since the age of 17. His only three losses in that time are against a guy he has beat multiple times, Bellator mainstay Patricio Freire, and UFC vet Carlo Prater.

    The Brazilian Top Team rep has finished 14 of his wins, eight of which came by TKO. This promising finisher could be a great addition to the UFC's featherweight division.

8. Chris Gruetzemacher

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    Record: 11-1
    Age: 27
    Promotion: World Series of Fighting

    It's been over a year since Chris Gruetzemacher has stepped in the cage, but it's not like he hasn't tried. He was supposed to throw down at a recent World Series of Fighting event but had to drop out due to injury.

    His only career loss came in his second fight back in 2009. He trains with the MMA Lab in Arizona, which is a great gym that has produced guys like Benson Henderson.

    The dude is a finisher, too. He has six wins via knockout as well as three submission wins, all of which were armbars.

    His last two wins over Frank Gomez and Roli Delgado were the biggest of his career. The sky is the limit for this guy.

7. Jim Alers

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    Record: 11-1
    Age: 26
    Promotion: Cage Warriors Fighting Championship

    One of the few American staples of the Cage Warriors promotion based out of the UK, Jim Alers has established himself as one of the best featherweights in the world not currently in the UFC.

    The jiu-jitsu specialist has only gone to decision once in his career, instead opting to tap people out. His recent triangle armbar of Joni Salovaara was equally impressive as it was devastating.

    He even tapped out Freddy Assuncao, brother of UFC vets Junior and Raphael. That's really saying something.

6. Doo Ho Choi

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    Record: 11-1
    Age: 22
    Promotion: Deep

    The blossoming South Korean MMA scene has provided one of the world's most promising 145-pounders in Doo Ho Choi. The guy has been terrorizing the Deep promotion with his top-notch striking and exciting style.

    His kickboxing has allowed him to knock out Nobuhiro Obiya and Mitsuhiro Ishida with knees, as well as a number of other foes with his fists. In fact, eight of his 11 victories have come via knockout.

    The South Korean market is just begging to be exploited by the UFC. This is one of the guys who could lead the way if signed.

5. Tom Niinimaki

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    Record: 19-5-1
    Age: 31
    Promotion: Cage

    The UFC's venture into Sweden has been quite successful so far, but their neighbors to the east are also crazy about the sport. The country is Finland.

    One of Finland's brightest prospects comes in the form of featherweight destroyer Tom Niinimaki. 

    Having not lost since 2006, the Finn has been taking out top opponents left and right. In addition to taking out Lithuanian stud Sergej Grecicho and Brian Pearman, he most recently scored an upset of Chase Beebe and a kimura tapout of UFC veteran Walel Watson.

    He is riding an 11-fight win streak and could be a great asset to the UFC. He has shown he can hang with top competition with success.

4. Rick Glenn

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    Record: 14-2-1
    Age: 24
    Promotion: World Series of Fighting

    World Series of Fighting has themselves one of the best up-and-comers at 145 in Rick Glenn. Having not lost in 12 bouts, Glenn has been a wrecking ball through regional promotions before settling in with one of the biggest MMA promotions in the U.S.

    Glenn is a Roufusport representative, which is known for its strikers. The great thing about Glenn is he almost has an equal amount of knockouts as he does submissions.

    A huge test for Glenn was against fellow prospect Alexandre Pimentel, and he passed with flying colors. He knocked the Brazilian senseless with some nasty punches to keep his streak alive.

3. Andre Fili

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    Record: 12-1
    Age: 23
    Promotion: West Coast Fighting Championship/Tachi Palace Fights

    At 23 years old, Andre Fili is the definition of a prospect in this sport. Add to that the fact he is 12-1 in his career, and you have yourself one of the best featherweights outside of the UFC.

    The Team Alpha Male rep has a great ground game, but his striking is what has led to most of his wins. Because he trains with Alpha Male, you know his wrestling is going to be solid, even though he is comfortable off his back.

    His only loss came as a result of a knee injury in the fifth round of a fight, which is significant considering he could be undefeated had that not happened.

2. Lance Palmer

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    Record: 7-0
    Age: 25
    Promotion: Resurrection Fighting Alliance

    Speaking of Team Alpha Male, Lance Palmer is another guy from that camp that is a top prospect in this sport. The undefeated wrestler was a coach for Urijah Faber's team on The Ultimate Fighter, where people got to know him a tad.

    However, he did most of his own advertising work by dominating opponents. "The Party" is a combination of power wrestling, ground-and-pound and submission prowess, which is why he has yet to take a blemish on his record.

    He is the RFA champion after beating a tough Jared Downing. He also has a win over UFC vet Fredson Paixao, showing he is ready for higher-level opponents. 

1. Georgi Karakhanyan

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    Record: 22-3-1
    Age: 28
    Promotion: World Series of Fighting

    Why this guy isn't in the UFC baffles me. Georgi Karakhanyan is on an eight-fight surge against top-flight competition, including UFC vets Waylon Lowe, Din Thomas and Micah Miller, as well as respected vet Hiroyuki Takaya and Isaac de Jesus.

    Most of Karakhanyan's wins come via submission, but the Armenian-American loves to bang on the feet. His most recent win over Lowe was incredibly impressive, as he counter-wrestled well, won stand-up exchanges and eventually guillotined the UFC vet.

    World Series of Fighting is lucky to have him, even though Karakhanyan could be a contender with the UFC.


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