The Beaten Path: 5 Light Heavyweight Prospects the UFC Should Sign

Riley Kontek@@BigRIlesMMAFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2014

The Beaten Path: 5 Light Heavyweight Prospects the UFC Should Sign

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    We started with the heavyweights, and now we move on to the light heavyweights. That's right—The Beaten Path continues its "Prospects the UFC Should Sign" series.

    The light heavyweight division is in need of bodies due to the small number of fighters in its ranks. To keep matchups fresh and provide different faces, the UFC needs to look at inking some 205-pounders.

    The UFC already snagged a couple of guys off my radar recently in Patrick Cummins, Steve Bosse, Hans Stringer and Robert Drysdale. That shows the company is serious about restocking the division, but it shouldn't stop there.

    So, with that, we enter the world of possibilities. Here are five more light heavyweights the UFC should sign.


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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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

    Four prospects from the last two years have come through the UFC, with two already gone and the other two currently on the roster.

    Tom DeBlass and Wagner Prado both had short stints with the UFC. Prado went 0-2 (1 NC) in bouts against Phil Davis and Ildemar Alcantara, while DeBlass went 0-2 against Cyrille Diabate and Riki Fukuda.

    The other two who are still with the UFC are Jimi Manuwa, who just headlined a UFC event in London, and recently inked Pole Jan Blachowicz (who made the list twice).

    As for the men who didn't make the UFC, most should still get a look from the company. Here is a full rundown of everybody included:

    Wagner PradoMoise Rimbon
    Jan BlachowiczJan Blachowicz
    Roy BoughtonLinton Vassell
    Jimi ManuwaCarlos Eduardo
    Tom DeBlassAngel DeAnda

Marcus Vanttinen

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    Record: 24-5

    Last Fight: Decision win vs. Charles Andrade

    Finland is underrated when it comes to MMA prospects. In fact, one who flew under the radar despite an impressive performance this year was Tom Niinimaki.

    Another Finn who has a chance of being a solid prospect in the UFC is Marcus Vanttinen. The 26-year-old veteran is a big 205er at 6'4" and a rangy guy on the feet.

    The submission specialist has good ground-and-pound to complement his grappling skills, which are vastly overlooked. He is not thought of much since his unimpressive showing in Bellator, but we should remember that was his first fight in the United States under the bright lights.

    He seems to have righted the ship lately and is on a three-fight surge over European staples Joachim Christensen and Charles Andrade. If he continues to show improvements, he should have no problem getting a call from the UFC, especially if the promotion puts on a Scandinavian show in the near future.

Luis Philipe Lins

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    Record: 7-0

    Last Fight: Knockout win vs. Armando Sixel

    The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 has a number of Brazilian light heavyweights who are fighting up a weight class with the hope of making the UFC roster. One guy who isn't on that cast is Luis Philipe Lins, but he may be better than most of the light heavyweights on the show right now.

    "Monstro" is an undefeated Kimura Nova Uniao member who stands at 6'2" and has a hulking frame. He is a massive light heavyweight who can give opponents problems just with his size.

    Although he is a good grappler like most Nova Uniao members, his striking and power have garnered him so much respect. Four of his seven wins have come from strikes, including his most recent win against respected Armando Sixel.

    Brazil has always been a hotbed for talent, and Lins looks to be very promising. With the amount of shows that the UFC puts on in Brazil, I would be very surprised if this guy isn't added to the roster or brought on as a late replacement, should somebody pull out of a fight.

Brandon Ropati

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    Record: 7-0

    Last Fight: Submission win vs. Cole Davids

    New Zealand's Brandon Ropati has not fought since 2012, but the 24-year-old prospect still has many MMA fans salivating over his potential.

    The undefeated fighter has been ferocious since debuting in 2011, finishing all but two of his opponents. He is powerful and physically strong and reminds me of a younger version of fellow countryman James Te-Huna.

    He is young too. In fact, one would believe he would be perfect for a season of The Ultimate Fighter, as his raw talent could be molded into something even fiercer.

    Not only is he one of the best light heavyweights in the Oceania MMA scene, but he is one of the best overall prospects in the area. He needs to get busy, though, as his 18-month layoff hurts his stock a tad.

Maxim Grishin

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    Record: 17-6

    Last Fight: Decision win vs. Rodney Wallace

    The first of two Russians on this list, Maxim Grishin has become more of the American of the two due to his time spent with Strong Style Fight Team with the likes of Stipe Miocic, Jessica Eye and Brian Rogers.

    Grishin has come on as of late, earning important wins over UFC veteran Mario Miranda and Rodney Wallace. Those two wins are big enough to turn heads, as they show that the 29-year-old can hang with high-level talent.

    He is 6'3" but for some reason still seems like a guy who can cut some weight. His last weigh-in saw him tip the scales at 203 pounds, and he carries around some fat around his waist. Should he diet properly and cut more effectively, he could even make 185 in theory (though he may not like to cut weight).

    The man is a knockout artist, though. Of his 17 wins, 10 have come via knockout. He has peppering leg kicks, a good clinch game and solid hands that he throws with authority.

    With the light heavyweight division still thirsty for talent and Grishin having an in with current UFC talent in Miocic and Eye, perhaps they can put in a good word to the UFC brass about this potential star.

Viktor Nemkov

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    Record: 19-5

    Last Fight: Decision loss vs. Stephan Puetz

    In my opinion, now that Jan Blachowicz has signed with the UFC, Viktor Nemkov was the best non-UFC and non-Bellator light heavyweight before losing a close split decision to Stephan Puetz. That being said, it was a close bout that could have gone his way.

    At just 27 years old, the 6'1" Russian trains with the famous Red Devil Sport Club and has an extensive pro record already. He has been a pro since 2008 and already has 24 professional bouts.

    He is another one of those Russian sambo guys with a nasty submission game and refined striking acumen. His favorite submission technique is the triangle choke, which shows that if wrestlers take him down, they are not safe and must proceed with caution.

    He also has some nasty joint locks. His leglock of Reinaldo da Silva last year was a thing of destructive beauty. He is also willing to take an arm home if someone leaves it out there and refuses to tap.

    He is very well-rounded and deserves a shot to make it with the UFC. He is vicious and skilled and has all the tools to make a nice run with the company.