Birthplace: Aurora, Colorado, USA
Camp: Jackson's Submission Fighting
Style: Boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Background: Pro Football, Golden Gloves Boxing Champion, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Purple Belt.
Brendan Schaub is an exceptional athlete that has bolted up the prospect rankings by doing what exceptional, dedicated athletes do, showing improvement each and every time out, including a dominating recent performance over Gabriel Gonzaga. Stemming from his time in the Ultimate Fighter, Schaub has shown a marked improvement in his takedown defense and boxing technique, and has the speed and power to truly make him a dangerous fighter on the feet. On the ground, he is a purple belt with the capability to use his hips to escape back to his feet, or even reverse position.
Working with the now infamous Greg Jackson, Schaub has shown that he will continue to make strides in his takedown defense, and harness his abilities as a heavy handed striker both on the feet and in ground and pound situations. As long as Schaub continues his development in these areas, he is a top 7 talent in the HW division.
Birthplace: El Paso, Texas, USA
Camp: American Top Team
Background: NCAA Division 1 Collegiate Wrestling All American - Iowa State , Collegiate Football
If there is one word to describe Tony "Hulk" Johnson Jr, it is "freak". This giant of a man, while only standing at 6'1, cuts to 265lbs and has measureables that would make Brock Lesnar blush. Despite being around 250lbs, during his football days in high school he was once clocked at 4.5 in the 40 yard dash. Truly an elite wrestler, this is only complimented by his immense strength, agility and speed.
While Johnson's slams and ground and pound are already at a high level, he certainly needs to develop into a more well-rounded mixed martial artist. At 24, he has plenty of time to do so, but he needs to improve his BJJ awareness and polish his striking. While having good hands, Johnson's biggest folly is that his BJJ game seems almost non-existent. He quite often leaves himself in dangerous spots against competent grapplers, and doesn't show any ability on the bottom, a fact highlighted by his quick submission loss to world class wrestler Daniel Cormier.
That said, even the Cormier loss was a bit of a fluke, as Johnson drove Cormier half way across the cage only for him to bounce of the cage and land on top. Still, the loss could've been prevented if Johnson's submission defense was more developed.
Training at ATT, one can expect these weaknesses to be panned out, and a guy as athletic and willing as Johnson has the ability to become a top 3-5 fighter in the HW division in the future.
Birthplace: Lafayette, Lousiana, USA
Camp: American Kickboxing Academy
Background: NCAA Division 1 Collegiate Wrestling Runner Up - Oklahoma State, Olympic Freestyle Wrestler
Daniel Cormier is a wrestling convert who, despite only being pro for two years, has racked off a 6-0 record against pretty good competition. Despite being a busy fighter, taking fights often, he shows marked improvement in these short spaces. At 31, Cormier is at or near his physical prime, so his efforts in getting as much experience as possible is a smart move for his career. Cormier's wrestling and takedown ability is world class, however it is his aptitude for striking that makes him such an intriguing prospect, stopping 5 of his 6 opponents with punches.
Cormier's notable fight at this stage of his career was against Tony Johnson Jr, a fellow prospect. Not only was he able to take the much larger Johnson down, but he displayed his development in the submission game, and quickly transitioned to the back where he locked on a fight ending choke.
Cormier is a top prospect that shows no real weaknesses thus far in his game, and many are expecting him to reach the elite level in the Strikeforce Heavyweight division. However, there are some concerns that he is undersized, at only 5'11 240lbs, but Cormier has proven that size is only a number at this point in his career. His finishing ability and world class talent can lead him to possibly a shot at Strikeforce gold in the next few years.
Camp: Strong Style Fight Team
Style: Boxing, Wrestling
Background: NCAA Division 1 Collegiate Wrestling - Cleveland State, Amateur Boxing
Stipe Miocic is a prospect with frightening potential. A devastating puncher with size, and a collegiate wrestling background, he draws comparisons to a prime Chuck Liddell. Showing both the ability to use his "wrestling in reverse" and secure a takedown and rain down brutal ground and pound, Miocic has well-rounded talent and the physical attributes to become a dominant HW.
Miocic's biggest asset is his concussive punching power that has lead every victims to fall via knockout. Ohio MMA enthusiasts chant about his decorated amateur record, fighting many tough fighters early in his career. Miocic is known to have some defensive flaws, but his desire to learn the nuances of boxing, and his titanium chin leave the prospect of trading with him highly undesirable.
Miocic could very well be the next big thing at HW, forcing his opponents to play his game, a game that will often favor him considering his power and durability. It is still early in his career, but the athletic Croatian could be a dominant, top 3 HW if and when he reaches his prime.
Birthplace: Appleton, Wisconsin, USA
Camp: Minnesota Martial Arts Academy
Background: NCAA Division 1 Collegiate Wrestling Champion - Minnesota
Polarizing or not, Cole Konrad is clearly the frontrunner for the next big thing at HW. If you walked into a room full of MMA media and pundits, and brashly declared that Konrad was the best wrestler in the HW division, you would not get many arguments. Sure, his body looks more like a lovable dad on a daytime sitcom show, and he's not making any highlight reels anytime soon, but his wrestling is brutally effective, and so far outright unstoppable.
Konrad, who trains with Brock Lesnar and many other top wrestlers, even while gassed, shows the ability to hit takedowns and trips that many other guys simply can't do, evidenced in a fight with Demian Grabowsky. On top, his base is incredibly and his top control is smothering. He methodically grinds downs down with shots to the body and gives them no room to even think about a sweep or escape.
While Konrad may have beaten Cain Velasquez in a wrestling match in college in a grueling match, he is clearly far behind in striking and the submission game. However, even Konrad only develops to have passable skills in these aspects of MMA, his top control and dominant wrestling could lead him to a title shot in the grand stage when it is all said and done.
Birthplace: Sofia, Bulgaria
Camp: SK Absolute Bulgaria
Background: 2008 World Sambo Champion
Famed in internet communities for the man to beat Fedor in Sambo. Ivanov has immediately taken to MMA and fought MMA legend Fujita in only his 3rd fight, in what turned out to be a grueling bout in which Ivanov broke both hands, but rocked the iron-chinned Fujita and busted him up enough to win a decision. Now Ivanov it showing his commmitment to the sport, and is rumoured to be moving to Las Vegas to train in America, which will certainly improve his apparently weak takedown defense and guard game.
There are certainly many positives about Blagoi though, although his striking is fairly rudimentary and a bit wild, the fearless aggression he shows is complimented, like the man he beat in Sambo, by tremendous hand speed and power.
This, complimented with his Sambo throws and dangerous top game with aggressive, heavy handed ground and pound leave him with the potential to be one of MMA's most exciting offensive fighters at HW.
As with most sleepers, he could be a long shot, but Blagoi could develop into a top international talent and land in the UFC or Strikeforce at the 15-20 range of HWs.
Birthplace: Ibaraki, Osaka, Japan
Camp: Xtreme Couture/Blackhouse
Style: Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Background: 2008 Judo Olympic Gold Medalist, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Brown Belt
Satoshi Ishii may have entered the sport as one of the most highly touted prospects to never step in a ring or cage. He also suffered from the Japanese curse, fighting a veteran in his first fight that he simply wasn't ready for and dropping a decision.
Fortunately, Ishii has fully dedicated himself to his development, taking on easier fights while he improves, and training literally all over the world in an effort to improve his overall game. With the pure ability and resources of Ishii, he certainly has a good deal of potential. Combine his world class clinch game and takedowns with a more than competent developing BJJ game, and you'll have one of the most dangerous grapplers forecasted in the future of HWs.
Although he remains slightly undersized, the principles of Judo and BJJ should allow him to compete at that level, and he could enter the UFC as a borderline top 10 fighter when he finally reaches his prime, and become a real Japanese icon in the meantime.
Birthplace: Sandpoint, Idaho USA
Camp: Team Takedown
Background: NCAA Division 1 Collegiate Wrestling All-American - Oklahoma State
Jared Rosholt, brother of former UFC Middleweight, Jake Rosholt is an unknown commodity in Mixed Martial Arts. Set to make his debut in 2011, he enters the sport with a storied wrestling background, included a collegiate career of over 100 wins as a Heavyweight at Oklahoma State.
Jared, physically is an imposing Heavyweight, standing at 6'2 and the full 265lbs, Jared can surely impose his will physically on the legion of MMA HWs around the world. Unlike fellow folkstyle wrestling greats like Cole Konrad, Jared appears to have a much more solid physique and his promoter raves about his strength and feats in bench press.
His speed is also much the rave, supposedly running around a 4.7 40 yard dash, impressive for a 270-280lb man.
In the talent-stricken 265lb division, Jared's athleticism and world class wrestling ability should alone take him places. Despite this, he is utterly unproven in competition, and there are too many questions to make even a semi-legitimate projection of his career. Despite this, given his youth, and his single skill set putting him already way ahead of the curve, he should be a top 30 HW at the very least.
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