Brazilian jiu-jitsu seems to be a hot trend among our list of welterweight prospects, and one of the more proven grapplers on our list chimes in at #8 on the 2011 World MMA Welterweight Scouting Report. Quinn Mulhern (13-1) is probably a name you've heard often in your viewing of HDNet's coverage of King of the Cage on the occasional Friday night broadcast. He's made quite the name for himself as a slick submission artist on the ground who uses quick transitions and lengthy limbs to put opponents away. With those skills, Mulhern has amassed a five-fight win streak that includes victories over UFC veteran Rich Clementi and touted prospect Levi Stout, and he is currently one of the more active fighters in mixed martial arts with those five fights taking place in the span of 2010. The impressive run should put him in line for bigger and better things in 2011.
Offensive Skills: The interesting note about Mulhern is that people who consider themselves intermediate to hardcore fans have probably seen him in action. He's headlined quite a few King of the Cage cards on HDNet, and he always seems to deliver solid performances despite being labeled as a one-dimensional grappler by the more uninformed crowd. Contrary to belief, Mulhern is well-rounded, and his physical assets give him an edge on both the feet and the ground.
His Brazilian jiu-jitsu technique is something all fans should crave to see. He uses a very active guard in combination with his lengthy limbs to execute triangle choke and armbar attempts, and the frequency of his attempts completely changes the strategy his opponents try to implement from top position. Bruising Mulhern from top control can become quite the dangerous chess match, and most opponents find themselves caught in a web of limbs.
Mulhern's stand-up is quite good as well. He throws solid one-two straight combinations at times, but works more often with a straight lunging jab to keep his opponents at bay. His Muay Thai continues to improve as well, and while he's not a knockout threat -- his steady progression in the stand-up game could make him a very promising prospect in the UFC or Strikeforce.
Defensive Skills: As we've mentioned with a few of our prospects in the past, the best defense can be a good offense, and Mulhern embodies that motto. His legs normally tie up opponents trying to pass his guard, and it causes a role reversal in that his opponents must go on the defensive immediately.
His stand-up defense could use some work, and he's in immediate danger of being countered if he happens to miss with his jab as an opponent is rushing in. Luckily for Mulhern, he's fairly quick to bob and weave his way out of danger, and his chin has shown that it can withstand damage and get him to the clinch.
Progression & Learning Ability: As I mentioned before, Mulhern's stand-up is progressing nicely, and he's focused on using his reach in combination with his jab to counter his opponents' aggressive rushes. He does lack some technique in his stand-up game however, but that's something that can be corrected in due time. From all accounts, Mulhern looks to be on the cusp of gaining a shot in a top tier promotion, but he'll need to continue battling better competition. His wins over Rich Clementi and Levi Stout were a start, but I'd like to see him showcase his improving skills against more worthy adversaries.
Environment: Mulhern trains out of the Santa Fe Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Sante Fe, New Mexico under 2nd degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Thomas Pless. While the camp isn't well-known, it's obvious that Mulhern has been learning as a steady pace from Pless over the last couple of years. It would probably benefit Mulhern to step out of the gym every now and then and travel to some of the surrounding areas such as Arizona to work on his wrestling, but it's tough to say that when he's obviously been successful where he's at.
Potential: Mulhern is an intriguing prospect for a number of reasons, but I think the downsides for us were in his stand-up skills and current situation in New Mexico. While I believe the improvement we're seeing in his striking game is positive, I worry that Mulhern may suffer the wrath of the more powerful welterweights in the larger promotions. At this point in his career, he's been able to stop power punchers from unloading on him by threatening with his ground tactics and stiff jab on the feet, but those punches don't have enough mustard to truly sting his opponents into desperation. UFC or Strikeforce welterweights may have a field day trying to bomb him, and the wrestling pedigree of those fighters could stuff Mulhern's attempts to bring the fight to the ground.
Ultimately, Mulhern has the skills to compete at a high level, and I'd love to see a promotion with some better welterweights give him the opportunity. Hopefully, he's continuing to improve at the pace he's currently trending at. If he is, there is no doubt that Mulhern will become a top 20 to top 15 welterweight in the world in a few years.
Quinn Mulhern vs. Doug Brown