BloodyElbow.com's #1 ranked lightweight on the 2011 World MMA Scouting Report, Thiago Michel, has signed with Bellator. BloodyElbow.com confirmed through a source close to the fighter last Friday. The 2010 WAKO World Cup kickboxing champion is rumored to possibly make his debut in the fall, around September or October in a tune-up bout before attempting to capitalize on an opportunity to fight for the Bellator lightweight crown by fighting in the tournament format.
Michel is currently 8-2 in his mixed martial arts career, amassing a 1-1 record since the Scouting Report was released in November. A loss to Alessandro Ferreira soured some fans who were intrigued with our report as Michel's lacking ground game was exploited by a better grappler. He rebounded five months later against Erick Barbosa at Brazil Fight 4 in a highly-entertaining showcase of his diverse striking prowess, utilizing improved takedown defense and a versatile kicking game.
As I wrote in November, Michel may have the offensive striking prowess to be a great showman for any promotion, and he's continued to progress his takedown defense and grappling skills at a quickened pace:
Potential: Obviously, we ranked him #1 because we believe the potential is there for Michel to be a fairly successful fighter on a bigger stage. The real kicker here is that the top three fighters in our prospect rankings could be interchangeable with Tirloni or Almeida potentially grabbing the top spot as well. But Michel's progression and improvement have impressed us. Most fighters just don't improve at the rate that Michel has, and there are even fewer fighters who could take two years off and come back to fight at the level he did in October.
While Michel isn't as well rounded as our #2 prospect, Ricardo Tirloni, he does have a vastly better stand-up game, and his ground skills are progressing rapidly. From all indications, Michel has the potential to be a star in a major promotion, especially if he can continue to finish off opponents while also gaining considerable ground in his jiu-jitsu training. For that reason, Thiago Michel tops our list as the #1 prospect on our 2011 World MMA Lightweight scouting report.
The jury is still out on whether Michel will ever become what we claimed he could be. Time is of the essence for his career, and he is still fully involved in kickboxing, which does take some time away from improving his ground skills. The blue chip wrestlers and savvy submission artists that await him in North America could very well prove us wrong. One thing is certain however, Michel will bring a dynamic striking game to the table that many of the finest strikers in the lightweight division will have trouble competing against.