FanPost

Top 30 under 30: The Future of Mixed Martial Arts Part 1

For some reason I have been very interested in fighters ages recently. Ever since I found out that GSP had turned 30 years old, I have been going thru Wikipedia looking at my favorite fighters trying to find out how old they are. This led me to come up with this "30 under 30" idea.

This four part series is basically a list of the 30 best fighters (in my opinion) that are 29 years old, or younger.

I should explain that this isn’t a straight up Pound for Pound rankings list, there are a few other factors involved, which is why you will see certain "unproven" fighters ranked above known vets. This isn’t just a list of who is a better fighter, or who would beat who. I took into account a fighters current accomplishments (belts, wins over notable opponents, overall record, etc) a fighters age (I tend to rank younger guys higher, because I feel like they have more room for improvement) a lastly a fighters potential and room for improvement (this one is a little hard to put into words, or judge really. It’s basically my opinion on how good a certain fighter can get, think Jon Jones pre fighting Ryan Bader, we all knew he was going to be good, but he hadn’t beaten any big name yet.)

Another rule I established, is that for a fighter to be considered for this list he must have been born in 1982 or later, meaning that fighters that are currently 29, but will turn 30 within 5 months aren’t eligible, which means that guys like Frankie Edgar (October 16, 1981) Yushin Okami (July 21, 1981) and Shogun Rua (November 25, 1981) won’t be part of this 30 under 30 list.

 

I’ll start up with some honorable mentions.

 

Honorable Mention #5 Ryan Bader

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via video.ufc.tv

Ryan Bader         United States    6-2          205lbs   12-2       28 years old

Ryan Bader was once considered the top prospect in the Light Heavyweight division, now he can’t even crack the top 30. Losses to Jon Jones and Tito Ortiz have promptly put a stop to the momentum he had built coming out of the 8th season of the Ultimate Fighter. Still, he is relatively young (28 years old), and has the skills to once again be a top 10 LHW.

Current Accomplishments

He won the 8th season of TUF when he was just 25 years old, and went on a 5 fight winning streak, beating notable opponents like Vinny Magalhaes, Keith Jardine and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. He is a two time all American wrestler from Arizona State, and he trains out of Power MMA and Fitness with teammates CB Dollaway, Aaron Simpson and Jesse Forbes.

Age

Bader is 28 years old, and has a relatively young MMA career having only fought 14 times (7 of them in the UFC) he has never been knocked out, so all signs point to him having a long career.

Potential/Room for Improvement

Bader is a great wrestler; he has a great double leg takedown, and is very fast and explosive. His stand-up is still average at best, but he has proven to have power in both hands knocking out Vinny with a right and Jardine with a left hook. His BJJ is still unproven, although it’s worth noting that both of his losses have come via submission.

On paper Bader has all the qualities of a future champion, but my biggest problem with him, is that he hasn’t show much improvement in the octagon. In my eyes the Ryan Bader that fought Vinny Magalhaes looks an awful lot like the Bader that fought Lil’ Nog and Jon Jones. He still has questionable cardio, having gassed in the Red Schaffer fight, and noticeable slowed down in the Nogueira fight. To me he is still a wrestler/power puncher that hasn’t shown many other skills in the cage. He definetly has room for improvement, but his development to date hasn’t been too promising.

Ultimately what is keeping Bader out of the top 30 is his last 2 losses (where he hasn’t shown anything to be honest besides the fact that he knows how to pull guard) and his lack of development in the cage. 

 

Honorable Mention #4 Alexander Gustafsson

 

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via video.ufc.tv

Alexander Gustafsson   Sweden               6-5          205lbs   11-1       24 years old

Gustafsson is a relatively unknown 205er, he is probably best known for being really tall, having bad tattoos and losing to Phil Davis.

Current Accomplishments

This is the category where Gustafsson is currently lacking the most. He has notable wins over journeyman Jared Hamman (now a 185er) kickboxer Cyrille Diabate, and James Te Huna. He is currently scheduled to fight Vladimir Matyshenko at UFC 133; a win there could bump him up the rankings, and give him a win over a well known vet that once fought for the belt.

Age

Gustafsson is just 24, has around the same experience as Ryan Bader having 12 MMA fights(4 of them in the UFC). He’s also never been knocked out. Fun Fact: Despite having fought 4 times in the UFC he still has never fought in the US. His UFC 133 fight in Philly will be his first fight on US soil.

Potential/Room for improvement

This is where I give Gustafsson the most points. Those of us that know of him know that he has some dynamite in his hands; he knocked Hamman out cold, and dropped Diabate a few times before choking him out. What I like most about him is the fact that after he got choked out by Mr. Wonderful he decided that in order to improve his overall MMA game he should join a gym in the US. Obviously he joined the same gym that Phil trains out of, and has shown improved grappling, especially in the James Te Huna fight where he got taken down early but still pulled off the sub win.

What ultimately keeps Gustafsson out of the top 30 is his inexperience and lack of wins over name opponents, although that’s not his fault. At 24 years old, I would expect him to keep improving, and beating better and better opponents. The sky is the limit for this kid especially if he stays in the UFC.

 

Honorable Mention #3 Scott Jorgensen

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via video.ufc.tv

Scott Jorgensen                  United States    5-4          135lbs                   12-4       28 years old

Scott Jorgensen is one of my favorite fighters; he is the prototypical WEC guy that always puts on exciting fights. He is well rounded and has a highlight reel full of amazing finishes like his crazy guillotine of Chad George where he actually picked him up by the neck and put him to sleep.

Current Accomplishments

Jorgensen has only fought 16 times, but 11 of those fights have been under Zuffa. He went 7-3 during his run in the WEC beating guys like Takeya Mizugaki, Brad Pickett and Antonio Banuelos. He fought for the belt at WEC 53, but unfortunately he was unable to do much against the bigger and faster Dominick Cruz.

Age

Jorgensen is 28 years old, and has only been finished once in his entire career (he got arm bared in his 3rd pro fight) you wouldn’t think that he is only 28 it seems like he has been in the UFC/WEC for years.

Potential/Room for improvement

I don’t know how much room for improvement Jorgensen has, which is why he is relatively low considering his standing in the bantamweight division. He has shown to be well rounded, showing good stand-up skills, powerful submissions, and scary ground and pound (he knocked Ken Stone out cold from inside his guard). He is a purple belt in BJJ, and a former collegiate wrestler, so I guess his BJJ could still improve, but overall I feel like he is a bit undersized for the division, some might say that his career peaked early when he got his title shot last December. I think he would greatly benefit from a 125lbs division.

 

Honorable Mention #2 Tyson Griffin

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via video.ufc.tv

Tyson Griffin     United States    5-6          145lbs   15-5       27 years old

Tyson has been a permanent fixture in the UFC’s lightweight division for the past 5 years which is surprising considering he is only 27 years old. He made his UFC debut on September 23, 2006 at UFC 63 against David Lee. He was once a promising contender but back to back to back losses to Evan Dunham, Gomi and Nik Lentz turned him into somewhat of a gatekeeper at 155. His recent move down to the featherweight division might prove to be his best career move.

 

Current Accomplishments

Griffin is probably best known for his two wars with Frankie Edgar and Sean Sherk, unfortunately he lost both of those fights. He has however beat guys like Clay Guida, Thiago Tavares, Gleison Tibau, Marcus Aurelio, Rafael Dos Anjos, Hermes Franca (he really must not like Brazilians), Manny Gamburyan, and WEC poster boy Urijah Faber. He was fairly close to a title shot back in 08. If he had beat Sean Sherk he might have gotten the nod instead of Diego Sanchez or maybe even Frankie Edgar. He is currently a top 10 FW thanks to his wins over Faber and Manny.

Age

Tyson is only 27, but it sure as hell seems like he is older, he’s had 20 career fights (15 of them in the UFC or strikeforce) He got knocked out cold by Gomi, but his style of fighting leads to more decisions than anything. His "octagon age" is probably a little big higher than 27.

Potential/Room for Improvement

Seeing as how Tyson is already a vet, I don’t know how much improving he can really do. He is good at everything, but not really great at anything. He hasn’t shown much improvement in his last 5 or so fights, which make me think that this might be the best Tyson Griffin that we might see.

In the end it’s his 1-3 record in his last 4 fights combined with his apparent lack of improvement that ultimately keeps Tyson out of the top 30.

Honorable Mention #1 Shinya Aoki

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via www.dreamofficial.com

Shinya Aoki        Japan    5-11       155lbs   28-5-1   28 years old

 

This might come as a surprise to some of you seeing as how Aoki is a consensus top 5 LW in the world right now, so I know I have some splainin’ to do. Aoki is one of the most popular (or hated) japanese fighters of the modern era. He has dominated post-PRIDE japanese mma with his octopus like limbs, and crazy submissions. He is probably best known for having hyperactive tear ducts, wearing crazy pants, and breaking limbs with glee. 

 

Current Accomplishments

They don’t get more accomplished than Aoki. He has 28 career wins over people like George Sotiropoulos, Joachim Hansen, JZ Cavalcante, Caol Uno, Eddie Alvarez, Tatsuya Kawajiri, and Marcus Aurelio. He has fought for PRIDE, DREAM, K-1, Strikeforce, etc. He’s been the DREAM and WAMMA (gasp!) LW champ, and the Shooto WW champ. If Aoki retired today most people would admit that he has had a full career, and accomplished as much as one can in mixed martial arts.

Age

Aoki is 28, but he has been fighting since he was 20 years old. He’s been knocked out 3 times (4 if you include the exhibition vs. Nagashima), so he probably has more wear and tear than your average 28 year old fighter.

Potential/Room for Improvement

Let’s face it, Aoki is a one trick pony. He is awesome at that one  trick, probably the best at it, but in today’s MMA you can’t be the best when all you can do is grapple. I see it as a little bit of a curse that Aoki is so damn good on the ground. I think that since he knew that he could tap out any opponent he never bothered to improve his other skills like his striking or his wrestling. It’s kind of sad, when you look back at his career. He started fighting at 20, imagine if he would have dedicated just a fraction more on his striking he could have been so much better. This is the reason why Aoki isn’t in the top 30, there is no more room for improvement. His BJJ is about as good as it comes, but I just don’t see how the rest of his game will ever improve. He is so good at BJJ that he doesn’t need to be great at anything else. I’ll be very surprised if this isn’t the best Aoki that we’ve seen, if I had to guess his career has nowhere to go but down from here.

 

 Alright now, let's get to the first 5 fighters:

 

#30 Mark Hominick

 

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via video.ufc.tv

Mark Hominick                 Canada                 5-8          145lbs                   20-9                       28 years old

Mark Hominick is a fairly well known Canadian featherweight that recently took Jose Aldo to a decision for the UFC 145lbs belt. He is known for being a super nice guy, having great boxing, and growing giant bumps on his forehead that can be seen from outer space.

Current Accomplishments

Hominick has had a pretty prolific career, he started fighting in 2002 and now holds notable wins over guys like Yves Edwards, Jorge Gurgel, Yves Jabouin, Leonard Garcia and George Roop. He is the only guy I know that won a belt on his first pro fight, he was the Canadian Super-Lightweight champion, and  the Major League Featherweight Champion  but lost his belt to Japanese featherweight Hatsu Hioki (twice). He has compiled a 6-3 record under Zuffa.

Age

Hominick is 28, but I could have sworn that he was older. He’s been fighting since he was 19 so he has some nice wear and tear on his body. He has never been knocked out cold, most of his losses have come via submission.

Potential/Room for Improvement

Hominick is in the same boat as Scott Jorgensen, he is relatively young (28) but he has probably accomplished most of what he is going to accomplish in his career. He fought for the UFC belt, but honestly no matter what happened in the 5th round the fight wasn’t very competitive, Aldo easily beat him for 4 straight rounds before gassing in the 5th. Honestly if Hominick could make 135 I think he could rejuvenate his career and maybe give Cruz a run for his money. Fortunately for hominick, he has shown improvements in his career. He has always been a great striker, and has recently shown some good submissions like his triangle/armbar of Bryan Caraway, and his armbar of Savant Young, his biggest weakness is still probably his wrestling, Aldo took him down with ease.

At this point in his career Hominick is a top 5 talent, but he is more of a veteran than a "rising prospect" Much like Jorgensen, his career might have already peaked. 

#29 Michael McDonald

 

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via video.ufc.tv

Michael McDonald         United States    5-8          135lbs                   13-1                       20 years old

Michael McDonald is best known for being the youngest UFC fighter under contract, and for looking like a mini Joe Riggs

Current Accomplishments

McDonald is my age yet he already has fought professionally 14 times, its freaking ridiculous. He is already a BJJ brown belt, and hold notable wins over Chris Cariaso, Edwin Figueroa (if you haven't watched their fight watch it, its a good one), and former WEC FW champ Cole Escovedo.

Age

Michael started fighting professionally at the ripe ol' age of 16. While most of us were learning to drive and worrying about silly things like high school, Michael was Knocking people out and choking people unconscious. He is 20 years old, so he literaly has his whole career infront of him. 

Potential/Room for Improvement

Michael's potential = very yes. The main reason why he isn't higher is because he really hasn't beat enough top competitors to warrant a higher spot on this list. He avenged his only career loss to Cole Escovedo, but he is still a very green fighter. 

#28 Rory McDonald


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via video.ufc.tv

Rory McDonald                 Canada                 6-0          170lbs                   11-1                       21 years old       

Rory McDonald was once the UFC's youngest fighter, the honor now belongs to fellow McDonaldian Michael McDonald. He is ridiculously big, and strong for his age, and is one of the new generation of fighters who didn't start training one martial art and then incorporate others, he started training MMA from day one. Its a shame really, if he trained UFC then maybe he would be the champ by now, but alas i guess it was not meant to be. 

Current Accomplishments

McDonald started fighting at the ridiculous age of 16, i don't know if that makes his parents really cool or super fucking crazy. He holds victories over Jokey Guymon, Nate Diaz, and was 7 seconds away from beating Carlos Condit. Yea this guy is legit. He trains with Firas Zahabi and GSP so you know he has some good mentors up there in Montreal.

Age

Like i mentioned before, he is 21 (he will be 22 in a few weeks) and already is more well rounded than most veterans. The sky is the limit for this kid. (Is it weird that i call him kid even thou he is technically older than me?) 

Potential/Room for Improvement

      I've already covered how good Rory is and how good he can be, so ill talk about why he isn't higher on the list. Simply put he doesn't have enough experience. For all the potential he still only has 3 fights in the UFC. He has an upcoming tussle with vet Mike Pyle, if he can beat Pyle he will shoot up the rankings like crazy. He is most likely the future of the WW divison (or MW if he keeps growing)

 

#27 Erik Koch

 

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via video.ufc.tv

Erik Koch                     United States    5-10       145lbs                   12-1                       22 years old

Erik Koch a featherweight fighter fighting out of Duke Roufus' camp up in Milwaukee, he is also known as the guy that looks like Dustin Poirier.  

Current Accomplishments

Despite being only 22 years old Koch has already notched 12 career wins, 4 of them in Zuffa. He knocked out Rafael Assuncao, but lost to Chad Mendes. He has shown well rounded skills, but he prefers to knock people out. 

Age

He started fighting when he was 18, and now he is 22.... ummm what else can i say about that? 

Potential/Room for Improvement

  He is already a top 20 FW fighter, and he is only 22, he trains out of one of the best camps in the US with the likes of Anthony Pettis and Pat Barry. He has a very high ceiling in terms of skill, i don't know if he will ever be a champion as long as Aldo is at 145, but he will definitively be one of the best featherweights in the world. 

 

 

#26 Jake Ellenberger

 

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via video.ufc.tv

Jake Ellenberger              United States    5-11       170lbs                   25-5                       26 years old

Jake is one of "those" Welterweights in the UFC. Ive always confused him with Mike Pyle, Mike Pierce, and Brian Foster. Only recently have i been able to spot him out of the bunch after impressive performances against Sean Pierson and John Howard

Current Accomplishments

Since the start of his career Ellenberger has fought an average of 5 fights a year. He holds wins over fighters like Pele Landi-Jons, Mike Pyle, John Howard, and Sean Pierson. He has finished 3 of his 5 ufc fights, and his only loss is a controversial spilt decision loss to Carlos Condit in which he dominated condit in the 1st, but slowed down in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. He is an accomplished wrestler, and has proven to have nasty KO power in his hands. 

Age

Ellenberger is only 26 years old yet he's already fought 30 career fights. He has never been knocked out, and looks to be on the upside of his career. 

Potential/Room for Improvement

 I'll admit ive only seen Ellenberger fight in the UFC, but ive seen him slowly develop into a more complete fighter. I'll assume that he learned from his mistakes in the Condit fight and has learned to pace himself and not always go in for the kill. He has all the tools to be a contender, what he needs to keep doing is beating whoever the UFC puts infront of him. The first step towards being a top 10 WW is beating Jake Shields in September. 


Alright, i think that's enough for one post, this will probably be divided into 4 separate fanposts, i hope you guys like it and appreciate my silly rankings and bad jokes. Look for the next installment in the next few days...

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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