2011 World MMA Scouting Report Review -  Middleweights

This is a guest post by Rory MacLeod (smoogy)

A year ago, we selected the inaugural class of fighters that would make up the first edition of the World MMA Scouting Report. It's been a gratifying experience to see some of the athletes we selected go on to succeed in major fight opportunities, and a heartbreaking one to see others come up just short. For each pick that claimed a significant title in 2011, there were at least two that didn't make their breakthrough, or fell off the rails entirely. Here's a recap to give you a sampling of the highlights (and lowlights) from a tumultuous time in the careers of these MMA prospects.

1. Papy Abedi (8-1)

As expected, Ultimate Fighting Championships' matchmaker Joe Silva came calling for Papy Abedi in 2011. However, Abedi made his November debut in a different weight class than expected, and against a much higher level of opponent than he had seen in his eight fight pro career: perennial welterweight contender Thiago Alves (19-8). Surprisingly, Abedi set the pace early with his kickboxing, but after a hot start he was clipped by Alves and rounded up on the ground for a rear naked choke finish. Even though Papy took a beating, the short and violent affair turned heads. He returns in April as the presumptive favorite when he greets James Head (7-2) in his home city of Stockholm Sweden.

2. Chris Weidman (7-0)

What is there to tell about Chris Weidman that followers of the UFC don't already know? He made his debut in style by tenderizing fan favorite Alessio Sakara as a late replacement in March. A follow-up submission over fellow sophomore Jesse Bongfeldt (16-5-1) in June looked effortless. Weidman capped off his perfect rookie year by tucking in six-fight UFC veteran Tom Lawlor (7-4) with a brabo choke in November. Expectations for the Hostra wrestling product are sky-high headed into 2012, and if his kickboxing improvement can keep up with his uncanny aptitude for grappling, Chris Weidman could break into the upper-echelon of the middleweight division quickly.

3. Vitor Vianna (12-2-1)

Expectations were high for Vitor Vianna in 2011. He entered the Bellator season five middleweight tournament as one of the buzzed-about newcomers due mostly to his protege status under Brazilian legend Wanderlei Silva. Vitor was unimpressive in his quarterfinal bout against Sam Alvey (16-3), grappling his way to a lethargic decision. In the semifinals his chances of upsetting tournament regular Bryan Baker (16-3) were written off, but "The Beast" charged right into Vianna's wheelhouse and was floored by punches early in round one to restore faith in the Brazilian-born, Las Vegas-based prospect. In the finals, Vitor put up a respectable effort but came up short of preventing Russian stalwart Alexander Shlemenko (44-7) from capturing his second consecutive tournament crown. Vianna is rumored to return for the upcoming sixth season tournament, but so far has not been confirmed.

4. Vyacheslav Vasilevsky (15-1)

Vyacheslav Vasilevsky continued to make his case as the top middleweight on the European circuit in 2011, taking out a variety of foreign opposition including Spain's Enoc Solves (10-4) and Czech journeyman Tomas Kuzela (18-15). It was announced that Bellator Fighting Championships had added "Slava" to their ranks in the lead-up to their sixth season, but previous employer M-1 Global claimed that they still retained exclusive rights to promote the Russian standout. The issues has yet to see a publicly disclosed resolution and so far Vasilevsky's name has not been among those added to the upcoming middleweight tournament.

5. Bruno Santos (12-0)

Jon Fitch's incredible streak of decisions may have come to a sudden end in 2011, but the futility continued for Bahia, Brazil's Bruno Santos. In total he has compiled a stunning nine-fight, thirty-one round streak of decisions since his lone stoppage due to strikes in 2008. Still, Bruno notched some noteworthy wins; he won the eight-man BItteti Combat Cup tournament, besting Angel Orellana (3-1), Vitor Nobrega (11-5) and Julio Cesar Dos Santos (5-2-1) in one night. Now he'll have a shot in a different format and for a much bigger prize when he makes his Bellator Fighting Championships debut in their season six middleweight tournament.

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6. Constantinos Philippou (9-2)

After taking a decision over #8 selection Uriah Hall (5-2) in February, Team Serra-Longo's Costa Philippou got a late replacement opportunity on March's UFC 128 card in Newark, New Jersey against fellow local Nick Catone (9-2). Philippou lost the decision in that fight, but he's managed to stick around in the UFC, outworking veteran Jorge Rivera (19-9) in August and laying waste to Jared Hamman (13-4) in December to emerge as a fresh face in the middleweight division. Next up, Costa will look to lay his heavy hands on The Ultimate Fighter 11 winner Court McGee (14-1) at April's UFC on FX 2 card in Sydney, Australia.

7. Jordan Smith (17-2-1)

Splitting a busy schedule between bouts in Brazil and his home state of Utah, Jordan Smith has had mixed results as he crawls closer to a major fight opportunity. His advance was halted by an eleven second dusting at the hands of UFC veteran Tim Mckenzie in April. Jordan returned from the humbling loss to post the best win of his career (on paper, at least) over former UFC contender Karo Parisyan (19-8) in September. Add in a follow-up victory over California's Josh MacDonald (8-5) to put Jordan firmly back on track for 2012. As a known commodity at this point, he'll have to improve his defense, particularly his boxing guard, to make it on the world stage.

8. Uriah Hall (5-2)

Considering Uriah Hall lost to fellow New Yorker Chris Weidman shortly before making the 2011 report, expectations for his career trajectory were tempered from the get go. He went on to drop his next fight to another 2011 selection, Costa Philippou, in February. Hall bounced back with a knockout over local instructor Aung La Nsang (8-6) in April. Fighting exclusively under New Jersey's Ring of Combat banner, Uriah will look to keep up his momentum when he takes on Daniel Akenyemi (2-0) in February on the boardwalk in Atlantic City.

9. Victor O'Donnell (11-3)

As a regular on the East Coast MMA circuit Victor O'Donnell caught the attention of Bellator Fighting Championships, parlaying a February win over Andrew Riddles (5-1) in New Jersey into a place on Bellator's season five middleweight tournament roster. O'Donnell did not advance in the tournament, getting smoked out by powerhouse kickboxer Brian Rogers (8-3) early in round one of their quarterfinal bout. Victor loudly objected to the stoppage, and it evidently made an impression; he has been granted another shot in the upcoming season six middleweight meet.

10. Assan Njie (11-2)

Assan Njie looked as sharp as ever at April's Super Challenge 7 in Stockholm, Sweden, catching Beslan Isaev (18-5) in the first round with a guillotine choke. Unfortunately, Superior Challenge seems to have fallen off the map and taken Njie along with it, as he hasn't seen action since the win. He would make a fine addition to the first UFC card in Sweden if matchmaker Joe Silva can make room on the April card.

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