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. Thiago Michel Pereira Silva (9-2)
After falling to Alessandro Ferreira in his first post-scouting report fight, Thiago Michel came back strong, notching two 2011 first round stoppages in front of his partisan home crowd in Minas Gerais, Brazil. After his last bout, he announced to the crowd that he would be making his North American debut next as part of Bellator's sixth season. Michel enters a tournament field stacked with talent including returning finalist Patricky Freire (10-2), 2011 #2 Lightweight selection Ricardo Tirloni (14-1), and former welterweight tournament fighters Rick Hawn (11-1) and Brent Weedman (18-7-1).
2. Ricardo Tirloni (14-1)
Ricardo Tirloni earned his place in Bellator's season six lightweight tournament via a dominant second round submission victory over Steve Gable (5-2) in his promotional debut. Tirloni showed some of his kickboxing ability, but the fight was memorable mainly for his complete shutdown of Gable's takedown attempts. Most shots resulted in Ricardo casually reversing the attempt into top position for himself. Now he presumably heads into the tournament behind in the odds to favorites Freire and Hawn, but it would be unwise to count him out.
3. Magno Almeida (9-3)
Although he graduated to Strikeforce in 2011, Magno Almeida finished the year in a precarious position. His June debut at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum against Conor Heun (9-4) was a hit. Magno nearly submitted Heun with a leglock combination and then an armbar, inflicting injuries to both limbs targeted. But the judges favored Heun's escape artistry and third round comeback, awarding him the decision. It still could have been a source of career momentum for Almeida if not for his follow-up effort at Strikeforce Challengers 19 in September, a one punch knockout loss to James Terry (11-3) on the unaired preliminary portion of the card. With Zuffa and Showtime reducing the number of Strikeforce events for 2012, it remains unclear if he will have another chance with the promotion.
4. Yui Chul Nam (13-3-1)
Yui Chul Nam started 2011 on the wrong foot with another dubious judge's decision against Adrian Pang (19-8-2) at Legend Fighting Championship 4, dropping a split loss after being dealt a draw in the first meeting. But since then "The Korean Bulldozer" has been better than ever, finishing the year on a three fight winning streak. Sometimes Nam even finds the self-discipline to rein his wild, brawling style now. His July win over Aussie Rob Hill (9-5-1) at LFC 5 put him back in the promotional #1 contender slot. Nam is expected to challenge Sengoku standout Jadamba Narantungalag (7-2) next for the belt Jadamba took from Pang at LFC 6 in October.
5. Henrique Mello (12-4)
Henrique Mello entered 2011 on an eight fight winning streak with five straight finishes. An opportunity with a major promotion seemed inevitable. But the worst year since his 2006 debut puts him at the back of the line in an increasingly competitive Brazilian circuit. After dropping a decision to Luta Livre specialist Julio Cesar de Almeida (15-6) on April 16th, Mello opted to fight just 13 days later against WEC veteran Carlo Prater (29-10-1). Prater, a double black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Luta Livre, dismantled Mello for a rear naked choke win in under a minute. Now Prater awaits his UFC debut while Mello tries to figure out where to begin rebuilding.
6. Reza Madadi (11-2)
Reza Madadi rappelled his way onto the rooftop of our hearts last year with his bombastic demeanour and complete victories over UFC veteran Junie Browning (4-5) and UFC newcomer Carlo Prater. He capped off his run in Stockholm, Sweden's Superior Challenge series by edging Rich Clementi (42-21-1) in a three round affair. From the pre-fight chatter to the highly disputed outcome, there was no love lost between the two. Madadi recently infiltrated the UFC and will make his debut January 20th at UFC on FX: Guillard vs. Miller in Nashville, Tennessee. He is facing the toughest opponent of his six year career, Brazil's Fabricio Camoes (13-6-1)
7. Alexander Sarnavskiy (17-0)
Alexander Sarnavskiy ran his record up to a gaudy 12-0 within two years of his pro debut, but why stop there? In 2011 the 22 year old collected five more wins to reiterate his status as one of the most fearsome young fighters in Europe. A May submission over UFC veteran Doug Evans (13-10) proved he can handle a step up in competition. He almost took another against Francisco Drinaldo (10-1) at M-1 Challenge 30 in December, but he had to settle for steamrolling late replacement Sergio Cortez (7-7) instead. Sarnavskiy is the obvious #1 contender for Daniel Weichel's M-1 Lightweight Championship, but with his contract set to expire soon, Alexander could take a break from his busy schedule and test the free agent waters rather than challenging for the belt.
8. Ole Laursen (5-2)
A 2010 three fight win streak in Martial Combat transformed Ole Laursen from a forgotten K-1 castoff into one of the most popular Southeast Asian circuit fighters. After his selection for the 2011 report, Ole was signed to the ambitious new pan-Asian promotion, One Fighting Championships, a spiritual successor to Martial Combat. Laursen was matched with Eduard Folayang (10-1) for the September 2011 main event of One FC's inaugural card in a battle for bragging rights between Thailand and the Philippines. Unfortunately an injury suffered by Laursen in training forced him to withdraw from the bout. A planned fight on the sophomore One FC event against Bernardo Magalhaes (11-1) was also turfed; now Laursen will face Felipe Enomoto (5-3) at the February 11th, 2012 show in Jakarta, Indonesia.
9. Guillaume DeLorenzi (9-1)
If all had gone to plan, Guillaume DeLorenzi would be the Next Big Quebecois Thing in the UFC. The Zahabi MMA fighter had built big buzz on the Canadian circuit with a four fight win streak including three in Ringside MMA, Montreal's biggest pro series. Being a prominent training partner to UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre didn't hurt either. But lingering, recurring injuries have forced DeLorenzi away from the cage since a June 2010 win over UFC veteran Dale Hartt (6-3). Guillame has continued to train in the interim, and in 2011 he underwent surgeries on both of his knees. With a major hurdle cleared, Delorenzi is hitting the comeback trail, but he's far from his fighting weight and admits he will need some time to get back to top condition. Expect to see him return no sooner than the latter half of 2012.
[Thanks to Clement Delestrade (@ClementH2) for translating DeLorenzi's comments]
10. Al Iaquinta (5-1-1)
It was a mixed 2011 campaign for Serra-Longo Fight Team's Al Iaquinta. Continuing exclusively under the Ring of Combat banner, he first engaged in a terrific three round dust-up with Vitor Shaolin Jiu Jitsu's Gabriel Migloili (2-3) which Iaquinta was lucky to come away from victorious. An immediate rematch was staged in September, this time for the vacant 155lb. ROC title. This time it was over in a matter of seconds due to a front snap kick from Iaquinta that blinded Miglioli and sent him reeling back for the referee to save. Al's good luck would run out in November against UFC veteran Pat Audinwood (10-2-1). The towering Team Bombsquard lightweight relieved Iaquinta of his title with a tight armbar submission in the opening round.