It's hard to successfully predict one single MMA fight. It's even harder to successfully predict one single MMA career. And it's downright impossible to successfully predict eight MMA careers. But I'm going to attempt it anyway.
The eight prospects that I'll be highlighting are fighters in the welterweight division, a weight class that that is filled with young and promising fighters already in the major MMA promotions such as Ben Askren, Rory MacDonald, and Erick Silva.
Askren, MacDonald, and Silva are the golden standard for welterweight prospects. All of the fighters on my list have potential to follow in their footsteps, but they also have the potential to fail and never truly make MMA a career.
The eight prospects have a lot of raw talent, but in order to truly be successful in Mixed Martial Arts they are going to have to take their game to the next level by refining their strengths and eliminating their weaknesses.
Now, without further adieu, here are eight of the top welterweight prospects in MMA today.
(To clarify, I consider a prospect to be a fighter with roughly three years or less of professional MMA experience.)
Dhiego Lima (7-1)
The striking game of Dhiego Lima is downright scary. His ability to mix up his combinations with a wide array of strikes combined with his speed makes him one of the top pure strikers at 170 pounds. The upside is high for Lima, but he could easily be stuck fighting on lower-tier MMA shows if he does not improve his defensive wrestling, a glaring hole in his game. Off of his back, Lima is certainly dangerous with submissions, but he runs into trouble against veteran wrestlers that have proficient submission defense.
Braulio Estima (1-0)
What's that? You've never heard of a 32 year-old prospect? Well, look no further than BJJ expert Braulio Estima. When I say BJJ expert, I really mean it. Estima is one of the top active BJJ practitioners in the world today with multiple world championships and high-ranking victories as evidence. Estima made his professional MMA debut last week-end as he submitted Chris Holland at TFC 24 with an arm-triangle submission. In order to succeed, Estima will have to hone his MMA skills and become a more complete fighter by upgrading himself on the feet and installing a more explosive takedown shot.
Krzysztof Jotko (10-0)
Poland is slowly but surely churning top MMA athletes and Krzysztof Jotko is the latest example of that. The Polish welterweight is a talented fighter that likes to the close distance and turn fights into grappling matches. Finishing five of his last seven fighters, Jotko is a methodical fighter that takes advantages of openings given to him by his opponents. A former middleweight, Jotko looked solid in his welterweight debut against Damir Hadzovic at MMA Attack 2 as he defeated his opponent in decision fashion.
Leandro Silva (5-0-1)
Three consecutive victories have earned Leandro Silva a spot on the upcoming Legacy Fighting Championship card that can be seen live on AXS TV. Silva is a solid Brazilian grappler that also has competent skills on the feet. Although he may be a bit undersized for the welterweight division, I believe that Silva is still more than formidable at 170 pounds. As the Brazilian continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how he fairs against higher levels of competition as he hasn't faced that many true tests thus far in his career.
Nicolas Dalby (8-0)
The international flavor of welterweight prospects continues as we move on to Nicolas Dalby who hails from Copenhagen, Denmark. Undefeated in eight professional bouts, Dalby is a well-rounded mixed martial artist that does a fine job of game planning by fighting to the weaknesses of his opponents. Dalby doesn't exactly wow you with one attribute, but he gets the job done and at the end of the day that is all that matters. He next steps into the cage against Ivica Truscek later this month as he attempts to avenge the loss of his teammate, Kenneth Rosfort-Nees.
Tom Breese (4-0)
Working his way up the BAMMA card, Tom Breese is starting to make a name for himself as a promising welterweight. Breese is a tall, lanky fighter for the welterweight division, and he has used his length to his advantage in his fights with triangle submissions and hard-hitting leg kicks. The last place you want to be against Tom Breese is on your back as he is a dangerous, offensive grappler that looks for the finish frequently. I'm really looking forward to the trajectory of Breese's career as I think he has potential to be great.
Khusein Khaliev (5-0)
Khusen Khaliev is another intriguing Russian prospect that could make a mark in the welterweight division if he continues to sophisticate his game. Khaliev is a fighter with suffocating wrestling, dominant top control, and above average submission skills. With only one fight this year, Khaliev, a fighter that is still a bit green and choppy with his stand-up, should garner some more experience. Nevertheless, Khaliev is a grinder that is a threat to beat a lot of his peers.