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2015 Bloody Elbow MMA Scouting Report #10 - #6 Light Heavyweight Prospects

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T.P. Grant and Zane Simon start breaking down the Top 10 prospects at Light Heavyweight.

The Bloody Elbow Scouting Report is back and this time it is examining the Top 10 prospects in the Light Heavyweight division. Often viewed as a talent starved division, Zane and myself wished to really do it justice and dig deep for those diamonds in the rough and to that end looked at over one hundred Light Heavyweights who fit our category of prospect: 30 years old or under, less than six years fighting professionally, and no UFC fights, Bellator maincard fights, or WSOF main event fights. We then evaluated each of them based on athletic ability, fighting skills, improvement over the course of their career, and success against reasonable competition. The resulting Top 10 of that search will be presented over the course of the next several weeks in addition to an EXTRA! piece denoting some of the prospects who just missed the cut.

Before we get started one question that may naturally arise is "Where are all the Americans and Brazilians?" as those are two of the traditional hot beds of talent for MMA. Keep in mind, this is a list of prospects who are still looking for their shot in one of the big shows, and when a talented American or Brazilian pops up at 205-pounds they are seen very quickly and scooped up by one of the major promotions, making them ineligible for our list.

That is not an indictment of these fighters however, the talent pool for MMA is becoming increasingly global and Light Heavyweight has been home to some outstanding European talents including Alexander Gustafsson, Gegard Mousasi, Jimi Manuwa and in older days of Japanese MMA, Alistar Overeem and Bas Rutten. It just takes longer for overseas prospects to gain notoriety and as a result often have more refined skill sets and deeper resumes than unsigned American fighters who only have four to five fights under their belt.  Alexander Gustfsson fought for two years before he was signed by the UFC, Jimi Manuwa had four years of professional fighting under his belt when he went to the UFC. Jon Jones, while clearly a superb talent even early, was scooped up inside of 5 months after his professional debut. Likewise, Brazilian Antonio Carlos Jr. made it to TUF and the UFC just one year into his pro career.

For recap of our Welterweight Top 10 check out the table at the bottom of the article, including a more in-depth look at our methodology. Or just jump right in to the Light Heavyweight Top 10!

#10 -  Shamil Gamzatov

Record: 7-0 Height: 6'2" Age: 24 Years Pro: 3

Country: Russia Team: Tataev Team Base: No-Gi Grappling

Gamzatov is currently on the low level Russian regional circuit  and is a very young 24 and 7-0 as MMA fighters go. His seven wins have come against against regional jobbers, but his physical talent is obvious and he has run through that competition as one would expect of a good prospect. Apart from MMA he's also a Dagestani amateur kickboxing and grappling champ, although it's hard to put much faith in the kickboxing title.

T.P. Grant: Gamzatov has the physical, aggressive grappling with a mean streak that is pretty ideal for MMA. He has a great takedown game from the clinch and finishes his takedowns with authority. His overall wrestling game appears to be fairly strong and he is a great athlete, which he is able to leverage into success. Gamzatov has a real nose for the finish and once he has a fighter hurt he drops pretty heavy strikes on the ground. On the feet Gamzatov is aggressive and seems to have some raw power in his strikes.

However, Gamztov's striking is really rough at this point. His footwork is not very good and he mostly uses forward linear movement and throwing punches from his chest to overwhelm his opponents, which won't work against higher level opponents. All aspects of his game need development as he is still a very raw fighter, but striking is the most urgent in need of attention.

Zane Simon: Gamzatov is all about raw potential. He has good size and strength, looks like a really solid athlete, and has shown the basics of a very decent wrestling and grappling game. He's also shown some hints of decent power in his hands, when he can get in on a flurry of strikes. Overall, his best offensive weapon is probably his clinch offense. He seems to be a real beast when he can get body contact and throw strikes or work for takedowns. He reminds me a bit of Viktor Pesta in that way, except a little further along in his striking from range.

However, his striking is still lagging. He tends to throw off his back foot when on the outside, looking to counter, but doesn't seem to have the best sense of timing or technique. He will occasionally charge in and throw a flurry of strikes, but neither is anything more than serviceable. Similarly, while his grappling game is much better, he's a bit more aggressive, especially in pulling guard for armbars, than I'd like. With his frame, he should be focused on positional dominance. But, LHW is a division made for guys to develop into their skills if they have the raw athletic tools to win fights.

Overall Projection: Gamztov's athletic ability alone makes him a notable prospect, for his size he is a very fast and dynamic athlete, and despite how raw his skill look he is making strides from fight to fight. How he fills in his skills will determine how far his career goes, he might never make it past being a tough regional fighter but he could easily find himself in meaningful fights in the UFC or Bellator.

#9 - Karl Moore

Record: 5-0 Height: 6'2" Age: 22 Years Pro: 3.2

Country: Untied Kingdom (Northern Ireland) Team: Fight Academy Ireland Base: Muay Thai

An Irish kickboxer, Karl Moore has come up in the small but growing Irish MMA scene. Primarily schooled in Muay Thai, Moore brings an exciting skill set to the table that is sure to please fans. Moore spent two years in Amateur MMA before moving into professional competition in 2011. His most notable win is over a pretty solid prospect in Richie Knox at the end of 2013.

T.P. Grant: Moore is a pretty smooth operator on the feet, his offensive arsenal is pretty diverse due to his Muay Thai base. He is intelligent and adaptive while striking, with kicks that flow very naturally to the body. At range Moore is very relaxed and does let his hands go, and as he closes range he is already very developed in his ability to initiate the clinch and create momentary openings for knees and elbows. Moore also uses his footwork very well to create striking angles. The fight with Knox was validating for Moore because he overcame a very physical and aggressive fighter who mixed in more takedowns than Moore had faced in the past. While not a technical wrestler, Moore has good hips and uses the cage well in wrestling.

Moore's biggest needs of improvement in his stand up game are defensive in nature, he has a hell of a chin and relies on it a bit too heavily. Additionally Moore's primary offensive tool is his boxing, and while effective, lacks real pop and thus he relies on his teeps and kicks to establish distance. Finally his ground game is still a bit of a mystery as he has yet to face fighters able to take him down and really keep him down.

Zane Simon: Moore has all the makings of what I like to think of as an "overachiever." In that, he's not really an eye popping athlete, at all, but his combination of grit and technical ability means that he's very likely to have better success than his athleticism might otherwise dictate. Notable overachievers include Jon Fitch, Matt Brown, and Michael Bisping. I could easily see Moore having that kind of success at the UFC level. Most notably, Moore is a great clinch striker and combination boxer. He throws really well moving in and out of the pocket, and uses a great variety of punches to keep opponents guessing.

This leaves what's missing. Most notably his size. He's not really a true light heavyweight, and I doubt he could find success there with any consistency at the UFC level. He could probably beat the lower end of talent, , but after that, there'd be a major wall. It might be a wall he could overcome, if he were a better wrestler or defensive striker. But, to date, Moore hasn't shown much ability to change levels and make an opponent look for more than just strike, and he gets hit a lot. Being tough is good, but if it comes to an OSP sized LHW punching him in the head, I'm not sure toughness alone would get him a win.

Overall Projection: Moore is still very young both in life and his career, so there is still quite a bit of work to do and he isn't an athletic super talent. But Moore is a tough kid with a good deal of technical ability already and his projection aligns very nicely with Matt Brown. Like Brown, Moore has the ability to out preform the level of his athleticism with a deep technical game and the right amount of aggression and grit. Moore could end up on any point of Brown's career arc from .500 UFC fighter, to solid gatekeeper, to surprising contender depending on how well he fills in his technical holes. Moore is young enough to keep growing, but it is also possible that a move to Middleweight may be needed later in his career.

#8 - Karl Albrektsson

Record: 3-0 Height: 6'2" Age: 21 Years Pro: 2.4

Country: Sweden Team: Pancrase Gym Sweden Base: MMA

Sweden is seen as being a possible new European hotbed for MMA talent, and Karl Albrektsson is an early standout from a new generational of Swedish fighters. Albrektsson started fighting professionally in 2012 as an eighteen-year-old. Despite only having fought professionally a handful of times, Albrektsson has several amateur MMA and Shootfighting matches to his name, in addition to being the 2014 European Sanshou Champion.

T.P. Grant: Albrektsson is a pretty excellent athletic talent, he has a large frame to build a Light Heavyweight body. Albrektsson's background of not having a specific background and training more generally in mixed arts shows in that, while he doesn't have a stand out skill, for a fighter with less than five professional fights he is quite well rounded. His takedown game is already fairly developed and he transitions well from striking to takedowns, already. Once on top he kills the hips of his opponents and then lays on the ground striking to good effect.

The big current draw back is that Albrektsson's striking is almost non-existent as part of his offensive game plan and his bottom game is largely untested. He is very young and still very raw, so the range of possible career outcomes remains pretty large.

Zane Simon: For me, Albrektsson is a collection of good singular skills that have yet to be mixed to a real fighting style. He has very solid footwork from the outside, a decent blast double, and great top control, but it doesn't quite mesh as of yet. Of all of them, his top control and ground and pound feel most refined.

As for what he doesn't do well... Most notably, when Albrektsson comes in behind his strikes, he tends to overreach and off balance himself. He's a blitizing striker with a decent sense of timing and some okay technique, but neither efficient, nor terribly effective. The fact that he's early in his career, has obviously developed some striking tools outside of MMA, and seems like a great physical specimen, lead me to believe his problems will iron out. But until they do, he remains something of an unknown.

Overall Projection: Albrektsson has a lot of seasoning to do before he is ready to step in with more finished products, but his athletic ability and already impressive skill progression mark him as a fighter to watch. His aggressive takedown and ground striking game could allow him to grow into a role similar of that held by Rick Story in the Welterweight division. If Albrektsson continues to increase his command of transitions between striking and takedowns his game could come to resemble that of Rashad Evans.

#7 - Jiri Prochazka

Record: 10-2 Height: 6'4" Age: 21 Years Pro: 2.8

Country: Czech Repulbic Team: Jetsaam Gym Base: MMA

Unbeknownst to the staff of Bloody Elbow, Jiri Prochazka the body builder and Jiri Prochazka the fighter are two totally different people. Our apologies for any misinformation contained in this article due to that fact.

Prochazka is a legitimately great athlete who is learning the ropes of fighting. He trains out of a small gym currently and is fighting on the Eastern European and Russian scene. He has faced good opposition. His first loss came in the first year of his career and his second came against #7 prospect Abdul-Kerim Edilov in June of 2013. He is currently slated to faced elite prospect Mikhail Mokhnatkin in late December.

T.P. Grant: Prochazka athleticism jumps off the screen, he moves with an ease, speed, and fluidity that is shocking considering his size. His striking is still disjointed bits of techniques, but it can come together at times with surprising timing and accuracy and when he lands it has some power to it. Being a young, top flight athlete it is not surprising that he tends to favor flashier and more athletic attacks such as flying knees and spinning hook kicks, but he is also building a more functional striking game to go with those techniques.

On the ground Prochazka can get heavy on top and drop some serious leather, but his wrestling and bottom game still needs some work, as demonstrated by Edilov.  Prochazka's first career loss to Bojan Velickovic really demonstrated a need for Prochazka to be more diligent about building a technical game and he clearly learned and took the lesson to heart. Since then, it's obvious Prochazka has been working on his grappling.

Zane Simon: If Prochazka were a little more thickly built, or even just a better wrestler, he'd probably be the top guy on our list. Of all the light heavyweight prospects we scouted, he is most certainly the best athlete. What he does well, he makes look easy. Whether it's hitting a flying knee straight into single leg defense, or slipping a punch and coming back with a hard shot of his own. He's way faster than the average guy at 205.

He's also, maybe, not quite a true 205er. He looked notably, physically overwhelmed on the bottom against Edilov. Part of that is a real need to improve his wrestling game, but part of it is that much of success at 205 is determined by whether you're big enough for the weightclass. However, Prochazka has been improving rapidly, and will probably have no trouble adding mass if that's what he wants to do.

Overall Projection: There are a lot of question marks with Prochazka. Most Notably, if his skills will continue to grow? because all aspects of his game need to keep improving if he is going to make the most of his athletic ability. But, just based on his natural gifts, he could win fights on the lower end of the UFC Light Heavyweight division without much more development. However, he has the potential to be a younger version of Ovince St. Preux and reach the Top 15 of the division, with a stretch career goal of contending at some point.

#6 - Abdul-Kerim Edilov

Record: 13-4 Height: 6'3" Age: 23 Years Pro: 4.8

Country: Russia Team: Acadmey MMA Sweden Base: Combat Sambo

Edilov started his career as an undersized Heavyweight and has since successfully mastered the weight cut down to 205 pounds. Fighting in Russia, Edilov has been extremely active in his five year career fighting three to six times a year. In that time frame he has faced a reasonably tough level of competition mixed in with a few expected regional cans. He's also a Moscow combat sambo champion.

T.P. Grant: For Edilov the discussion begins and ends with his strength, he is a big, powerful man. His wrestling is quite good and can bully opponents quite a bit in the clinch. He has Combat Sambo striking, which is to say technically sound but doesn't emphasize combination striking and focuses more on single kill shots. From top position Ediov is aggressive, if not overly technical, with strikes and submission attacks.

Edilov isn't a next level athlete, and his striking needs quite a bit of work to be functional against an efficient striker. His ground fighting is fairly rudimentary and his clinch fighting is fairly based largely on his size and power.

Zane Simon: More than any other fighter we've looked at so far, Abdul-Kerim Edilov has the size of a true light heavyweight. He's a big, powerful, 6'3" with a crushing top game and a really solid wrestling game. He's also made notable advances in his clinch striking of late, and seems like he may have improved his training, getting a little more speed out of his footwork and cagework.

His striking is rudimentary however, and while he's got great, powerful ground and pound, he's also a bit overaggressive on the ground, and has shown some problems in prolonged bouts against superior grapplers. And while I'm glad to see that it looks like he's gained a step, he's still not an elite athlete at 205. Eventually, he's got a great base skill as a wrestler and sambo practitioner, but it reamains to be seen whether he's technical enough in any one area to find high level success.

Overall Projection: On this list Edilov is the least likely to become a Top 15 fighter, but his style of fighting is well suited for the Unified Rules style of judging so he is likely to fall under that overachiever label outlined above. In his current state he could likely win a few fights at Light Heavyweight in Bellator or the UFC and could top out as a gate keeper to the upper levels of the division.

To look up other articles in this series check out the table below. For comments, questions, or suggestions head down to the comment line or reach out to T.P. and Zane on Twitter: @TP_Grant and @TheZaneSimon

2015 Bloody Elbow Scouting Report

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#3. Nurmagomedov
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#6. Vartanyan
#7. Kadestam
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