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Bloody Elbow Scouting Report: Featherweight EXTRA! Grapplers Edition

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T.P. Grant runs down some of his favorite Featherweight prospects that didn't quite make the Top 10 list, including Arnold Allen, ADCC medalist Justin Rader, and BJJ luminary Ryan Hall.

As Zane and I have been frequently pointing out, the Featherweight division has a huge amount talent coming up and a Top Ten list, even with our tie for the number two slot, couldn't come close to containing the number of noteworthy fighters we scouted.

Zane and I have split the 21 fighters we still want to cover between us into two EXTRA pieces. This piece will have a "Near Misses" category that covers fighters who were in the final running for the Top 10, "Probable Callups" that cover guys that you will likely see in the UFC or Bellator some day, and finally "BJJ Cross Overs" which cover a few high profile sport BJJ players who are trying their hand at MMA.

The Near Misses

Arnold Allen (Age: 20 Record: 9-1 Camp: BKK Fighters Country: England)

Allen is a top prospect for many prognosticators of MMA, and it is easy to see why when you watch his fights.  Allen is a highly technical clinch fighter, works really well from the body lock, is very adept at disrupting opponent's balance, has great trips, and is rarely trapped against the fence. On the ground, Allen looks to strike, particularly from half guard and has a nice transition to a front headlock attack as opponents try to stand up. He currently fights in Cage Warriors in England and has faced a good quality of opponent. So why not include him in the Top 10? It was a close thing - he is clearly a very talented fighter. However, he does have some physical developing to do, as he does not really cut any weight to fight at Featherweight. In mid-2014, Marcin Wrzosek was able to beat Allen at his own game by virtue of being a larger, stronger, more physically developed man. Allen is very young and has time to grow onto his frame, but that is going to have to happen for him to compete with some of the physical beasts at the upper tiers of Featherweight. A drop to Bantamweight could also very likely be in the cards for Allen. Good things are certainly in Allen's future; he could very well end up being a Nik Lentz type of his generation, with a strong clinch and wrestling game that puts him on par with elite fighters.

Herbert Burns (Age: 26 Record: 5-0 Camp: Evolve MMA Country: Brazil)

A champion of the no gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu scene, Burns could easily fit into to the "BJJ Cross Over" category, but his career is off to such a hot start that he was in the consideration for the Top 10. The brother of spicy hot UFC Lightweight prospect Gilbert Burns, Herbert brings a similarly top-notch technique in the ground game. Burns has spent his entire five-fight, three-year career in ONE FC and has fought experienced competition there. The Brazilian is a very good athlete and has excellent speed in his transition game, finding the back at the slightest opening. He keeps a relentless pace in his fights and doesn't tire easily. Burns is a decent wrestler, and if he grabs the body lock, he has some reliable takedowns, but he can be overpowered in the clinch. He has some solid kicks and a strong right hand, but he does not currently throw combinations, and his defensive game is a work in progress. Burns has the makings of a solid wrestler/grappler and could end up being a high-level gatekeeper or even a title contender.



Marat Gafurov (Age: 30 Record: 10-0, 1 NC Camp: Fighting Eagle Country: Russia)

Gafurov is an M-1 stand out that has been swept up by ONE FC. The Russian is a well-rounded grappler with good wrestling, a tough clinch game, and an aggressive mat attack. Gafurvo throws hard strikes on the outside and works his way into the clinch well. Once inside, Gafurov has a diverse and powerful takedown game. On the ground, Gafurov has an excellent feel for transition and submission attack, and he recently got his brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at a Team Nogueira school in Dubai. So why wasn't Gafurov on our Top 10? At 30 years old, and in his fifth year as a professional fighter, he is on the extreme edge of what we define as a prospect for these reports. He is likely done making big strides of improvement and is quickly approaching his peak period as a fighter. So the clock is ticking on Gafurov, but if he does hit the big show soon, he could be a Dong Hyun Kim of the Featherweight division.



Probable Callups

Martin Buschkamp (Age: 24 Record: 8-0 Camp: Frota Team Nogueira Country: Germany)

A German wrestler/grappler, Buschkamp has been kicking around the central European circuit for the last 5+ years, fighting professionally since he was a teenager. That makes him on the edge of no longer being a prospect by our years of professional fighting, but he only fights around twice a year so he doesn't have the wear and tear of most fighters approaching their sixth year of professional fighting, and potentially has more room for growth. Buschkamp is a good athlete and moves well on the feet. His striking game is fairly diverse, but charging punch flurries are really the centerpiece of his offense on the feet. He is strong in the clinch, drags opponents to the mat, and then really goes to work on them. He brings an old school pass-and-smash Jiu Jitsu mindset to ground fighting, putting crushing pressure down, striking well, and pouncing on the back the moment his opponents expose it. Buschkamp is a strong scrambler and has excellent submission defense. Buschkamp very likely will find himself in the UFC or Bellator, and he could be very similar to Michael Chiesa.

Chris Fishgold (Age: 22 Record: 10-0 Camp: Next Generation UK Country: England)

Fishgold is a Cage Warriors stand out and an aggressive submission wrestler. He has been plying his craft for about five years as a professional, and he has accumulated some pretty solid wins on his resume. Fishgold is technical, gritty, and all motor - he never stops attacking. He has a tenacious single leg takedown game, a tricky clinch game, and once on the ground,  unleashes a storm of elbows and punches. As Fishgold pushes the pace, he will catch the back as opponents look to disengage and from there he will look for the submission. Fishgold is a solid athlete and overcomes superior athletes regularly with his grinding style. His reliance on the single leg could cause him trouble against the higher level wrestlers. Fishgold may never contend for a high-level title, but he certainly could become a potential action fighter similar to Joe Lauzon.

Saba Bolaghi Age: 25 Record: 3-0-1 Camp: Team MMA Spirit Country: Germany)

Son of an Iranian citizen who fled to Germany in 1979, Bolaghi is a stand-out wrestler for the German national freestyle team. Bolaghi won the Junior World Championships in 2009, took bronze in the 2011 European Championships, and earned Germany's Wrestler of the Year. He has an explosive shot, is strong in the clinch, and consistently works when on the ground. Thus far in his career, he has either overwhelmed opponents when he wins or grinds them down till they give up a submission. At this point, Bolaghi isn't much of a striker and is developing his ground game, but only being 4 fights in his career, he has time.

Raoni Barcelos (Age: 27 Record: 7-1 Camp: Nova Uniao/Laerte Barcelos Country: Brazil)

Despite only being three years into his career, Barcelos fights like a veteran. Barcelos is a fairly well-developed fighter in all phases, with solid striking and wrestling and a stand out ground attack. A Brazilian No Gi champion, Barcelos is heavy and physically imposing from top position and strikes well on the ground. On the feet, Barcelos actually has some defensive fundamentals not common among fighters entering their fourth year of professional competition. Barcelos currently fights in the RFA and is set to fight Sam Toomer on February 6th. Barcelos started a bit older than some of our other prospects, but still has plenty of time to grow and develop. He is a good athlete and could very well find himself in the UFC or Bellator in a year or two.


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Cross Overs

Justin Rader (Age: 28 Record: 3-0 Camp: Lovato Martial Arts Country: USA)

An American stand out in the no gi submission grappling world, Rader is a Rafael Lovato Jr black belt and is a No Gi World Champion and was a bronze medalist at the 2013 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships, the most difficult and prestigious no gi competition in the world. A former wrestler, Rader is known most for his takedown, guard passing, and back takes. Those skills have transferred over in his short stint in MMA. His striking is still limited, but he can throw a powerful right hand. On the ground, Rader pulls out moves not often seen in MMA, such as truck rolls to the back, but he mixes it together with tough top control and a good submission game. Rader is currently under contract with the Legacy Fighting Championships, and he got a late start on fighting MMA while still developing an overall MMA game, but he could end up carving out a niche on Bellator cards or on UFC undercards.

Rafael Domingos (Age: 25 Record: 4-0 Camp: Demian Maia MMA Country: Brazil)

A Demian Maia prodigy, Domingos brings an aggressive and technical ground game into the cage. Domingos fights out of Brasilia but actually competes on the Finish MMA scene. Domingos's fights tend to be really entertaining as there are periods of extremely dynamic scrambling, but that isn't necessarily a great thing. Domingos can lock down a position and often finds success within chaos, so he allows a great deal of chaos on the ground to occur. But Domingos has all the signs of being a killer in transition as he matures as a fighter. His striking is a work in progress and his takedown game is strong. He looks very much like Rani Yahya and could fill a similar role in his division.

Ryan Hall (Age: 29 Record: 4-1 Camp: 50/Fifty Jiu Jitsu/Tristar Country: USA)

One of the very first stand out American competitors in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Submission grappling scenes, Hall is a highly technical grappler and deep thinker about all things combat sports. His growing frustration with the rules of BJJ tournaments prompted a full time switch to MMA. Hall's lone loss came in a one-fight dip into MMA in 2006 when he was still a member of Team Llyod Irvin, but Hall left the gym after disputes with Irvin and well before that camp's highly public scandal. Hall has since trained at his own gym or with members of Alliance BJJ, where Hall got his black belt, or MMA at Tristar Gym. Hall returned to MMA in 2012 and has run off four straight wins. Tape of Hall's fights are hard to come by, but from the fights I've seen, he has adapted his skills well to MMA, throwing out his inverted guard game in favor of his crushing top position, excellent triangle attacks, and infamous leg lock attack. His striking is very much a work in progress, and at nearly 30-years-old, he is working against the clock as a prospect. Until recently, Hall's biggest challenge in MMA was getting an opponent who would actually show up to fight him, but he recently signed a deal with Titian FC that should hopefully solve that problem. Hall's name value, working at Tristar Gym combined with his thoughtful approach to fighting and outstanding grappling skills mean he could very likely find himself fighting for a big show and be an older but more technical Marcin Held.

Stay tuned for the other Featherweight EXTRA piece by Zane Simon and then it is on to Middleweight! And 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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#2. MagomedovTemirov
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#4. Jordan
#5. Motta
#6. Vitruk
#7. Askhabov
#8. Grundy
#9. Matmuratov
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#2. Martell
#3. Kurbanismailov
#4. Astakhov
#5. Ankalaev
#6. Edilov
#7. Prochazka
#8. Albrektsson
#9. Moore
#10. Gamzatov
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