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2015 Bloody Elbow MMA Scouting Report #10 - #6 Middleweight Prospects

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T.P. Grant and Zane Simon make their return to scouting and kick off the Top 10 Middleweight prospects in MMA.

Yes the Bloody Elbow Scouting Report is finally back! Zane and I have had a lot on our plate recently, but we are very happy to announce that the Middleweight division has been scouted and ranked. While Middleweight is often seen as something of a barren division in terms of young talent, and there was some serious chaff to sift through, we are pleased to report on some of the very notable talents we've come across.

A list of about 130 Middleweights was complied and distilled down to 20 fighters we plan on highlighting, our Top 10 list and then another 10 to be featured in an EXTRA! piece. For our looks at the Welterweight, Light Heavyweight and Featherweight divisions check out the table at the bottom of the screen.

Let's start digging into that Top 10:

#10 - Max Nunes

Record: 14-2 Height: 6'1" Age: 26 Years Pro: 4.5

Country: Sweden Team: Allstars Training Center Base: MMA

Max "Power" Nunes is one of the big name Middleweights form the Northern European regional scene. A former Light Heavyweight, and is currently 3-1 at 185-pounds. His lone loss at Middleweight came in a BAMMA title match against current UFC fighter Scott Askham. Nunes has a submission win over BE Scouting Report #2 Light Heavyweight Ian Martell. He also has wins over solid regional litmus test fighters like Boris Miroshnichenko. Nunes has been with BAMMA since 2012, but after his title shot loss he returned to Sweden and Superior Challenge 11, to pick up a win.

T.P. Grant: Nunes is the prospect everyone has heard of and for good reasons. He is a really good athlete, it is what allowed him to be competitive even against very good Light Heavyweights in his early career. The drop to Middleweight has really benefited Nunes in the clinch, where he is very skilled. He is constantly working, rarely gives up a bad angle, and whenever he has even a little bit of space Nunes sneaks in a knee. On the ground Nunes is a solid grappler, but at his best from the top position, where he has very clean striking technique. Nunes' outside striking is still a work in progress, but he can put strikes on guys in the right situation. His defensive wrestling is good, by relies heavily on his athleticism and can be defeated by more technical opponents.

Zane Simon: Nunes is something of an old hand to the prospect game. A guy that tore out of the gate and gathered a lot of hype quickly, and then, probably, hit a roadblock at just the point he should have been making the jump to the UFC. He dropped to middleweight after that loss and rebounded nicely, but lost again to top prospect Scott Askham. For our purposes, Nunes is still a prospect and still has so many of the ingredients that make him probable for success at a higher level. He's a great athlete, a decent wrestler and a power grappler. He has snapping kicks and punches at range and a good well rounded game. The problem is that, as a big/rangy fighter, he's never quite fit his tools to his frame just right. His striking is more based around a desire to maintain distance than do damage, and his wrestling and grappling is good, but not necessarily dominating. He's basically guaranteed to move on to the higher levels of the sport sooner or later, and to do pretty well when he gets there, questions still remain as to just how well though.

Overall Projection: Nunes is pretty much a lock to end up in a higher level MMA promotion. He is a good athlete with a good set of tools to beat the majority of MMA fighters out there. It is likely he will struggle against elite level fighters in his division but he could very easily carve himself out a niche in the UFC. At the low end he projects similar to a teammate of his in Magnus Cedenblad and at the higher end he resembles Ryan LaFlare.

#9 - Strahinja Gavrilovic

Record: 5-0 Height: 6'1" Age: 28 Years Pro: 3.3

Country: Canada Team: Team Bergeron Base: MMA

Born in Serbia, Strahinja Gavrilovic now fights out of Sherbooke, Quebec. He currently is fighting on the regional scene in Canada. Gavrilovic only has two fights in the last two years, but that isn't from lack of trying. He has several fights cancelled on him as opponents have withdrawn, a common problem for up-and-coming fighters on regional scenes. He is currently set to fight on March 28th in a regional show.

T.P. Grant: Gavrilovic is a physical powerhouse, he is a big Middleweight and has a great deal of intensity in the cage. He is in his element when he can get hands on an opponent and leverage his size in the clinch.  Gavrilovic will look to bully opponents once inside, take them to the mat and then finish with heavy ground leather. He has heavy base on top and is extremely strong and hard to move. At range Gavrilovic is pretty raw and while is top game is functional, his bottom game isn't anything special. He relies a fair amount on toughness at times, but he has it in spades, so it hasn't come back to bite him.

Zane Simon: Gavrilovic isn't a special fighter when it comes to skills. He's not going to throw an awesome wheel kick or hit a power double from across the cage, or even work a complicated takedown series, or triangle armbar set. His skill set is pretty generically MMA. Solid takedowns, good inside grinding control and dirty boxing, and good ground and pound. Where he really shines is in his raw brute power and aggression. He's the kind of fighter that isn't going to back down from his opponents, and appears tough enough to make that into a real workable style. Toughness is one of those underrated qualities that really separates a lot of the wheat from the chaff in the UFC. There are guys who make it all the way to the top 15 on little more than toughness and power alone. Gavrilovic is early enough in his career to build well off his base, and I expect him to be very successful down the road.

Overall Projection: Gavrilovic strongly resembles Tim Boetsch from his style of fighting that is born partially of training and partial from raw instinct, to his nasty clinch game, to the berserker like trance he works himself into during a fight. Boetsch really is the perfect comparison for Gavrilovic as they got into the game around the same age as well. Gavrilovic however has been a Middleweight since the start of his career and that could benefit him as a good deal of the top end of Middleweight is aging quickly, he could be an interesting addition to the division in the coming years as he continues to develop.

#8 - Andrew Todhunter

Record: 7-0 Height: 6'0" Age: 26 Years Pro: 3.1

Country: U.S.A. Team: Clinch Martial Arts Academy Base: Wrestling/Army Combatives

Andrew Todhunter is a former Army Sniper turned MMA fighter. Todhunter joined the military at age 17 and graduated from the Army Sniper and Combatvies programs, he was actually a stand out hand-to-hand fighter and was approached about becoming an instructor. On a tour of duty in Iraq he suffered damage to his trigger finger that forced him into several surgeries and off the battlefield. He started training MMA after being honorably discharged from the military. He has settled in Oklahoma and started fighting amateur in 2009 and complied a 7-0 record before turning pro. Todhunter spent all of 2014 fighting with Legacy Fighting Championships and sports a 7-0 professional record now, set to try to make it 8-0 at the start of April on LFC 41.

T.P. Grant: Todhunter is a tough wrestler and on the ground is a savvy position grappler, the majority of his offense comes from favorable ground position. Todhunter mixes together his strikes with submission attacks and is very adept at forcing opponents to give up the back and then sinking a choke. He has a very good sense for the takedown, against the cage as well as the center of canvas. He has a good shot and is adept at catching kicks to start his chain wrestling sequences. Todhunter has good power in his strikes on the ground, though his standing striking is still developing. He throws a few combinations at this point and does a good job of taking his head off line when he throws. As it stands his striking is a tool to close the distance and not really an offensive weapon in its own right.

Zane Simon: Todhunter just seems to have that build for fighting. All arms on a short torso. And unusually for as adept a wrestle-grappler as he is, it really looks like he's got the basics of a good boxing game going to take advantage of that beastly reach. He pumps out a mean jab, and has the basics of combination punching down. To go with that, he's just a relentless pressuring takedown artist and grappler. He'll need to continue to develop his striking to be title contender material, but his basic skill set (along with fantastic submission defense) has been enough to propel Tim Kennedy to the top 10 at middleweight.

Overall Projection: The obvious comparison is the correct one. Todhunter very much reminds us of a young Tim Kennedy and in more ways that just the military background. The grappling base with an evolving clinch game also smacks of Kennedy's development. It is very possible Todhunter follows a similar progression and finds himself in meaningful Middleweight fights, but even as is Todhunter could collect some wins in larger organizations.

#7 -  Gadzhimurad Antigulov

Record: 15-4 Height: 6'1" Age: 26 Years Pro: 6

Country: Russia Team: Legion Fight Team Base: Sambo

Gadzhimurad Antigulov is just on the cusp of what Zane and I consider a prospect in terms of years in the game, but he has some skills that make him a very intriguing fighter. While he has spent the majority of his career at Light Heavyweight he dipped his toes in Middleweight about a year ago, and often fighters who can fight at a lower weightclass do so if they hit the big time, so we made the decision to scout him as a here at 185 lbs. Antigulov has a pretty well tenured Russian regional career that features fights in Oplot Challenge, M-1, and Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB).

T.P. Grant: Antigulov makes for a big Middleweight and he exploits it to the hilt when he fights. Antigulov actually very much resembles many Brazilian fighters: He is large, often wastes no time trying to get the fight to the ground, heavy pressure game once there, and a preference for submission offense on a gassed opponent rather than sealing the deal with strikes. That isn't to say Antigulov doesn't strike, he has thunderous ground striking when he gets into a dominant position. He keeps a relentless pace on the ground that has come back to haunt him in the past as he can gas himself out. Antigulov's Sambo background shines through in his ability to mix strikes and takedowns. However Antigulov isn't really armed for prolonged exchanges on the feet. His submission offense is good, but I expect it to wane against more experienced and well schooled opposition and for Antigulov to adopt more of grinder style if/when he steps off the regional scene.

Zane Simon: Few fighters are as ridiculously imposing on their opponents as Gadzhimurad Antigulov. When he has an edge in size and power, he imposes it utterly. His wrestling is fantastic and his ability to transition from wrestling into submissions is really slick. He's been competing mostly at 205, since that division is so thin regionally, but he's not so big for that division that I think he'd stay there in the UFC, especially since he's already been willing to cut to a lower weight. He's never going to be a great range striker, that's just not going to happen. But as big and powerful as he is, he could impose a crushing game on a lot of middleweights all the way up into the top 15.

Overall Projection: Antigulov is likely a finished product at this point in his career, big advances in his striking are unlikely to happen, barring a major shake up in his coaching. His size retaliative to the division and style is very similar to Brazilian grinders, and on the low end he could fill a space at Middleweight similar to that of  Francisco Trinaldo in the Lightweight division, a grinder gatekeeper to test prospects when the UFC goes to Europe. At the high end he could become a feared wrestling test in the division akin to Dennis Bermudez at Featherweight.

#6 -  Igor Svirid

Record: 10-1 Height: 6'0" Age: 28 Years Pro: 3.5

Country: Kazakhstan Team: Arnau-RS Base: MMA

Igor Svirid is another well know prospect, mainly because of his upset victory to claim the inaugural ONE FC Middleweight title. Hailing from the MMA sparse nation of Kazakhstan, Svirid came up on the Russian and Chechen MMA scene, having matches in ACB and ProFC, among others, before getting his ONE FC debut in that title fight. He seems to have had little to no combat sports experience before starting MMA.

T.P. Grant: Considering that Svirid really has zero experience before MMA in anything relating to combat sports, his progression is pretty impressive. Obviously to achieve the way he has, he is an excellent athlete and has picked up skills quickly. His defensive wrestling looks solid, opponents shooting a double on Svirid sometimes look as if they have hit a tree-trunk. His ground grappling can get a little sloppy at times, but he has solid top position and can strike or submit depending on the situation. His striking is also surprisingly solid and he has good power in his hands. He mixes it all together so well he looks much more experienced than he actually is, and the result is while he has no stand out skill he also has no obvious hole in his game.

Zane Simon: Much like Antigulov above, Svirid is just a beast when he has the physical advantage. If he's bigger and stronger, he's going to own his opponents. Unlike Antigulov, Svirid has a lot more probable room for growth (even though he's slightly older) as he's been fighting for a few years less time. He's big, powerful, a very good wrestler, with a very good dirty boxing game, and a pretty strong top control grappler. His striking has continued to evolveover time. If it he keeps on his present track he has the basic physical tools to compete with all but the very best in the world. If it doesn't, he'll still be a very dangerous fighter for anyone on any given day.

Overall Projection: Svirid is an interesting prospect, he has picked up fighting very quickly and has already exceeded expectations placed on him by many when ONE FC brought him in to fight for the Middleweight title. His lack of training previous to MMA, his early success, and athletic ability makes him very similar prospect to Ovince St. Preux. If Svirid continues to develop he could be an interesting talent for the division, if he is able to get loose from ONE FC he could turn into a player in title pictures in Bellator or the UFC.

Stay tuned for the #5 Middleweight coming up next! 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

Flyweight Bantamweight Featherweight Lightweight Welterweight
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EXTRA!
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EXTRA!
#1. Duquesnoy
#2. MagomedovTemirov
#3. Froes
#4. Jordan
#5. Motta
#6. Vitruk
#7. Askhabov
#8. Grundy
#9. Matmuratov
#10. Azhiev
EXTRA! #1 EXTRA! #2
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EXTRA!
#1. Usman
#2. Mustafaev
#3. Nurmagomedov
#4. Khaliev
#5. Scope
#6. Vartanyan
#7. Kadestam
#8. Piraev
#9. Amosov
#10. Tokov
EXTRA!
Middleweight L. Heayvweight Heavyweight W.Strawweight W. Bantamweight
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#6. Svirid
#7. Antigulov
#8. Todhunter
#9. Gavrilovic
#10. Nunes
EXTRA!
#1. Mokhnatkin
#2. Martell
#3. Kurbanismailov
#4. Astakhov
#5. Ankalaev
#6. Edilov
#7. Prochazka
#8. Albrektsson
#9. Moore
#10. Gamzatov
EXTRA!
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EXTRA!
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EXTRA!
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EXTRA!