The Beaten Path: 5 Non-UFC Fighter Prospects to Watch in February
February is the cruelest month. It's cold. You're writing the correct year on your checks now with no wacky misunderstandings. The egg nog is gone or quite rancid. And spring is still very, very far away.
But as February hits its halfway point, I think I can confidently claim that the month is really "heating up" from an MMA perspective.
Especially if you're into finding The Next Big Thing in the sport. Want to be the smartest person on Twitter for the UFC's next big signing? We here at The Beaten Path are here to help. We track and interview the sport's rising stars and we deliver them to you, come rain or snow or dark of night.
So read on why don't you. Here are the five top prospects in action this month, and they're all coming to you in the next two weeks.
Division: Light heavyweight
Next fight: Daniel Cormier, Feb. 22, UFC 170
See it on: Pay-per-view
I know, I know. This is supposed to be non-UFC prospects only. But after Thursday's big news that Patrick Cummins will step in on nine days' notice to face Daniel Cormier at UFC 170, an exception was in order.
Cormier is a favorite to win in the co-main event. He might be a heavy favorite. Maybe even an extremely heavy favorite. But don't get it messed up: Cummins is providing more than body warmth.
The former college wrestler has all of his pro MMA wins by first-round stoppage (albeit all came against tomato cans, too). He also trains with Jake Ellenberger, Mark Munoz and other well-established UFCers at Reign MMA.
It would be disingenuous to suggest ex post facto that Cummins was a consensus, all-world phenom. He wasn't, and isn't. But he was, and is, most assuredly on the radar. Maybe he doesn't have a great chance against Cormier, but he can win in the UFC.
William 'Bubba' Bush
Next fight: Rakim Cleveland, Feb. 21, Legacy FC 28
See it on: AXS TV
Bubba Bush is a good deal better than his record indicates.
He was dominating Artenas Young in 2012 when he was DQ'd for illegal strikes to the back of the head. His only other defeat came after a four-and-a-half round battle with one Andrew Craig.
He has also battled injuries over the past couple of years, but that appears to be behind him now. The ground-and-pound bruiser will fight for the Legacy middleweight strap this month.
Next fight: Anselmo Luna, Feb. 21, Legacy FC 28
See it on: AXS TV
After more than a year on the shelf, Cosmo Alexandre is back and ready to resume his pro MMA career.
The former world kickboxing champion experienced something of a false start upon signing with Bellator in 2011. After dropping his debut fight, he went on a winning streak to tally a 5-1 mark in just one year of pro competition.
But then money troubles reared their ugly head, and Alexandre parted ways with Bellator before ever competing in a tournament.
Enter Legacy FC and a contract that apparently allows Alexandre to continue with kickboxing. But first things first on Feb. 21, when he faces a reasonably well-rounded journeyman in Luna.
Next fight: Kalvin Hackney, Feb. 28, Titan FC 27
See it on: CBS Sports Network
Gleristone Santos is one of the top featherweight prospects in all of MMA. His presence on this card alone makes it appointment viewing for Titan's debut on the CBS Sports Network. (It doubles as easily the biggest fight yet for Santos on American soil.)
Santos is a knockout freak. He can fire off all sorts of combinations and he can put you down with them. He's fast for a big featherweight, and he's very, very aggressive. He can grapple and submit guys, sure, but the big punch is what he really wants.
Watch him send in a comet of a right hand to knock out Team Nogueira's Bruno Machado back in 2012.
Next fight: Will Martinez, Feb. 28, Bellator 110
See it on: Spike.com (prelim card begins 7 p.m. ET)
Goiti Yamauchi is going to win this Bellator featherweight tournament.
I don't feel the least bit shaky on that prediction. That's just what's going to happen.
The Japanese-Brazilian made an impression in November when he cold-cocked Saul Almeida in the first round. But the real threat is his grappling, which is like liquid rope.
You're a goner, Will Martinez. Sorry. Goner.
Scott Harris writes about MMA prospects through The Beaten Path series on Bleacher Report MMA. For more about prospects and other things, follow Scott on Twitter.
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