The Beaten Path: 5 MMA Prospects to Watch in April
April is not the cruelest month for MMA fans, at least not this year. The harbinger of spring is loaded with action, from the top of the UFC mountain to the first few links in the food chain.
That includes the sport's best prospects as well, many of whom are scheduled to see the inside of the cage this month. And I will tell you what: keeping track of them all can be a dizzying proposition.
That's where we here at The Beaten Path come in. We track the top prospects in the sport so you don't have to. In the following slides, we take a look at the five best up-and-comers doing battle in April. Video footage, overview data and even viewing coordinates are provided for your convenience and enjoyment.
5. Ray Borg
Next fight: Nick Urso, April 4, Legacy Fighting Championship 30
See it on: AXS TV
Another LFC event, another new and intriguing young prospect on the scene. This time, promising flyweight Ray Borg makes his promotional debut.
Borg parlayed a 4-0 amateur run in King of the Cage into a 3-0 pro mark for the same company. Of his five wins, only one went the distance, and only two left the first round.
Borg has three wins by rear-naked choke, and based on the fairly limited YouTube footage available, grappling and ground-and-pound appear to be Borg's weapon of choice. He's powerful for a 125er, and his takedowns look like they're pretty tough to stop. But Borg is no one-trick pony—he has speed to burn and loves to fire off some spinning stuff.
The youngster hasn't really fought anyone of note yet, but that will change Friday. This Legacy card takes place in Albuquerque, so it's an appropriate debut setting for Borg, who is based there. Contrary to an easy assumption, though, Borg is not with the Greg Jackson camp, though his opponent, Urso, is. Urso is easily the toughest test to date for master Borg. We'll see how he measures up.
4. Gleristone Santos
Next fight: Robert Washington, Titan Fighting Championship 28, April 25
See it on: CBS Sports Network
Gleristone Santos was set to make his (relatively) big-league MMA debut in February, but visa issues knocked him off the card at the last minute. Here's hoping the super-talented Brazilian can clear the various hoops and hurdles this time and make it to TFC 28.
Because he's good, and he's awfully fun to watch. He's a muay thai wrecking machine who positively crackles with energy in the cage and can throw just about anything at you at any time.
And assuming it comes to pass, he'll have a willing dance partner later this month in headhunter Robert Washington. Prepare for pyrotechnics.
3. James Brum
Next fight: Brett Johns, April 12, Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 67
See it on: MMAJunkie.com (in U.S.)
James Brum is one of those classic MMA personalities, always slapping himself and cutting promos in the cage and changing his facial hair and spouting motivational slogans. He also has one of the more enjoyable nicknames in the game today: "Job Done." Yeah, baby.
The popular Brum has the fight of his life on April 12, when he goes for the strap against a somewhat similarly regarded if more upstart prospect in Johns, who won a four-man, one-night tournament (in which Brum did not compete) to capture the vacant belt.
As far as Brum's style goes, think Mike Easton. Tons of energy paired with more of a grinder's mentality. It definitely works for "Job Done," who has taken eight in a row, seven in the UK's rock-solid Cage Warriors promotion.
2. Volkan Oezdemir
Division: Light heavyweight
Next fight: Kelly Anundson, April 4, Bellator 115
See it on: Spike TV
From the sublime to the ridiculous, give it up for Volkan "Cousin" Oezdemir.
I don't understand what that nickname is even supposed to be. What about "Death Grip," man? Come on, your parents threw you a softball. And you go with "Cousin?" I don't understand people anymore.
Even with the blown nickname opportunity, the Swissman is still pretty good. He's a bulky guy, especially at light heavyweight (he also has fought at heavyweight), but he's no lay-and-pray artist. No, this man knows his muay thai, and he has some jiu-jitsu chops as well, though you can't discern that from his record, which features only one submission against eight knockouts.
This is his second fight for Bellator, and one has to think a win easily gets him into the next tourney.
1. Larissa Pacheco
Division: Women's bantamweight
Next fight: Lizianne Silveira, April 5, Jungle Fight 68
See it on: TBD
Recent readers of The Beaten Path will remember that Holly Holm is our top prospect of 2014. And she's fighting this month. So why is she not listed here?
Because there's no challenge in that. Where's the challenge? Plus, given her recently reinvigorated negotiations with the UFC, it's getting harder and harder to keep that prospect label on her (though she maintains it for now in my book).
So we're digging a little deeper this month and bringing you a real prodigy in Larissa Pacheco, one of the brightest (and youngest) stars in Brazil's highly regarded Jungle Fight promotion. She's a well-rounded fighter, with five wins by tapout and four by knockout.
If she defeats the 2-0 Silveira at JF 68—and there's pretty good reason to think she will—that would get her to 3-0 as a JF fighter. She also has yet to go the distance as a pro. How much longer until Invicta or someone else snaps her up? It might just be a matter of time, especially if she takes care of business this Saturday.
The Beaten Path is an ongoing interview and slideshow series highlighting the top prospects in MMA. Scott Harris covers the prospect beat and other areas of MMA and beyond for Bleacher Report. For more baseless but very enthusiastic speculation on a wide range of loosely related topics, follow Scott on Twitter.