The Beaten Path: 5 Prospects to Watch in May

Riley KontekFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2014

The Beaten Path: 5 Prospects to Watch in May

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    Chris Hyde/Getty Images

    The month of May looks to be chock full of MMA action. From the UFC to Bellator to One FC to everything in between, MMA fans are going to find themselves with all sorts of entertainment should they choose to watch.

    There are also a number of top MMA prospects competing in the cage with the intention of shooting their stocks through the roof. At "The Beaten Path," our job is to identify some of the top prospects and point you in their direction so you can see their development and potentially watch them fight their way into the big time.

    With that, let's take a look at the five prospects you should watch this month.

5. Marcus Edwards

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    Division: Lightweight
    Age: 25
    Record: 6-2
    Next fight: Aaron Gallant, Maximum Fighting Championship 40, May 9
    See it on: AXS TV

    Marcus Edwards has really flown under the radar in his eight-fight career, but he is truly one of the best lightweight prospects in the sport at this time. Now that he is fighting with Maximum Fighting Championship, he should be able to gain more exposure and get more credit for his talent.

    A FactoryX Muay Thai product and teammate of UFC middleweight Chris Camozzi, Edwards brings in a strong all-around game with good takedown defense, powerful striking and underrated submissions. This includes a rear-naked choke victory over TUF 15 vet Dakota Cochrane.

    His only two losses come to WSOF Lightweight Champion Justin Gaethje and UFC vet Efrain Escudero, the latter of whom many feel shouldn't have won the fight.

    Plus, Edwards is durable. He hasn't been finished as a pro. He will look to continue that trend with another impressive win in Canada when he takes on Aaron Gallant.

4. Gustavo Falciroli

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    Division: Bantamweight
    Age: 31
    Record: 13-4-2 (1 NC)
    Next fight: Kaiwhare Kara-France, AFC 9, May 17
    See it on: TBD

    Brazilian-Australian grappler Gustavo Falciroli is one of the best fighters that is currently fighting in "The Land Down Under." He gets a chance to prove that further when he rematches Kaiwhare Kara-France.

    The two already fought back in December, where Falciroli seemingly picked up a victory via strikes, but it was deemed a no-contest when Kara-France fell from the ring. It was controversial since many thought he was unconscious before he fell from the ring, which could have resulted in Falciroli earning the knockout win.

    Despite that knockout win, Falciroli is a high-level grappler with just under half of his wins via submission. He is a big bantamweight at 5'8" and powerful at that, as he used to just be a Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter but now can throw some hands a bit.

    A win for Falciroli could do some big things for him. The One FC vet could eye a spot on the upcoming UFC New Zealand card if he turns enough heads.

3. Gleristone Santos

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    Division: Featherweight
    Age: 25
    Record: 25-4
    Next fight: Alvin Robinson, Titan Fighting Championship 28, May 16
    See it on: CBS Sports

    There are a couple Brazilians in the lower weight classes that have a high ceiling when it comes to their MMA skill set. Gleristone Santos may be one of the most promising Brazilians outside the UFC.

    Santos, who makes his Titan FC debut after a delay, is a Brazilian Top Team fighter, which feels like a throwback to Pride days. He is known for his wicked punching power and solid mat skills, which has led to 14 stoppages in his 25 wins.

    He is currently on a seven-fight surge, with his last loss in 2011 against UFC vet Carlo Prater. If he can bull his way through Alvin Robinson, a jiu-jitsu specialist with high-level experience, there is no doubt in my mind he can prove to the UFC that he is ready to join the shark tank that is their featherweight division.

2. Leandro Higo

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    Division: Bantamweight
    Age: 25
    Record: 13-2
    Next fight: Giovanni da Silva Santos Jr., CEF 10, May 29
    See it on: TBD

    Speaking of talented, lower-weight-class Brazilians, Leandro Higo is right up there with Gleristone Santos as the best outside the UFC that Brazil has to offer.

    His striking is a bit wild, but he does have crazy power for a guy that is just 135 pounds. He can knock you out if he catches you on the chin, though he has a better chance of success on the mat, where he is proficient, especially when it comes to armlocks and back control.

    He takes on Giovanni da Silva Santos Jr., another top prospect out of Brazil who can really play spoiler here. In all honesty, whoever wins this fight should get a UFC contract and debut on one of the many Brazil cards the UFC puts on.

    Higo could really add depth to a UFC bantamweight division that needs some more bodies.

1. Smealinho Rama

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    Division: Heavyweight
    Age: 21
    Record: 7-1
    Next fight: Tim Hague, Unified MMA 19, May 23
    See it on: GFL.tv

    Possibly the top heavyweight prospect not in the UFC, Smealinho Rama has an extremely bright future in this sport. And here's the scary thing: He's only 21 years old.

    Rama, whose stock fell a tad after a highlight-reel knockout loss to now-UFC fighter Anthony Hamilton, really got himself back in the top of the race to the UFC heavyweight division after winning a clear decision over power wrestler Steve Mocco. Mocco was thought to be a top prospect in his own regard before Rama took him out.

    He is a good combination of heavy hands, submission offense and grappling competence. One has to believe his fight with Tim Hague, a UFC veteran, could be an audition for the UFC. Beating a UFC vet like Hague is a big deal and could get him a contract from Joe Silva and company.