10 Best MMA Fighters Under Age 25

Sean SmithAnalyst IAugust 12, 2014

10 Best MMA Fighters Under Age 25

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    USA TODAY Sports

    On August 23, Jordan Mein will return to the Octagon and attempt to take one step closer to reaching his lofty potential by beating Mike Pyle impressively.

    Mein is one of many young fighters who represent the next wave of talented MMA prospects. A Strikeforce veteran, Mein does have a good amount of experience for an up-and-comer, but he's still developing and has a good shot at turning into a serious welterweight contender soon.

    As MMA has continued to grow in more and more countries, the pool of prospects has become deeper than ever before in the sport's history. Mein is only one of several developing stars already competing at a high level in their early twenties.

    Here are the 10 best MMA fighters under 25 years old.

10. Michinori Tanaka

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    Set to turn 24 years old in October, Michinori Tanaka still has time to work his way up this list before he hits his 25th birthday.

    With an undefeated record in 10 MMA appearances and having defeated Roland Delorme in his June UFC debut, Tanaka edged out flyweight youngsters Justin Scoggins, Ray Borg and Louis Smolka for the 10th position in these rankings.

    Before joining the UFC roster, Tanaka submitted five of his nine opponents under the Pacific Xtreme Combat and Shooto banners. One of Tanaka's submission victims was Russell Doane, who is now 2-0 inside the Octagon.

    Scheduled to meet Kyung Ho Kang on September 20, Tanaka will have a chance to keep his momentum going and further prove he's a bantamweight contender in the making. 

9. Max Holloway

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    Max Holloway won't turn 23 until December, but he's already stepped into the Octagon eight times and faced some of the toughest competitors in the featherweight division.

    The Hawaiian was rudely welcomed to the Octagon by Dustin Poirier, who is now among the Top Five contenders at 145 pounds. Poirier handed Holloway an opening-round submission loss, but Holloway has mostly been on an upward trend since then.

    Holloway has won five of his past seven fights, only losing to Top 10 featherweights Dennis Bermudez and Conor McGregor during that span. With back-to-back wins and a favorable matchup with Mirsad Bektic coming up on August 23, Holloway should soon earn another shot at a ranked 145-pound contender.

    Even in the event that Holloway comes up short in another big fight, he has plenty of time to fill in the holes in his game and develop into a contender down the road.

8. Andrey Koreshkov

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    In 18 career bouts, Andrey Koreshkov has only lost to former Bellator MMA welterweight champion Ben Askren. While Koreshkov is the only non-UFC fighter to make this top-10 list, he has looked good against some notable competition under the Bellator MMA banner.

    Koreshkov will turn 24 years old later this month, but he's already among the best in the Bellator MMA welterweight division. The Russian has knocked out Marius Zaromskis and UFC veteran Nah-Shon Burrell, while he also owns victories over Lyman Good and other recognizable names.

    With four straight wins since his loss to Askren, Koreshkov could soon be challenging 170-pound titleholder Douglas Lima. At his age, Koreshkov appears to have a very bright future in MMA and would be a great grab for the UFC should he ever test free agency.

7. Jordan Mein

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    Jordan Mein has been a high-level welterweight for years now, but he's still only 24 years old. In October, Mein will turn 25 and would be ineligible for these rankings, but the best is certainly still to come from him.

    Even before he signed with Strikeforce, Mein had recorded wins over Josh Burkman, Marius Zaromskis and Joe Riggs. While with Strikeforce, Mein's knockout win over Evangelista Santos and close bout with Tyron Woodley really turned him into a prospect that demanded attention.

    Now on the UFC roster, Mein has gone 2-1 inside the Octagon. Having only lost to Matt Brown, Mein remains on the fringe of welterweight title contention. If he can beat No. 13 welterweight contender Mike Pyle on August 23, Mein should break into the Top 15.

6. Kyoji Horiguchi

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    Kyoji Horiguchi is looking to lead a resurgence for Japanese MMA, which has been going through a dry spell over recent years.

    At 23 years old, Horiguchi is already considered a Top 15 contender in the flyweight division. He has won seven in a row, most recently defeating Darrell Montague in May. Having only lost to bantamweight Masakatsu Ueda in 14 MMA appearances, Horiguchi appears to have hit his stride since dropping down to 125 pounds.

    On September 20, Horiguchi will meet Jon Delos Reyes. The matchup should give Horiguchi a good chance to improve to 3-0 inside the Octagon, and a memorable win might earn him a shot at a Top 10 adversary.

5. Erik Perez

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    In November, Erik Perez would not have been eligible for these rankings, but El Goyito has definitely made his presence known in the bantamweight division prior to his 25th birthday.

    The Mexican has posted a solid 4-2 record since joining the UFC roster, and he's only lost to Top 10 bantamweights Takeya Mizugaki and Bryan Caraway over his past 11 bouts. Despite competing in a division short on knockout power, Perez has scored two opening-round stoppages via strikes against UFC opposition.

    Working with the best in the world at Jackson-Wink MMA, Perez has all the tools he needs to have an outstanding MMA career. As he nears his prime fighting years, Perez should eventually put everything together and make a serious run at the 135-pound championship.

4. John Lineker

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    When he gets weight cutting figured out consistently, 24-year-old John Lineker should be in the running for a shot at the flyweight championship.

    Had he not missed 125 pounds multiple times, Lineker likely would have already had his chance to compete in a championship bout. Instead, he had to go through Ali Bagautinov and suffered a setback against the Russian.

    Still, Lineker has won 18 of his past 20 fights, putting him near the top of the 125-pound class. Following Lineker's rebound win over Alptekin Ozkilic, a bout with Ian McCall appears to be in the works. Should the Brazilian make weight and win that matchup, he could be set up for a title shot.

3. Kelvin Gastelum

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    Just four fights into his UFC career, Kelvin Gastelum is on his way toward becoming one of the more successful winners of The Ultimate Fighter.

    Gastelum won Season 17 with a surprising win over scary middleweight Uriah Hall. Now competing at 170 pounds, Gastelum has beaten Rick Story and others to climb into the Top 15. 

    Undefeated in nine career outings and still only 22 years old, Gastelum could top this list before he hits a quarter century. With his solid wrestling base, Gastelum has the ability to be a Top 10 welterweight for many years, and he could eventually reach the top.

2. Charles Oliveira

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    Charles Oliveira doesn't turn 25 until October, but he's already had 10 bouts inside the Octagon.

    The Brazilian was previously a factor in the lightweight division, but he now sits at No. 14 in the featherweight rankings. At 155 pounds, Oliveira only lost to Top 10 contenders Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller, while Top Five featherweights Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson have been the only men to hand him defeats at 145 pounds.

    Yes, Oliveira has had some trouble breaking into the top echelon. However, he's still beaten some very tough competition, including Hatsu Hioki, Darren Elkins and Efrain Escudero.

    At his age, and with his outstanding ground game, it's only a matter of time until Oliveira is looked at as a legitimate threat to the 145-pound champion. Beating Nik Lentz in a rematch on September 5 might be enough to take Do Bronx to that next level.

1. Michael McDonald

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    Michael McDonald has already gotten his first chance to compete for UFC gold, and he's only 23 years old.

    While McDonald came up short in that bout with Renan Barao, it served as a good learning experience for the rising star (as did his only other UFC loss against Urijah Faber). There aren't too many other fighters in the bantamweight division who can beat McDonald, and that's scary considering Mayday is still improving.

    Overall, McDonald is 5-2 inside the Octagon. He's knocked out former WEC champion Miguel Torres and submitted a scrappy Brad Pickett in August 2013. 

    Having taken some time off following his loss to The California Kid, McDonald could return as a much better fighter than he has already proven to be in seven UFC appearances. He may or may not be a future UFC champion, but McDonald probably hasn't seen his last shot at UFC gold.