Thursday, July 17, 2008

Young Guns: Top 25 Fighters (25 and Under) List Includes Johnson and O'Brien

by RJ Clifford
MMAWorldWide Magazine

In a sport where men like 44-year-old Randy Couture are defying father time, keep a look out for fighters excelling from the other end of the spectrum. There is a whole new breed of MMA fighters under 25 years old who are already making their mark on the worldwide scene. This young crowd already boasts seven Top 10 fighters and seven former and current major titlists. What have you ever done?

KJ Noons (12/7/1982)

Notable wins: Nick Diaz, Edson Berto

The Hawaiian has already claimed his first title by defeating veteran Nick Diaz for the EliteXC 160-pound belt. A two sport athlete, Noons is an accomplished pro boxer looking to win titles in the ring as well. Shaking the striker-only stigma, Noons was able to nullify the VERY dangerous ground games of Diaz and Berto, and finished both fighters with strikes. He looks to defend his title for the first time against former training partner Yves Edwards in his home state on June 14th.

Nam Phan (3/13/1983)

Notable wins: Ryan Diaz

A former collegiate wrestler and Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace, Phan’s exciting style has produced a fan base that normally requires an entire career to develop. Currently fighting under the Strikeforce banner, he went undefeated in the Southern California King of the Cage circuit and even fought in the Los Angeles Coliseum for K-1 Dynamite! against fellow young gun Gesias “JZ” Calvancante.

Robbie Lawler (3/20/83)

Notable wins: Murilo “Ninja” Rua, Frank Trigg, Joey Villasenor

Fighting since the age of 18, Lawler made his UFC debut at age 19. He has also fought in Pride, the IFL and is the current EliteXC middleweight champion. Currently ranked #4 in the MMA Worldwide Rankings, Lawler’s rise has come at the expense of some of the division’s best fighters. Lawler’s exciting, brawling style, not to mention his incredible punching power, will keep him in the spotlight for years.

Shinya Aoki (5/9/1983)

Notable wins: Gesias “JZ” Calvancante, Akira Kikuchi, Joachim Hansen

The former Pride and current DREAM fighter was originally best known for his rainbow, spandex fighting pants, but he’s now known as one of the best BJJ practitioners in MMA today. The highest-ranked young gun at #3 in the MMA Worldwide Rankings, Aoki has submitted Joachim Hansen, Clay French and Jason Black all before his 24th birthday. You have to be good to pull off this kid’s trousers.

Roger Huerta (5/20/1983)

Notable wins: Clay Guida, Leonard Garcia

The UFC stumbled upon a gem with Huerta. After a dominating performance over Leonard Garcia at UFC 69, Huerta became the first MMA fighter ever to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. Banking on their new golden boy, matchmaker Joe Silva fed Huerta back-to-back UFC rookies in the hopes of building the Mexican-American’s resume. Huerta silenced any doubters after a spectacular come-from-behind submission victory over the always tough Clay Guida.

Gesias “JZ” Calvancante (7/6/1983)

Notable wins: Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro, Nam Phan, Caol Uno, Rani Yahya, Bart Palaszewski

The American Top Team product exploded onto the scene with back-to-back K-1 Hero’s tournament wins. Currently ranked #8 in the MMA Worldwide Rankings, “JZ” ended Ribeiro’s nine-fight win streak and Rani Yahya’s six-fight win streak. The verdict is still out however if Jay-Z will challenge the young Brazilian for name rights; that is a pay-per-view guaranteed to sell.

Hatsu Hioki (7/18/1983)

Notable wins: Mark Hominick, Jeff Curran

Shooto regular Hioki is ranked 5th in the world. Tall for a featherweight, his long limbs help make him dangerous on his feet as well as on the ground. A strategist at heart, Hioki is great at picking his opponent apart with jabs and relentless leg kicks. Out of his three losses, he has never been finished.

Nick Diaz (8/2/1983)

Notable wins: Gleison Tibau, Drew Fickett, Robbie Lawler

One of only three Cesar Gracie black belts, the elder of the two Diaz brothers was a long time UFC vet before finding a home at EliteXC. A rough childhood created a persona that mirrors his young age and gives him a tough rep. A string of erratic run-ins followed the Stockton native, including an alleged shoving match with Joe Riggs in a hospital and his most notorious headline: submitting #1 fighter Takanori Gomi only to have this career-making win overturned due to testing positive for marijuana.

Thiago Alves (10/3/1983)

Notable wins: Karo Parisyan, Chris Lytle, John Alessio, Marcus Davis

Thiago Alves is only 24 but has been toiling in the UFC ranks for almost three years. Struggling at times against top competition, Alves catapulted himself into the rankings by knocking out Karo Parisyan at UFC Fight Night 13. Sitting pretty at #8 in the MMA Worldwide Rankings, he faces his toughest fight to date by taking on the most dominant welterweight of all time, Matt Hughes, at UFC 85.

Cub Swanson (11/2/1983)

Notable wins: Micah Miller, Tommy Lee

WEC regular Swanson is only 24 but has already paid his dues. Competing in Total Combat and King of the Cage, Swanson made a huge career move by moving to Orange County to train with the legendary Erik Paulson. An eleven-fight win streak eventually came to an end by veteran Jens Pulver, but the tough featherweight bounced back in his next fight against Donnie Walker. Thanks to the great exposure the WEC has given the lighter weights, Swanson’s future in this sport looks bright.

Eddie Alvarez (1/11/1984)

Notable wins: Joachim Hansen, Andre Amade

Only 24, Alvarez has already fought in New Jersey, Japan, Canada and Costa Rica! The former Bodog welterweight champion has made the drop to lightweight to fight in a more natural weight class in Japan’s premiere organization, DREAM. A former wrestler, Alvarez has added an explosive striking game to his arsenal and is one of the most exciting fighters to watch right now.

Anthony Johnson (3/6/1984)

Notable wins: Tom Speer, Chad Reiner

With only three pro fights to his name, Johnson made a name for himself after taking a fight in the UFC on one week’s notice and knocking out tough Midwest fighter Chad Reiner in 13 seconds. So impressed was UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, he kept him on the roster. Highly-touted Ultimate Fighter 6 runner up, Tom Speer, was Johnson’s next victim, who fell prey to another knockout in just 51 seconds. In a division short on quality strikers, look for Johnson to keep knocking guys out.

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (4/18/1984)

Notable wins: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Ricardo Arona

Yes, he is only 24! 2007’s Breakout Fighter of the Year exploded on the scene knocking out Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at Pride 33 in Las Vegas as a 17 -1 underdog. In his fifth professional fight, he knocked out Nogueira’s training partner Ricardo Arona in a similar fashion. The UFC fighter trains at Dan Henderson’s Team Quest and is currently ranked #8 in the MMA Worldwide Rankings. “The African Assassin” is only beginning his career.

Tyson Griffin (4/20/1984)

Notable wins: Gleison Tibau, Clay Guida, Duane Ludwig

Xtreme Couture product Tyson Griffin has been one of the UFC’s most consistent and exciting lightweights for the last two years. Other UFC fighters hate it when Griffin is on their fight card because he almost always wins the “Fight of the Night” bonus. The California native is the only fighter to hand WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber a loss and is currently on a three-fight winning streak. Look for him in the UFC lightweight title picture.

Alan Belcher (4/24/1984)

Notable wins: Kalib Starnes, Jorge Santiago

Mississippi native Alan Belcher made his UFC debut as a 22 year old against one of the UFC’s best middleweights, Yushin Okami. After dropping that decision, he has gone a respectable 3-2 in the Octagon fighting four members of The Ultimate Fighter. Well rounded and motivated, “The Talent” could be a mainstay in a division hurting for talent right now.

Carlos Condit (4/26/1984)

Notable wins: Brock Larson, Frank Trigg, Renato Verissimo

Reigning WEC welterweight champion and ranked #9 in the world, Condit has a “who’s who” list of victims. Exploding on the scene in 2006 by making it to the Rumble on the Rock 175-pound tournament finals, Condit is riding a seven-fight win streak. Undefeated in the WEC, the Albuquerque native’s lethal submission game will give any welterweight problems.

Joe Lauzon (5/22/1984)

Notable wins: Jens Pulver

In one of the most shocking upsets of 2006, featherweight Joe Lauzon went up to lightweight for Jens Pulver’s coming home party at UFC 63. Expected fodder for the returning vet, the scrappy Massachusetts native knocked Pulver out in the first round. Fighting up a weight in the 155-pound division, “J-Lau” is currently 3-1 in the Octagon.

Rani Yahya (9/12/1984)

Notable wins: Mark Hominick

The Rickson Gracie-trained bantamweight has already traveled the world at the young age of 23. The 2007 Abu Dhabi Submission Championship competitor cut his teeth on the tough Brazilian fighting circuit before getting picked up by K-1. Currently under contract with the WEC, Yahya’s exposure to the fans has exploded.

Jake O’Brien (9/25/1984)

Notable wins: Heath Herring

One of the few young, heavyweight prospects in MMA, O’Brien was originally a Purdue University wrestler. After winning his first seven fights, the UFC picked him up where he won three more before losing to former heavyweight champ, Andrei Arlovski. Released from the UFC, O’Brien would make a great addition to any heavyweight lineup.

Jamie Varner (10/12/1984)

Notable wins: Rob McCullough

A Rage in the Cage product, Varner is young, talented and relentless. At the age of 22, “The Worm” got the call to fight in the UFC where he went 1-1. Currently fighting in the WEC, Varner recently notched his biggest career win by knocking out Rob McCullough for the WEC lightweight championship. He ruptured McCullough’s eardrum in the process.

Chase Beebe (3/29/1985)

Notable wins: Rani Yahya

Former WEC champion Chase Beebe is another young bantamweight building quite a rep. With an engine that just won’t quit, Beebe had back-to-back five-round fights in the WEC with Eddie Wineland and Rani Yahya. Recently losing his title to tough Chicago native Miguel Torres, Beebe looks to bounce back in a big way.

Nate Diaz (4/16/1985)

Notable wins: Kurt Pelligrino, Junior Assuncao, Manvel Gamburyan

The younger of the Diaz brothers, Nate’s submission wizardry has granted the Stockton native four straight submission wins in four attempts in the UFC with the last three all being against BJJ specialists. After winning The Ultimate Fighter 5 over Gamburyan, the Cesar Gracie Jiu Jitsu student became one of the more popular lightweights on the UFC roster.

Micah Miller (2/14/1987)

Notable wins: Chance Farrar

The youngest of the WEC’s deep talent pool of young guns, Miller has lost only once in his young career and claims nine victories. The 21-year-old looks like he’s 15, but fights like a grown man. Only one of his nine wins went the distance and his only loss was a tough back and forth fight against fellow youngster Cub Swanson.

Chris Horodecki (9/24/1987)

Notable wins: Bart Palaszewski, Ryan Schultz

When the IFL was looking for a young superstar to become the face of the organization, they did not expect it to be a baby face. The Canadian won his first eleven fights, seven of them with the IFL. Training under the highly in-demand Sean Tompkins, Horodecki’s stand up skills made him one of the most exciting fighters in the IFL.

Dan Lauzon (3/30/1988)

Notable wins: None

Fighting as a professional just two days after his 18th birthday, the younger brother of The Ultimate Fighter veteran Joe Lauzon was looking to make a splash of his own. Fighting on short notice, he stepped up to face Spencer Fisher at UFC 64. He lost to the seasoned fighter, but made his mark as a viable newcomer. With none of Lauzon’s eleven fights going past Round 2, expect big things to come.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home