Independent Scouting List for 2017

Mackenzie Dern

As 2017 starts there is a whole new crop of up-and-comers waiting for their chance to make it to the big shows.  The career paths have been set for a decade with most fighters climbing their way up a ladder or pyramid of smaller shows with increasing distribution leading to greater relevance and competition.  During 2016 the “TUF path” was still an option although rumors of the reality show ceasing this year are circulating, being managed by “the right person” or training at the “right” gym when the UFC needs a replacement being the least predictable route.  Here then is the Declaration of Independents 2017 scouting report, a list of fighters from second- and third-tier shows likely to make an impact this year.

The traditional pyramid is intact with the UFC at the top, TV broadcast shows Bellator and WSOF defining a second tier, shows with distribution especially UFC Fight Pass and AXS TV making up a third tier, and local promotions constituting the base.  By those definitions second-tier fighters are still subject to exclusive contracts and “championship clauses” that keep them from moving up to the UFC but the perception at least of larger paychecks keeps some of the third tier standouts pursing that career path.  For the most part the second tier events balance UFC vets with up-and-comers, the problem being due to the binding contracts the competition for the champions is either a UFC vet or an up-and-comer not ready for the second tier.  The current champions and standouts of the second tier are:

Bellator

  • BW: Eduardo Dantas
  • FW: Daniel Straus
  • LW: Michael Chandler
  • WW: Douglas Lima
  • MW: Rafael Carvalho
  • LHW: Phil Davis
  • Others: Andrey Koreshkov (WW), Paul Daley (WW), Patricky Freire (LW), Patricio Freire (FW), Pat Curran (FW), Joe Warren (BW), Goiti Yamauchi (LW), Chidi Njokuani (WW), Alexandre Shlemenko (MW), Liam McGeary (LHW), Michael Page (MW)

Chidi Njokuani finishing

WSOF

  • BW: Marlon Moraes
  • FW: Lance Palmer
  • LW: Justin Gaethje
  • WW: Jon Fitch
  • MW: David Branch
  • LHW: David Branch
  • HW: Blagoy Ivanov
  • Others: Brian Foster (LW), Luiz Firmino (LW), Alexandre Almeida (FW), Joao Zeferino (WW), Louis Taylor (MW), Shawn Jordan (HW), Smealinho Rama (HW)

Smealinho Rama

The third tier is where it gets a little tricky to define.  Invicta FC and Titan FC from the UFC Fight Pass family definitely belong on this level but Fight Pass’ webstreaming spree has brought into the mix several promotions that are not of note at this time.  AXS TV-broadcast Legacy FC and RFA belonged even before their merger into LFA but not so much CES MMA.  CFFC and Ring of Combat do but most of Alliance MMA and the GoFightLive events do not.  M-1 Challenge and One Championship do a fantastic job of featuring standouts from Russia and Asia respectively but so far those standouts haven’t moved on resulting in them being basically regional fighters.  For the purposes of this report the shows with notable matchmaking and a high percentage of fighters moving on are the focus, therefore the second tier champions and standouts are:

Women’s atomweight

  • Invicta: Ayaka Hamasaki

Women’s strawweight

  • Invicta: Angela Hill
  • Other: Livia Renata Souza, Mackenzie Dern, Kaline Medeiros

Angela Hill vs. Kaline Medeiros

Women’s flyweight

  • Invicta: Jennifer Maia
  • Other: Andrea Lee

Flyweight

  • CFFC: Louis Gaudinot
  • Interim: Sean Santella
  • ROC: Matt Rizzo
  • TFC: Tim Elliott
  • Interim: Jose Torres
  • Others: Matt Manzanares, Nick Honstein, Matt Schnell, Alexandre Pantoja

Sean Santella

Women’s bantamweight

  • CFFC: Katlyn Chookagian
  • Invicta: Tonya Evinger
  • Titan FC: Kalindra Faria, Yana Kunitskaya

Tonya Evinger

BW

  • BAMMA: Tom Duquesnoy
  • CFFC: Nick Pace
  • TFC: Farkhad Sharipov
  • VFC: Robert Emerson
  • Other: Anthony Gutierrez, Boston Salmon, Ricardo Lucas Ramos, Justin  Rader, Julio Arce, Ricardo Ramos, Marcos Galvao, Manny Vazquez, Brian Kelleher, Leandro Higo, Steven Peterson

Justin Rader

Women’s FW

  • Invicta FC: Cristiane Justino
  • Others: Charmaine Tweet, Megan Anderson, Daria Ibragimova

FW

  • BAMMA Tom Duquesnoy
  • CFFC: Jared Gordon
  • CWFC: Paddy Pimblett
  • Pancrase: Andy Main
  • Interim: Issei Tamura
  • ROC: Julio Arce
  • ROC (regional): Mike Santiago
  • VFC: Alexandre Pimentel
  • Others: Scott Heckman, Rick Glenn, Alexandre Bezerra, Desmond Green, Kurt Holobaugh, Justin Lawrence, Jarred Mercado, Frank Buenafuente, Andre Harrison, Kevin Aguilar, Raoni Barcelos

Andy Main

LW

  • BAMMA: Martin Stapleton
  • CFFC: Mike Pope
  • CWFC: Chris Fishgold
  • ROC: Bradley Desir
  • TFC: Freddy Assuncao
  • Other: Maxim Divnich, Christos Giagos, Mike Bronzoulis, Gesias Cavalcante, Kazuki Tokudome, Shinya Aoki, Thiago Moises

WW

  • BAMMA: Scott Askham
  • CFFC: Emmanuel Walo
  • ROC: Ruslan Melikov
  • TFC: Jason Jackson
  • VFC: Mike Rhodes
  • Others: Jack Mason, Derrick Krantz, Gilbert Smith, Gil De Freitas, Dhiego Lima, Alex Morono

MW

  • BAMMA: Cheick Kone
  • CWFC: Jack Marshman
  • ROC: Ruslan Melikov
  • VFC: Anthony Smith
  • Other: Tim Williams, Jake Collier, Francisco France, Rafael Lovato Jr., Andrew Sanchez

Rafael Lovato Jr.

LHW

  • BAMMA: Paul Craig
  • Other: Myron Dennis, Marcin Lazarz, Shamil Gamzatov, Jordan Johnson

Jordan Johnson

HW

  • BAMMA: Mark Godbeer
  • CFFC: Azunna Anyanwu
  • ROC: Shelton Graves
  • VFC: Daniel Gallemore
  • Others: Plinio Cruz, Chase Gormley, Cody East

While the second and third tiers promotions have pretty much settled into their individual business models the fourth tier, that of more localized events, is where the battle is raging.  Alliance MMA (not to be confused with the gym of the same name) spent a good deal of 2016 buying up local promotions with CFFC being the most noteworthy so far, the others being shows such as Iron Tiger and Combat Games.  Subscription-based sports media company FloSports are taking a different approach with their channel FloCombat, that of webstreaming events of a similar level without outright buying them.  FloCombat streams slightly better-known events such as Pinnacle FC and Valor Fights.  The obvious move would be for the two companies to join forces with Alliance’s shows webcast at FloCombat, for now Alliance is mainly involved with GoFightLive which is an iPPV site as opposed to subscription.

Overall it looks like a busy start to the year with LFA coming out of the gate strong, it seems to be a matter of if the quality gyms can keep up in producing enough talent to fill the slots.