Europe has always produced sheer talent in mixed martial arts with greats such as Bas Rutten, Mirko Cro Cop, Alistair Overeem, etc. Now with UFC Fight Night 83 in Rotterdam, Netherlands right around the corner, we will take a look at the top ten European MMA fighters today. Just a friendly reminder this is all opinionated and if yours is different, be sure to share with us what you think! First, some honorable mentions.
Gunnar Nelson (Iceland / MMA Record 15-2-1)
Jimi Manuwa (England / MMA Record 15-2)
Daniel Weichel (Germany / MMA Record 36-9)
Maryna Moroz (Ukraine / MMA Record 7-1)
Joe Duffy (Ireland / MMA Record 14-2)
10) Tarec Saffiedine
Belgium / MMA Record 16-4
Kicking off this list is none other than the Belgian kickboxer Tarec Saffiedine. Given the nickname “Sponge” because of how quickly he learns, we can be sure to see Saffiedine improve over the course of 2016.
Though inactive for most of his UFC stint so far, Saffiedine is not one that people should sleep on. Tarec Saffiedine is the former and last Strikeforce Welterweight Champion known for his slick stand-up skills. He switches his stance often and utilizes great low kicks punishing his opponents. Saffiedine picked up a unanimous decision victory in his return over Jake Ellenberger back in January and looks to make it two in a row as he fights Rick Story at UFC Fight Night 88 later this month.
Notable Wins: Nate Marquardt, Hyun Gyu Lim, Jake Ellenberger
9) Paul Daley
England / MMA Record 38-13-2
Boasting twenty-eight (T)KOs in his win column, Paul Daley is a serious threat to anyone who decides to stand and trade strikes with him. Just search for his jaw-dropping knockout against Scott Smith.
Paul Daley is a former Cage Rage Welterweight Champion who has also competed for the Strikeforce and EliteXC Welterweight titles. Though unsuccessful in his SF and EliteXC championship bouts, Daley has found a home in Bellator holding an undefeated record of 4-0 with stoppages over Dennis Olson and Andy Uhrich . Gone undefeated since the end of 2013, Daley looks to extend his five-fight win streak to six as he faces Josh Koscheck at Bellator 158 in London, England on July 16th to avenge one of his losses.
Notable Wins: Martin Kampmann, Jorge Masvidal, Scott Smith
8) Gegard Mousasi
Netherlands / MMA Record 38-6-2
Former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion and dual-weight DREAM champion, Gegard Mousasi is one of the most seasoned veterans on this list. He has shared the ring with legendary greats such as Lyoto Machida, Dan Henderson, and Jacare Souza just to name a few.
Appearing stoic in the cage, Gegard Mousasi is nothing less than an assassin when it comes to fighting finishing thirty-one of his professional thirty-eight wins. He can knock out opponents on the feet or submit them on the ground. Mousasi has finished the likes of Mark Munoz, Dan Henderson, and Mark Hunt. Gerard Mousasi will be looking to add Derek Bronson to his resume when they collide at UFC 200 on July 9th, 2016.
Notable Wins: Dan Henderson, Jacare Souza, Ovince Saint Preux, Hector Lombard
7) Andrei Arlovski
Belarus / MMA Record 25-12 (1 NC)
Andrei Arlovski is a Belarusian knockout artist and former UFC Heavyweight champion. Developing a resurgence in his career, Arlovski was nearly on the doorstep of another title shot after winning six straight before suffering a loss to Stipe Miocic.
This heavy hitter also has seventeen (T)KO victories to his name and is currently tied for the most knockouts in the UFC heavyweight’s division. Arlovski is also the first person to knock out the very durable Roy Nelson. Ranked second for the most wins in the UFC’s heavyweight division, and despite his loss to teammate Alistair Overeem in Rotterdam, he remains one of the best European fighters in the sport.
Notable Wins: Fabricio Werdum, Travis Browne, Frank Mir, Ben Rothwell
6) Liam McGeary
England / MMA Record 11-0
Liam McGeary is undefeated and also the current champion of the Bellator’s Light Heavyweight division. Of his eleven victories, McGeary has finished ten of his opponents.
This English light heavyweight giant broke through in the MMA scene in 2014 winning the Bellator Light Heavyweight Tournament. McGeary then went on to win the Bellator Light Heavyweight crown by dethroning Emanuel Newton in 2015, then, later on, defended his belt by submitting Tito Ortiz in the very first round. Liam McGeary is expected to defend his title against the winner of Phil Davis and Muhammed Lawal.
Notable Wins: Tito Ortiz, Emanuel Newton
5) Alexander Gustafsson
Sweden / MMA Record 16-4
Swedish superstar Alexander Gustafsson was a former national amateur boxing champion before making the move to professional MMA. He has competed for and nearly grasped the UFC Light Heavyweight title twice.
Alexander Gustafsson is true a mixed martial artist with ten knockouts and three submissions to his credit. Still young and ever improving, Gustafsson has exceptional footwork and uses his length well with his boxing skills. He is also the only man in MMA history to take down both Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier. Alexander Gustafsson is ranked five in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
Notable Wins: Shogun Rua, Jimi Manuwa, Thiago Silva
4) Alistair Overeem
Netherlands / MMA Record 41-14 (1NC)
Formerly known as the “Demolition Man”, Alistair Overeem has won major titles throughout his career. He has won the Strikeforce Heavyweight title, DREAM Heavyweight title, and K1 Heavyweight title. Overeem is also the only person to hold three championship belts simultaneously.
Alistair Overeem is the most experienced fighter on this list with over forty professional MMA bouts. He is a natural born killer with thirty-six of his forty wins coming by the way of stoppage, seventeen knockouts, and nineteen submissions respectively. His last bout, maybe his most impressive, Overeem knocked out former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos and extended his win streak to three. Overeem now has his sights set on the UFC Heavyweight Title after defeating fellow Jackson-Wink fighter Andrei Arlovski in Rotterdam, the first ever UFC card in the Netherlands.
Notable Wins: Fabricio Werdum, Brock Lesnar, Junior dos Santos, Vitor Belfort, Andrei Arlovski
3) Michael Bisping
England / MMA Record 28-7
Michael Bisping is the Ultimate Fighter season 3 winner and first non-American to win the show. Bisping has also successfully coached three TUF winners in James Wilks, Ross Pearson, and Diego Brandao.
Brash with his words and brutal with his strikes, Bisping holds the record for the most wins in the UFC’s middleweight division with fourteen. He was also the first British fighter to headline a UFC pay per view. What may be most impressive about this British brawler though is that he amassed a perfect record of 17-0 in his home country of England. Bisping is riding a three-fight win streak and is currently ranked four in the UFC’s middleweight division. Fresh off the biggest win of his career over Anderson Silva, Michael Bisping finally finds himself in that long-awaited title shot, as he will be taking on Luke Rockhold on short notice at UFC 199.
Notable Wins: Anderson Silva, Alan Belcher, Cung Le, Brian Stann
2) Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Poland / MMA Record 11-0
Some may call her Joanna Champion but everyone recognizes her as the UFC Female Strawweight Champion. Joanna Jedrzejczyk is the first Polish UFC Champion and the first UFC European female champion.
A former six-time world champion in Muay Thai, Joanna Jedrzejczyk is one of the most devastating strikers the world has ever seen in female MMA. She sets up baits and traps in the octagon then proceeds to punish her opponents with all eight limbs of contact. Jedrzejczyk holds the record for the highest strike differential in UFC championship history and most leg kicks in a UFC bout with 70+. Joanna Jedrzejczyk remains undefeated as she plans to take on Claudia Gadelha in an epic rematch.
Notable Wins: Claudia Gadelha, Carla Esparza, Jessica Penne
1) Conor McGregor
Ireland / MMA Record 19-3
This should come as no surprise to anyone, Conor McGregor is arguably the face of the UFC right now. He was right; who has done what he has in the time that he has done it? He is arguably the face of the UFC right now. Within just a couple years, McGregor has become one of the most hyped, talk about and exciting fighters MMA has ever seen. He was briefly linked to a super fight against Dos Anjos and possibly becoming the first dual-weight champion holding the belts simultaneously.
Conor McGregor burst into the UFC in 2013 blasting through his first six opponents before challenging pound for pound king and UFC Featherweight Champion, Jose Aldo. When McGregor fought Aldo, he made history by knocking out the champion in a mere thirteen seconds making it the fastest finish in UFC Championship history. McGregor has finished seventeen of his nineteen victories by the way of (T)KO.
With all of the talk of Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather, will the Irishman take on one of the best boxers of all time, for his biggest payday of his career? It’s certainly still very unlikely, but something that seems to intrigue a lot of combat sports, and sports fans in general.
Notable Wins: Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, Dustin Poirier, Max Holloway
Bellator: Selecting the Four Alternates for the Heavyweight Grand Prix.
With an 8-man tournament bracket full of legends and former champions, join us as we chose four alternates for the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Main Tournament Participants:
- Fedor Emelianenko
- Frank Mir
- Chael Sonnen
- Quinton Jackson
- Roy Nelson
- Matt Mitrione
- Ryan Bader
- King Mo Lawal
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) November 28, 2017
The alternate tournament bracket will consist of: two opening round fights (semi-final), and then two victorious fighters competing against one another at the finale (final). This will determine a worthy contender to step into the main tournament bracket, in case any of the main bracket fighters are injured in their semi-final bouts.
If a pull-out or injury occurs before the opening bouts, I believe Bellator have to select the most decorated fighter, and a natural heavyweight fighter. So in case of a pull-out occurring before the opening round, I would select my #1 alternate, and so on for any more opening pull-outs.
This structure covers all bases, and keeps the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament intense and prestigious.
So with the structure laid out, here is our selected alternate fighters.
- #1: Vitaly Minakov
- #2: Linton Vassell
- #3: Attilah Vegh
- #4: Emanuel Newton
Alternate Opening Round [Semi-Final]:
- Bout 1: #1 Vs. #3
- Bout 2: #2 Vs. #4
- Victor of Bout #1/#3 Vs. Victor of Bout #2 Vs. #4
Linton Vassell vs. Emanuel Newton would be a trilogy that needs to be completed. Linton dominated on the ground for the most part of their first bout, but felt he gave up positions he felt he could have held longer, and took needless transitions and risks; allowing for a very sneaky Emanuel Newton to escape the clutches of ‘The Swarm’, and when the gas tank begins to empty – a scrambling Emanuel Newton is not what you want!
Vitaly Minakov: A former Bellator tournament winner, and former Bellator heavyweight champion. A Judo black belt, and multi time Sambo world champion, there’s no denying this man’s resume as one of the best put forth out of these 4 fighters.
Linton Vassell: A man who really lives up to the moniker – ‘The Swarm’, Linton Vassell has dominated and dispatched various opponents Bellator have put across from him. Having fallen short in two title fights, and a close decision loss to King Mo, Linton has shown that he’s there with the best Bellator has to offer, maybe the Heavyweight Grand Prix might see the dark-horse finally come into the lime-light! Currently contracted to Bellator with a 7-3 record for the promotion.
If you would like to follow the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament, you can check out the opening round bouts on the following Bellator MMA events:
@BellatorMMA @ScottCoker I want in on this World Grand Prix, anyone gets hurt or injured I want in, I want to be that alternant. Plus I got some unfinished business to attend to. #cantstopwontstop pic.twitter.com/zHtpMzHcya
— Linton Vassell (@LDV_TheSwarm) November 19, 2017
Emanuel Newton: Already holding two victories over King Mo, who’s allocated in this Heavyweight main tournament bracket – that alone is just cause to enter Emanuel. An exciting and unpredictable entry this would be. Bellator parted ways with Emanuel in 2016. Currently, Newton is not on the best of runs, but this tournament needs a ‘wild-card’, and Emanuel owns that title.
Attilah Vegh: A former Bellator LHW champion. Not currently signed to Bellator. Was strangely released in 2014 after having a record of 5-1 with the promotion, and some victories over some very reputable names. Currently on a 2 fight win-streak outside of Bellator MMA.
If you would like to follow the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament, you can check out the opening round bouts on the following Bellator MMA events:
Bellator 192 at The Forum – Jan. 20, 2018: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (37-12) vs. Chael Sonnen (30-15-1)
Bellator 194 at Mohegan Sun Arena – Feb. 16, 2018: Matt Mitrione (12-5) vs. Roy Nelson (23-14)
Bellator at Allstate Arena – April, 2018: Fedor Emelianenko (36-5, 1 NC) vs. Frank Mir (18-11)
Bellator at SAP Center – May, 2018: Ryan Bader (24-5) vs. “King Mo” Lawal (21-6, 1 NC)
Exclusive: Hisaki Kato: “My priorities are in MMA”
French-Japanese middleweight Hasaki Kato returns to the Bellator cage Friday as he takes on former welterweight Chidi “Bang Bang” Njokuani. Ahead of the high-level striking match-up, Kato took the time out of his busy schedule to speak with MMA Latest.
Rangy striker Njokuani makes his middleweight debut Friday as he looks to erase his loss to Andrey Koreshkov from recent memory. It isn’t lost on Kato just how tall and lanky the 6’3 striker truly is. “Well he’s very tall,” Kato tells MMA Latest. “He was a welterweight but even for a middleweight he’s really tall he’s like 6’2, 6’3 taller than me, longer reach than me. Obviously, I was watching his fights, he’s fighting with range and using his reach to fight so that’s his number one weapon.”
In Njokuani’s last fight, Koreshkov, the former welterweight champion, held Njokuani down and elbowed him until the ref stepped in. So what exactly went wrong in the fight? “Well, first I think Koreshkov is really, really strong,” Kato explains. “Chidi Njokuani normally escapes the ground part or at least he’s on top of his opponent. But Koreshkov has good pressure and good grappling and he could take the top position. Obviously, Njokuani is not comfortable when he is on the bottom. So yeah, I think he couldn’t play his game during the last fight because Koreshkov was putting too much pressure on him.”
Former UFC fighter, Gegard Mousasi, recently made his debut against Alexander Shlemenko back in October. The Dutchman had a tough debut that resulted in a controversial decision win, Kato weighed in on whether or not he’s eyeing a fight with him and what he thought of his Bellator debut. “If I have an offer I will fight him,” he says without any particular enthusiasm. “I will fight everybody in the division. Yeah, for the last fight, well, I think luckily for him it was a three-round fight. I think if it was a five round fight the victory would have gone to Shlemenko. I don’t know maybe he had a bad camp, I don’t know but he was doing terrible.”
Kato also believes a title shot isn’t far away. “I believe I’m really close to that (a title shot),” he says. “After the win, after the Gracie fight, even if it was a decision win, the Gracie is a big family name so I was expecting a title fight. I didn’t have it so I guess if I win this time I have a good chance to have it.”
Whatever you do, don’t expect to see Kato back in a kickboxing ring anytime soon. Does it interest him to return? “Not really,” Kato replies after giving the question some thought. “If the offer is good then why not, for now, I feel more comfortable in MMA so my focus, my priorities, are in MMA.”
Many fans were very disappointed with the way his last fight turned out. Paired up against jiu-jitsu fighter, Ralek Gracie, Kato ended up going to the judges for the first time in his career. “Yeah the fight itself was really frustrating,” Kato admits. “I couldn’t do what I wanted and after two rounds, I knew I had done enough to win, and I knew he would push more. So I decided ‘yeah ok then it’s going to a decision’ but at the very least I had to win that fight. That’s why I didn’t take too many risks in the third round. During the first and the second, I really wanted to end that fight like I always try but I couldn’t do it.”
So why hasn’t Kato fought since January? “I had an offer in September,” he says. “But I got injured during the training and had to go into surgery, and after the surgery, the process is really long to recover so that’s why.”
So what does Kato predict for the fight? “Obviously his nickname is ‘Bang’ you know, he likes to fight and that’s all I like doing too,” Kato laughs. “I’m really thinking about having a big knockout with my hands.”
Exclusive: Fernando Gonzalez talks Paul Daley and Michael Page fights
Long-time Bellator welterweight contender, Fernando Gonzalez, has made a career out of fighting the best fighters his promotion had to offer. The always tough Californian has displayed this willingness to fight the best when he took on Paul Daley in a kickboxing match and when he took on Michael ‘Venom’ Page, in what was supposed to be Page’s coming out fight.
The kickboxing match with Daley happened back in 2015 at “Bellator MMA and Glory: Dynamite 1” in an event that featured both Glory kickboxing as well as its fair share of intriguing Bellator MMA fights. Gonzalez would go on to lose the fight in what many fans called a ‘lackluster’ contest. Speaking to MMA Latest, Gonzalez was asked if he had any interest in returning to the kickboxing ring and why he participated in Glory kickboxing.
“No. Honestly, that kickboxing match was more just to get Daley; because they kept trying to give him to me on short notice and one was on an injury,” Gonzalez told MMA Latest. “So I was like, ‘no I don’t want to give him an easy win’, but the only thing they came up with was that kickboxing match in that time. So ever since that fight, I was like ‘listen dude lets do this MMA’. I’m an MMA guy, I know how to kickbox and I’m good with it but I prefer MMA. I love doing MMA. I don’t like to have too many rules put on me. I like being able to go out there and flow freely. Honestly, I want Daley in an MMA fight so he gets the real fight.”
Gonzalez’ fight with Michael Page was booked as the veteran getting fed to the younger up and coming contender. The fight was Page’s opportunity to add another highlight reel knockout to his collection. Obviously, someone forgot to tell Gonzalez. Gonzalez went out and made sure he never gave Page any openings, unfortunately, he would go on to lose the fight by split decision. Fernando explains what went wrong in his only Bellator loss.
“Honestly the only thing that went wrong in the fight is how people viewed the fight”, Gonzalez explains. “If you really look at the fight he really didn’t land anything. The whole first round they’re talking him up, how he’s dancing and how it’s putting me into a lullaby and this and that. I was never in danger. He was not throwing a single punch. This is MMA, you cant just take on the fight with one style, you have to fight different styles for different people. If it was just boxing, you would fight a boxer just one way realistically, but Michael Page has the karate style. So you have to come up with a different formula if you’re going to fight somebody like that.”
“So my style with him, I knew that he’s used to everybody rushing him and trying to take him down. I’m a striker so I don’t mind striking. If I’m not in danger then I’m going to keep it striking. So what I did was I circled, I kept him at arm’s length, so he constantly had to throw long arms where he’s having to reach out and grab you. He’s throwing those arms out, that makes him have to basically hold his arms out a lot longer than he’s used to. He’s used to guys rushing in on him. So with me playing that outside game, obviously my legs are a lot longer than my arms, so I had to throw a lot more kicks, there was a lot of head kicks to take away his power-punch where he leaps in. By doing that, that made him work a lot longer in the second and third round where he’s normally finishing guys. By that third round, he was completely exhausted and couldn’t throw. He said his timing was off and this and that, but he was just exhausted. I had already gassed him out and he had just enough to stay away from me.”
“Really it’s just how you see the fight. They automatically assumed I had to take him down to win and that’s not necessarily true. If I’m not in danger, and I’m landing kicks, and I’m landing good shots, and he’s hitting my arms. Realistically most of the shots he landed were on my arms and that really doesn’t count. So it’s really just how you see it and that’s why one judge had it 30-27. It’s just how you’re seeing the fight. If you’re a striker you would know what you’re looking at, but if you’re a ground guy, of course, you’re going to say ‘oh I got to get it to the ground’ which is what the commentators were; two ground guys talking about what I should’ve done.”
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