Many MMA fans whine and cry about the lack of depth in the heavyweight division. Four legit promising HW's are currently on the Bellator roster, with Vitaly Minakov (14-0), Alexander Volkov (22-4), Augusto Sakai (7-0) and Blagoy Ivanov (11-1) starting to make some noise.
The UFC recently signed two promising undefeated fighters in Josh Copeland (9-0) and Alaskan Jared Cannonier (7-0). Copeland, who has shown a powerful brawling style, will fight fellow high level prospect Ruslan Magomedev (12-1) at UFC Fight Night 57. Cannonier, who recently won a split decision over Tony Lopez (34-16), will fight Shawn Jordan (16-6) at UFC 182.
Here they are:
1. Marcin "Tybur" Tybura (12-0)- Tybura is a Polish heavyweight and BJJ black belt with 5 submissions and 4 TKO's on his resume. He seems to be at his best when he throws a few punches, backs his opponent against the fence and works a takedown. From there, Tybura has a solid submission game from top position and strong ground and pound.
Tybura has 6 straight wins in M-1, submitting Bellator veteran Damian Grabowski with a 1st round north south choke, TKO'ing Maro Perak, submitted Konstantin Gluhov and TKO'ing Chaban Ka, winning the M-1 Grand Prix in the process. The biggest obstacle at this point may be freeing Tybura from his M-1 contract. His last bout saw him dominate fellow prospect Denis Smoldarev finishing him with a 1st round rear naked choke. Having been out of action since the November Smoldarev win, it is unknown if he is in a contract dispute, dealing with injuries or having a tough time finding a fight.
2. Denis Smoldarev (10-1)- Listed between 6'5" and 6'7" the tall 250 pound Estonian bounced back from his loss to Tybura with a keylock submission of Maro Perak (23-5). Smoldarev began training judo at age 12, and also has combat sambo and kickboxing skills. He has 6 career M-1 wins, with a TKO over fellow 6'5" prospect Ante Delija and a decision win over Akhmed Sultanov.
Smoldarev likes to throw heavy leg kicks and power punches standing. From the bouts I've seen, he will look to isolate an arm for a submission when on the ground. Smoldarev is susceptible to the takedown and is not the best fighting off his back.
3. Smealinho Rama (9-1)- The 22 year old Canadian recently won the WSOF Heavyweight Title in his second WSOF bout by TKO'ing Derrick Mehmen (18-6) in the first round. He has other career victories over UFC vet Tim Hague (19-9) via KO and a decision over Olympic wrestler Steve Mocco. His only loss was to current UFC fighter Anthony Hamilton. Rama likely has 2 more bouts on his WSOF deal. Rama should be able transition faster on the ground with increased experience. He is scheduled to fight Blagoi Ivanov at WSOF 21 in June. WSOF has not been good about getting fights to Rama since he joined the organization.
4. Dmitriy Sosnovskiy (8-0)- The 6'3" Russian has back to back 1st round TKO's over Ivo Cuk and Aleksander Emelianenko. With solid grappling skills and plenty of power, foes will be afraid of his power double leg. He has 6 first round finishes, although the his opponents have generally been sub-par. His kickboxing needs a little improvement as he continues to face better competition.
5. Michal Wlodarek (7-0)- The Polish fighter picked up a decision victory over Szymon Bajor in his last bount, and has a split decision win over current UFC fighter Daniel Omielanczuk (15-3) and a TKO over Michal Andryszak (12-5) in KSW. Wloderk is explosive, with the ability to brawl and work the ground game. Look for Wlodarek to get a couple more KSW bouts against other European prospect before moving to the big show.
6. Chris Barnett (12-1)- fighting mainly at super heavyweight well north of 300 pounds, the 28 year old Barnett has made a commitment to get under 265 pounds. The former football player at USF and Tae Kwon Do black belt has a decision win over former UFC fighters Walt Harris, TKO over former UFC fighter Travis Wiuff and TKO win over Elite XC/Bodog vet Mario Rinaldi (13-5). With deceptive strength, power and agility, Barnett TKO'd Shinichi Suzukawa in IGF - Bom Ba Ye in Japan on New Years which was his last bout.
7. Karol "Coco" Bedorf (12-2)- The 6'2" 260 pound Polish bruiser has five straight wins since a decision loss to Rogent Lloret. The KSW champ, he defended his belt by TKO'ing Rolles Gracie and won the title by TKO'ing Pawel Nastula. He's also won decisions over UFC vet Oli Thompson and midwest vet Karl Knothe (21-9). A BJJ blackbelt and ADCC competitor, his grappling is up to par for high level competition. He next fights Bellator vet and former pro kickboxer Peter Graham (11-7) at KSW 31.
8. Cody East (9-1)- East won the Legacy HW title in his last bout, TKO'ing Vernon Davis in the first round. He has a decision over Bellator veteran Nick Rossborough (25-18) and TKO over brawler Lolohea Mahe in his career. A move to Jackson's camp and training with better competition should help East reach the next level. He next fights Brice Ritani-Coe(4-2) at Legacy 40 for the heavyweight title.
9. Dillon Cleckler (8-0)- The Florida based fighter has finished 7 of 8 fights in the first round. The problem, his best wins are over journeymen Richard White (16-17 and Jonathan Ivey (30-53). He'll next fight against Alex Nicholson (4-1) in Square Fight Promotions.
10. Zelimkhan Umiev (5-0)- The 6'5" Russian from Team Berkut has weighed around 240 pounds for his fights. He has not faced legit competition thus far.