As we begin 2011, MMA is securing a stronger foothold on the Old Continent. Even with adverse circumstances, such as France not allowing full contact MMA or the sport being an afterthought for nations such as Spain, Portugal and Italy, the vast majority of the continent’s territories are churning out fighters.
At the highest level of MMA in 2010, Alistair Overeem defended his Strikeforce crown, took Dream's interim heavyweight title and won the K-1 World Grand Prix. Dan Hardy and Marius Zaromskis challenged for UFC and Strikeforce gold, while Marloes Coenen became the Strikeforce women's 135-pound champion. Fighters such as Brad Pickett, Alexander Gustafsson, Dennis Siver, Tarec Saffiefine and Alexander Shlemenko all elevated their games to new levels, while new blood such as Pascal Krauss, Maciej Jewtuszko and Paul Sass burst onto major shows in impressive fashion.
Here, you'll find a cross-section of Europe's top talents to keep an eye on in 2011, the ones who have yet to sign with the UFC, Strikeforce or Bellator, but could be well on their way to making an impact on the other side of the Atlantic in the next 12 months.
Papy Abedi (8-0)
This Congolese judo black belt has thus far looked like a force of nature, violent and difficult to stop. In his earlier fights, the Swedish-based middleweight would practically slam his rivals through the mat, and was able to use his submission savvy defensively, defending submissions while comfortably pounding his opponents from the top. However, Abedi has worked on refining his striking and has subsequently looked like a much more polished product, being able to patiently take over fights with his counterstrikes, and setting up his ground assault, as evidenced in his crushing of Nathan Schouteren in October. Abedi entered talks with the UFC late last year and it seems the 32-year-old "Makambo" is an outstanding win or two away from making the jump to the Octagon.
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