Joseph Duffy file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
On June 25, 2009, Sherdog featured a story on the Top Ten Euro Prospects. Many fighters spotlighted there have since moved on to fight inside more prominent promotions. Alan Omer and Gunnar Nelson made names for themselves in the upstart British Association of Mixed Martial Arts. Magomed Shikshavekov and Karl Amoussou were signed by Strikeforce. Paul Sass and Alexander Gustafsson have joined the ranks of the UFC.
Now comes the next wave -- 10 European mixed martial artists who have yet to taste defeat as professionals. They, too, seem destined for greener pastures.
10. Ajlin Ahmic (5-0) -- Age: 25 / Country: Croatia
With an ongoing drought in talent in the heavyweight division, the demands on a fighter in MMA’s highest weight class are fewer. Still, Croatian judo champion Ahmic remains appealing due to his agility and versatility inside the ring. Although still in the early stages of his career, the Ultimate Fight Club Gladiator rep raised more than a few eyebrows when he stopped 30-plus-fight veteran Sasa Lazic in less than a minute during his latest outing.
9. Jimi Manuwa (8-0) -- Age: 30 / Country: England
Manuwa, an American-born, United Kingdom-raised light heavyweight, has come out of nowhere to rise to the top of the domestic rankings within the last two years. The “Poster Boy,” from London, has finished all eight of his fights inside two rounds, seven by knockout and one by guillotine choke. Although he has yet to face his first real test inside the ring, he has made remarkable progress in a short amount of time. Upcoming fights against Przemyslaw Mysiala and Valentino Petrescu will decide whether or not the Ultimate Challenge MMA promotion can hang onto its light heavyweight champion.
8. David Aranda (5-0) -- Age: 33 / Country: Spain
A late bloomer, MMA Barcelona’s Aranda did not have his first professional fight until the age of 32. Alternating between Almogavers, Spain’s only substantial promotion, and the Finland-based Cage, Aranda has rocketed up the European bantamweight rankings. A model student of Nova Uniao export Yan Cabral, his coming out party came in a first-round submission of highly regarded Finnish prospect Mathias Klockars. The victory, which came in Klockars’ homeland, earned Aranda the Cage bantamweight championship.
7. Lukasz Sajewski (8-0) -- Age: 19 / Country: Poland
A year ago, hype surrounded then 17-year-old Polish grappling prodigy Marcin Held. The Bastion Tychy fighter extended his undefeated streak to eight before falling prey to Sajewski. He stole Held’s thunder by shutting down his dangerous submission game and controlling the fight from top position en route to a unanimous decision. Sajewski, the 2008 Angels of Fire lightweight tournament champion, also holds a second-round submission over the well-rounded Lukasz Bugara.
6. Rumen Dimitrov (8-0-2) -- Age: 28 / Country: Bulgaria
The 2009 European and World Combat Sambo champion at 180 pounds, Dimitrov serves as the head of the Combat Sambo Club in Sofia, Bulgaria. The team also features his twin brother, Rosen, bantamweight Kostadin Tabakov and Sengoku veteran Blagoi Ivanov. Dimitrov has competed exclusively in his home country, and nine of his 10 professional fights have taken place in his hometown. As his background may suggest, Dimitrov has incredible upper-body throws and a tight top game with dangerous submissions. He does not mind the good old-fashioned punch to the face, either.
5. Papy Abedi (7-0) -- Age: 31 / Country: Sweden
Abedi, a judo black belt, could be described as the Swedish version of Kevin Randleman. Similar to the former UFC heavyweight champion, “Makambo” has his strengths on the ground but has proven more than willing to let his hands fly, as well. Known to gas quickly at the beginning of his career, Abedi has put stamina issues behind him and reeled off three consecutive technical knockouts in the last 18 months. A training partner of UFC light heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson, Abedi, according to many Scandinavian insiders, may get his shot soon.
4. Valentino Petrescu (8-0) -- Age: 29 / Country: Romania
Look up “loyalty” in the dictionary, and one might find Petrescu’s image depicted next to it. The Romanian-born UK resident has spent his entire eight-fight career inside the cage of his home promotion -- Ultimate Warrior Challenge. However, the UWC has not sugar-coated the light heavyweight’s path. Petrescu has already faced two formidable opponents: Lithuanian kickboxer Arunas Andriuskevicus and Polish submission specialist Przemyslaw Mysiala. “Battista” has gone the distance only once.
3. Pascal Krauss (9-0) -- Age: 23 / Country: Germany
A German junior boxing champion and national Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion, Krauss has emerged as the top-ranked welterweight in Germany. He also wrestles for RKG Freiburg in the Oberliga Sudbaden. Most recently, “Panzer” succeeded Dan Hardy as the welterweight titleholder in the tradition-rich Cage Warriors Fighting Championships promotion, as he put together a dominant performance over fellow unbeaten prospect John Quinn.
2. Joseph Duffy (7-0) -- Age: 22 / Country: Ireland
Born in Ireland, Duffy moved to Wales as a toddler. His success can be directly linked to the training and teaching of Heath Gait at Falcon Martial Arts. Originally a tae kwon do stylist turned kickboxer, Duffy picked up jiu-jitsu and no-gi grappling under Gait. Making his professional debut at the age of 18, the lightweight can call upon a successful amateur career, with more than 30 bouts. Rumors persist that Duffy will be part of the cast for the 12th season of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
1. Alexander Sarnavskiy (10-0) -- Age: 21 / Country: Russia
Russia has more than 140 million inhabitants and easily 15-20 million martial artists, yet only Fedor Emelianenko managed to reach the pinnacle of MMA. RusFighters Sport Club hopes to rewrite history. The St. Petersburg outfit has already produced 2010 Bellator Fighting Championships middleweight tournament winner Alexander Shlemenko, and Sarnavskiy looks like its next diamond in the rough. Like Shlemenko, the “Tiger” prefers to keep the fight standing but has shown himself to be well-versed on the ground. The 21-year-old holds significant wins over Maratbek Kalabekov and Karen Grigoryan.
Contact Tim Leidecker at www.facebook.com/Rossonero1 or follow him on twitter @Rossonero1.