This series started during my time as a writer for Bleacher Report, continued through my tenures at Today’s Knockout and FanSided, and now it stays alive another year here at Combat Press.
Let’s examine the welterweight division, a weight class that is loaded with talent.
In picking these prospects, I’ll try my hardest to stay away from fighters who are currently in top organizations, such as ONE Championship or the Professional Fighters League, but a couple may pop up. In the past, I’ve had some great picks on the list, and some that haven’t worked out. Below are the previous year’s selections, followed by the five men the UFC should offer roster spots to in the coming year.
2012: Gunnar Nelson, Alex Garcia, Kenny Robertson, Chidi Njokuani, Gregor Gracie
2013: Jim Wallhead, Cathal Pendred, Ryan Ford*, Tyler Stinson, Assan Njie
2014: Nicolas Dalby, Ryan Ford*, Eduard Vartanyan*, Gael Grimaud, Ali Arish
2015: Danny Roberts, Max Griffin, Nicolas Dalby, Eduard Vartanyan*, Borys Mankowski*
2023: Eldar Eldarov*, Ramazan Kuramagomedov*, Carlos Leal, Cezary Oleksiejzcuk, Magomed Umalatov
Note: Bold denotes fighter was signed by UFC; * denotes fighter ineligible due to two years on list.
Adrian Bartosinski (15-0, Poland)
Poland is a gold mine for MMA talent, and one of the best prospects in the sport is Adrian Bartosinski, the KSW welterweight champion. The well-rounded Pole has not lost a fight since he was an amateur in 2017.
Bartosinski is well-rounded, but his wrestling and top-game grappling are his best skills. He has a good submission game and strong wrestling, as well as power in his strikes. He went 2-0 in 2023, winning KSW main events over Artur Szczepaniak and Salahdine Parnasse. The Parnasse win was the biggest of his career, even if Parnasse was fighting up a weight class.
He may be tougher to sign than some given his contractual status with KSW and the champion of the organization. Regardless, he’s a top welterweight and should be fighting at the highest level of the sport.
Baysangour Chamsoudinov (8-0, Russia/France)
France is slowly becoming a hot spot for MMA, especially since MMA has become legal. One of France’s best is Baysangour Chamsoudinov, a Russian-French fighter who has been a staple for the Ares FC promotion, which seems to be a feeder to the UFC.
Chamsoudinov is a strong wrestler who uses his striking to set up takedowns. He is very heavy from top position and throws big ground-and-pound. He is very aggressive and top-heavy, which makes his opponents uncomfortable. He was 2-0 in 2023 where he bested undefeated Alexander Mikael and UFC vet Efrain Escudero. The knock on Chamsoudinov is that he was supposed to have a third fight at the end of the year, but it was called off after he missed weight, which could hurt his immediate ability to get into the UFC.
Chamsoudinov is just 22 years old, which means he’s a big-time prospect who has a chance to be a future contender in the UFC. He will only get better, so, in a few years, it will be interesting to see how far he advances in his career. He’s a very dangerous prospect.
Boris Medvedev(17-2, Russia)
This spot was going to go to Cezary Oleksiejczuk, but he took a loss a couple weeks before the New Year. In his place, we will rank Boris Medvedev, a top Russian welterweight who is skilled and exciting.
Medvedev is a solid all-around fighter, possessing strong striking and wrestling ability. He has had a tough strength of schedule, which has given him great experience and proven he can hang with top talent. In 2023, he won two MMA fights, knocking out Handesson Ferreira and UFC vet Gleison Tibau. He took a kickboxing match to end the year, winning over Magomedsaygid Alibekov.
Medvedev has the type of style that Dana White and his partners love. He’s also a guy who has proven he can fight with major-league-level talent.
Samandar Murodov (9-0, Tajikistan)
Some UFC fans may be familiar with Samandar Murodov due to his one-off fight on the Road to UFC fight cards that aired on UFC Fight Pass. Murodov is a young welterweight prospect that seems geared to continue his undefeated ways into the UFC in the near future.
Murodov is a ground fighter who has five submission wins in nine pro fights. He uses his dominant wrestling to get guys down and then dismantles his opponents on the mat. His Road to UFC fight happened at the end of 2022, where he finished Gian Siqueira. He fought just once in 2023, where he scored a decision win over Lucas Sampaio under the UAE Warriors promotion.
Murodov is just 24 years old right now and a monster for the welterweight division already. He’s also big for the division, standing at six-feet-one-inch tall and being physically strong. He’s definitely UFC ready and a potential future title contender.
Magomed Umalatov (14-0, Russia)
Magomed Umalatov should be a PFL season champion by now, but visa issues have pulled him from tournaments where he should have easily taken the season title. Because of that, I think he should give up on the PFL and work with the UFC, who seems not to have these visa issues as much with their contracted fighters.
Umalatov is an absolute monster to the point that I think he’s the best welterweight prospect in the world right now not on a UFC roster. He has good wrestling, but he has been using his scary knockout power on the feet to win his fights lately. Since coming to the PFL, he has gone 5-0 with three clean knockouts. He won two fights in 2023, knocking out Dilano Taylor and earning a clear decision over Nayib Lopez. He then had to pull out of the PFL season, as mentioned before.
Coming to American Top Team was a great move for Umalatov, but now it’s time to make his run in the UFC, seeing as he’s now 31 years old. His blistering striking and strong wrestling acumen make him a tough matchup for anyone in the UFC welterweight division.
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