When I evaluate talent, the younger a prospect is the more they stand out. The bottom line is the younger they are the more time they have to develop. When we see prospects that are under 21-years old busting onto the scene it is quite obvious that a new breed of talent is emerging. The sport of mixed martial arts is really just starting to become a sport where kids train in all disciplines from a very young age. We are starting to see some of those type fighters enter the scene. These young fighters really could become champions in their respective divisions one day. However, we do not want to put the cart before the horse. These fighters need time to develop. They need to be properly matched up. They need to improve. I just want to note that given their age and current skill set that these young prospects are names that we are likely to hear more about soon. Here are 5 (okay…kind of 6) under 21-years old to keep an eye on.
1. Ion Cutelaba – 20 years old – The native of the country of Moldova is a very solid prospect to watch. He boasts a 7-1 career record. The UFC needs some young heavyweight talent. With the division getting older they could use some young talent. Cutelaba is exciting and skilled. While Cutelaba is not a polished heavyweight, he certainly is fun to watch because of his aggressive style. I think he would be a nice addition to the UFC, but he would need to be brought along slowly. My point is that there are UFC heavyweights that he could beat.
2. Mizuki Inoue – 20 years old – At 20-years old Inoue might be Japan’s best female prospect. She is certainly on the UFC radar. Currently she is scheduled to fight the very talented Karolina Kowalkiewcz at the next Invicta event. I would say that it will not be long until we see her in the UFC and furthermore, she really could bring a UFC title to Japan. She is that good. Out of the fighters on this list she is most ready to compete among the world’s best.
3. Agnieszka Niedwiedz – 19 years old – She really is a phenom. She competes in the women’s bantamweight division and good be close to a UFC deal. She has a really tough fight next against Pannie Kianzad for the Cage Warriors title. Regardless of the outcome, Niedwiedz is going to be in the UFC one day.
4. Ricardo Ramos – At 19 years old, the Brazilian bantamweight prospect has a 6-0 career mark. He is largely unproven due to the lack of high level opponents, but given some time he really could develop into a top tier fighter. He already has very effective submission skills and as he continues to develop he will become well rounded.
5 Khasan Askhabov and Khusein Askhabov – 19 years old – This pair of brothers really is worth noting. The twins each have a perfect 8-0 career record. Khasan is a lightweight while Khusein is a featherweight. Like most young prospects they will need to take slow steps up in competition if they want to continue their trajectory towards the UFC.