The lightweight division in MMA has long been heralded as the deepest and most talent rich. One of the best prospects in that division is Mansour Barnaoui. The French fighter is just 21-years old, but has managed to put together an impressive resume that is certainly piquing the interest of the top MMA promotions in the world. Holding a career mark of 11-2, his lone losses have come at the hands of current UFC fighter Kevin Lee and MMA Sun another elite lightweight prospect, Islam Makhachev. In his last two fights he finished UFC veterans Curt Warburton and Colin Fletcher en route to the BAMMA lightweight title. He has championship belts in both France and England. Yes, he is young, but this skateboarding enthusiast is perhaps one of the best prospects in MMA.
Barnaoui is a fighter that really is worth paying attention to as he has the potential to be a force in the MMA world for years to come. Mansour does not have a traditional martial arts background, but did start training in MMA at 15-years old. We put a lot of stock into fighter’s age in correlation to their potential. While Mansour did not begin training wrestling of BJJ at infancy, he began training in aspects of the sport at 15, which means his MMA base is MMA. Mansour has shown a very solid all around game. His striking is really good, and he throws a solid flying knee with accuracy. He has shown a willingness to stand and trade, and when he does he really seems to get the best of the exchanges. He has good power in his punches. He has also shown good submissions ability. Seven of his eleven wins have come via submission. When he fought Colin Fletcher he not only showed good submission defense, but he showed great transitions. He transitions from side control, to the back with ease. He also locked up a very nice body triangle, trapping the leg of Fletcher a la B.J. Penn. He is big and strong for the lightweight category and will continue to get bigger as well. Another thing I like about “Tarzan” is that he throws very powerful punches from over top of the clinch position. I think he still has a lot of room to improve in the wrestling department. In order to improve that aspect of his game he may need to train some in the U.S. or even in Russia. He also puts himself in a bad position too often. Opponents haven’t been able to really capitalize on this, but they might be able to at a higher level, so he needs to watch himself with submissions. He does great in most exchanges, but we have seen him get clipped a few times too. He will need to be a little more guarded against higher level competition.
I would expect the UFC to target someone like Barnaoui very soon. UFC has shown desire to break into mainland Europe, and Mansour may be the best prospect in Western Europe. Also, UFC has talked much about it’s global plans. Barnoui is not only fighting out of France, but he is of Tunisian decent. One would think that would add to his appeal from the UFC. This is a guy that if you watch, you will become a fan of. I think the UFC would make a mistake not signing this guy sooner rather than later. Barnoui is scheduled to fight Michael Brightmon at BAMMA 16 on Spetember 13th. The rumor is, a win there could get the BAMMA lightweight champion a UFC offer. Could we see Barnaoui become the first European UFC champion? Well, we are a long way from that, but he is certainly one to watch.