Arab Fighters that could become International Stars (Flyweight to Heavyweight)
ArabsMMA recently caught up with Desert Force Matchmaker Yousef Nassar and spent some time with him discussing his thoughts on the best Arab Fighters who are not fighting in the big 3 promotions in the world and whom he thought we should keep a close eye on.
Let’s take a look at the most promising fighters from Bantamweight right up to Heavyweight.
“One of my favourite things about being an MMA junkie is unearthing gems… finding fighters who show a tremendous amount of potential and who can shake up the biggest promotions in the world. It almost reminds me of playing Football Manager in my adolescence where you would find a striker who would join your third division team and would somehow propel you to the champions league.
I am constantly on the look out for good Arabic talent coming through the ranks and I must say that there are a few out there who are have got the talent, grit, skill and will to not just get into the big international leagues, but genuinely make a lot of noise. Some of these guys below are fairly obvious choices, but I felt that it wouldnt make sense to leave them out of this list. Others might be less well known”
(Flyweight) Rany Saadeh
A BAMMA champion at the tender age of 22 years old, this Berlin raised fighter has only lost once (to Pietro Menga who has a 12-0 record) and has otherwise built a record of 6 wins, half by way of TKO and half by decision.
After fighting twice in his native Germany, Rany went on to amass a win in Made 4 The Cage and then embarked on a 3 fight-winning streak in BAMMA. Stand up is his game and he possesses good movement and has the ability to press his opponents with kicks from distance. It would be unfair to claim that his ground game is his weaknesses, as we haven’t really seen him spend much time on the mat.
(Bantamweight) Khalid Taha
This little German of Lebanese origin has flown under the radar. Before making his professional debut in 2013, Taha had amassed a 1-1 in amateur bouts which wasn’t really an indication of his potential. After turning pro in 2013, he rolled off three TKO wins before adding two submissions and most recently a decision win to his record. He has beaten submission specialists like Omer Cankardesler and proven strikers, such as Manuel Bilic, alike and was recently crowned the Fair FC bantamweight Championship. Khalid must make the next step up after defending his title a few times and test his mettle against some of Europe’s best competitors. If he can keep a pace of 2-4 fights per year then we might have a stellar prospect by 2017.
(Featherweight) Chabanne Chaibeddra
Chabanne might be a familiar name to MMA fans in the region. He most recently fought and won in Desert Force 16 in Saudi Arabia where he beat Rami Aziz via impressive baseball choke. The Algerian is known for his stellar grappling skills (winning 40% of his fights via submissions).
Although at first look his record might not immediately stand out, if one discounts his first two losses (which were also his first two fights) back in 2009 and 2011 (where he lost at lightweight) he would be at an impressive record of 10-2.
(Lightweight) Mehdi Baghdad
Another familiar face with Arab MMA fans would be Mehdi Baghdad who was a coach on the last season of Al Batal.
The Algerian/French Muay Thai expert was most recently crowned RFA Champion beating Zach Juusola via TKO. His victory over Juusola was preceded by another impressive TKO against Evan DeLong at RFA 18 but before then Baghdad had the hardest time finding an opponent willing to fight him going almost an entire year without a fight after a slew of opponents turned down the opportunity to share a cage with him.
As a sidenote we should also mention that Mehdi’s manager is none other than the infamous Ed Soares, manager of fighters such as Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva and one of the owners of the legendary Black House MMA gym, which also enables Mehdi to spare with a number of UFC veterans.
(Lightweight) Mansour Barnaoui
You didn’t think that Mansour wouldn’t be on this list did you? Mansour is arguably the most impressive Arab fighter below welterweight that isn’t signed by the big three of WSOF, UFC or Bellator.
A veteran of 14 fights with notable wins over UFC alums Collin Fletcher and Curt Warburton and took the M1 lightweight title from Maxim Divnich, handing the Russian his only loss in the process. He also currently holds the BAMMA lightweight title as well.
With over 90% of his winning fights resulting in finishes it is only a matter of time before the Tunisian ‘Tarzan’ finds his way to the very big leagues.
(Welterweight) Jessin Ayari
This Tunisian/German submission specialist has gone 13-3 since making his debut back in 2009. Jessin actually even flew out to Las Vegas this year for the tryouts for next years season of TUF which was suppose to feature lightweights and welterweights. After passing the submission and striking portion of the tryouts everything seemed to indicate that Jessin would have his chance to fight his way to the UFC. Alas it didn’t quite come to fruition as the UFC decided to feature only lightweights in their next season and scrapped the welterweights.
(Middleweight) Abu Azaitar
Abu Azaitar might be a familiar face to some of the MMA fans in the region having fought against Jack Marshman on Cage Warriors –Fight Night 10 in Amman back in 2014. Watching this man fight, it is clear from the get go where he gets his moniker “Gladiator” from. Heavy handed with a good wrestling base and take down defense 6 of his 10 wins have come inside the first round and 7 have come via KO/TKO.
Azaitar might be the fighter who is best positioned on this list to make the jump to the major leagues. One of the big hurdles in his way at the moment is his colourful past. Azaitar has in the past associated himself with some of Germany’s most notorious gang members and has been in and out of juvenile prison for some time. He seems to have matured, albeit it remains to be seen if a promotion is willing to take a risk on this fighter that could yield big dividends.
(Heavyweight) Jarjis Danho
Meeting the “Man Mountain” for the first time it is surprising to find out just what a humble and gentle giant this man is. His demeanor outside the cage couldn’t be any more different than his ferocity inside.
At 31 years of age, Jarjis has a 6-0-1 record and has wins over opponents like Marcus Vanttinen (who at the time of their fight had a 24-5 record) and Stefan Traumuller, recognized by many as Austria’s number 1 heavyweight. Jarjis has never been to a decision, winning all of his fights within the distance by KO or TKO (he does have two submissions to his name, but they came from punches).
With the UFC’s division as thin as it is, Jarjis might be two more convincing wins away from getting a call up to the big leagues.
(Heavyweight) Chaban Ka
If you were sat cage side at the most recent Desert Force during the bout between Jarrah al Selawi and Mohammad Sayyah you might have noticed the absolute giant of a cornerman in Sayyah’s corner. That would be Chaban Ka. The Lebanese/Senegalese fighter who was raised in France has fought famous fighters such as Jeff Monson (twice) and Marcin Tybura. With an almost 90% finish rate, this man is very exciting to watch and should look to fight another 3 or 4 times in the next year or 18 months to find out exactly where he stands.
(Heavyweight) Yosef Ali Mohammed
This 5-1 behemoth is a physical specimen. Yosef fights at heavyweight but you wouldn’t know it from watching his fights…the monstrously athletic Swede moves like a much lighter fighter.
Since turning pro in 2012 Yosef has only managed to fight 6 times due to injuries that have stunted his momentum. His sole loss came via decision against Viktor Pesta (who now fights in the UFC) in only his second pro MMA bout. If he can remain injury free and fight 3 times over the next 12 months we might soon find him in the biggest leagues.
(Middleweight) Faycal Hucin is a ferocious middleweight who beat a UFC alum in Che Mills in his last appearance. He seemed destined for big things but hasn’t fought in almost two years and hasn’t been aided by Cage Warriors seemingly falling apart. If he can get back on the bandwagon and reach the same heights he previously did expect him to go far.
(Welterweight) Mounir Lazzez is another fantastic striker and has endeared himself to the fans in the Middle East with his exciting finishes and varied striking. Mounir currently holds a 5-0 record and has a slew of highlight KO’s to his name. Question marks remain over his grappling of which we haven’t seen much, albeit training out of the widely respected Team Nogueira team where he has a plethora of black belts and no-gi specialists to train with should translate into an improved ground game.
(Welterweight) Abusupiyan Magomedov is a star in the making. Yes I know he isn’t Arab… but do yourself a favour and watch his fights. At 24 years young and a record of 10-2 with some of the wins over formidable opponents the sky is truly the limit for this German/Dagestani brawler.
(Featherweight) Saba Bolaghi The son of Iranian immigrants who fled to German in the late 70’s, Bolaghi is arguably one of the toughest Arab wrestlers to make the transition into MMA. His medals include the Junior World Championships (2009) and also took bronze in the 2011 European Championships. Strong in the clinch and extremely busy on the ground where he likes to wear his opponents down until they present him with a submission opportunity.
The undefeated prospect only emerged without a victory once in his second bout against the M1 veteran Zulfikar Usmanov that ended in a draw.