Many fans of the great sport of mixed martial arts are only aware of the fighters within the UFC. But MMA is a global sport that is big in Japan, Brazil, Russia and China and you should be aware of some of the elite talent competing there if you want to be a true MMA fan.
Here are five fighters that you may not have heard of, but deserve your attention because they’re good at what they do and who knows, they could be in the UFC one day.
Joe Warren (Dream) – A Greco-Roman wrestler who won the 2006 Pan American and World Championship, Warren began his transition into the world of MMA in 2008 training with fellow wrestler and MMA veteran Dan Henderson. Warren entered the Dream Featherweight Grand Prix tournament with no professional MMA fights. He defeated former WEC champion Chase Beebe in the first round of the tournament at Dream.7. The second round of the tournament matched Warren up with fan favorite Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. Many felt that Warren was being fed to the wolves in his second MMA fight, but the talented wrestler showed his determination and strength and took a unanimous decision victory. In the finals he was matched up with Jiu-Jitsu expert Bibiano Fernandes who defeated Warren quickly by submission. With only three MMA fights and two wins over experienced opponents, Warren is a rising star to watch out for in 2010.
Masanori Kanehara (World Victory Road) – Kanehara is not the undefeated unstoppable fighter type. He is definitely a fighter who goes into a fight preparing for a war. Kanehara was not always a fan favorite but his never say die attitude and determination has made him more popular as of late. Kanehara is a veteran of DEEP, ZST, and the Pancrase organizations but now is competing in the featherweight division of World Vicory Road Sengoku. Kanehara was announced to be competing in the World Victory Road Featherweight Grand Prix. He advanced to the semi-final round of the Grand Prix after two close decision victories over Jong Man Kim and Chan Sung Jung. Kanehara lost his semi-final bout to Hatsu Hioki but ended up replacing Hioki after Hioki could not continue due to medical clearance. A 17-to-1 underdog, he faced off against Michihiro Omigawa in the finals of the Grand Prix. In true underdog fashion Kanehara won the tournament with a split decision and became the World Victory Road Featherweight Champion. Recently, Kanehara shocked fans again by defeating Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto.
Bibiano Fernandes (Dream) – Fernandes is a highly talented Ju-Jitsu stylist with multiple grappling trophies and championships to his credit. Fernandes has fought with K-1, King of the Cage, and now the Dream promotion. He has made improvements to his stand up game since switching over to MMA and shows increased hand speed and striking set ups for his takedowns. Fernandes entered the Dream Featherweight Grand Prix and defeated Takafumi Otsuka, Masaakazu Imanari, Joe Warren and Hiroyuki Takaya in the finals to win the Grand Prix belt as well as being crowned Dream’s first Featherweight Champion.
Eddie Alvarez (Dream) – A tough hard nosed fighter from the fighting streets of Philadelphia. A true Rocky story as Alvarez used fighting as an outlet to escape hard street life and used his fighting career as a means to elevate himself and his family out of a bad situation. Alvarez is known best for his skill in boxing as well as his willingness to trade with his opponents always fighting with a crowd pleasing style. Alvarez made it to the semi-finals of Dream’s Lightweight Grand Prix, but could not continue due to an eye injury. Alvarez has beaten fighters such as Tatsuya Kawajiri, Aaron Riley as well as a stunning war with Joachim Hansen. In his short career, Alvarez has captured the BodogFIGHT Welterweight Title as well as the Bellator Lightweight Title.
Shinya Aoki (Dream) – A grappling master with some of the most creative submission moves ever seen in MMA. Aoki is so phenomenal at grappling that his matches basically use little to no striking by Aoki which is that much more impressive that he has so many wins under his belt. Aoki has wins over fighters such as Joachim Hansen, Vitor Riberio, Eddie Alvarez, and Gesias Calvacante. Aoki is the current Dream Lightweight champion, the WAMMA Lightweight champion, as well as the Shooto Middleweight champion. Watching Aoki is your best bet to see something that you have never seen before.