This is the first in an UnderGround Blog series by Daniel Caton, on grading the prospects in MMA, similar to the way the NFL grades prospects, based on strength of competition, size, speed, agility, and martial arts background among other factors.
The grading relies on a four-block pyramid of strength of competition, with the UFC at the top. There is a further, admittedly speculative grade based on a fighter's ceiling. This grade will be averaged with their respective age, to provide a feel for how this prospect will pan out long term.
So, here’s the structure.
A. UFC contract would grant the prospect 30 base points to his grade (must have at least four UFC Fights).
B. Strikeforce would grant 20.
C. Bellator (who I believe does an astounding job at signing young talent) would give 16.
D. TitanFC/OneFC/MFC/KOTC would grant 12.
F. Anything below that would garner a local show base of 5.
Each prospect will be measured closely on an important trending credential when evaluating a fighter’s eventual peak - size. Similar to the NBA and NFL, size can be the difference between a top-five pick and a third rounder. For instance, one huge variable that sets Jon Jones apart is his freakish size. If you equate that to say a Chris Weidman, that doesn’t seem to add. But, I say look again. Wediman has an uncanny reach, with a 78" wing span. That is far and above others fighting at 185. You’ll find that this unique attribute - one that can’t be taught - is a key in his ability to attack opponents' necks on the mat, and to snag single and doubles where most can’t.
So size garners another 10-40 points. Adn it can graph the potential of the prospect.
Then we look at caliber of pedigree.
This is where the previous point scales will build into a greater number. We’ll grade the prospect based on the following and give them a range of 1-7 based in each category, and even deduct points where there are holes from 1-7.
As there are varying bases to striking, we will follow the basic parameters of MMA.
Offense: Boxing, Clinch Work, Kickboxing, Footwork
Defense: Positioning, Chin, Composure, Cardio (gas tank)
As there are varying bases to grappling, it is broken down into different categories
Top Game: Takedowns, Top Control, Transition Ability, Submission Ability
Bottom Game: Takedown Defense, Guard Work, Escape Ability, Submission Defense
The final prospect points are awared for age. What do Jose Aldo and Jon Jones have in common? They are both under 25 and hold belts, UFC belts. That is sobering when predicting the vault in ability as they won’t enter their prime after the age of 28.
It breaks down like this.
23 and under is 14 points: A (4.0)
24-25 is 10 points: B (3.0)
26-28 is 5 points: C (2.0)
29-30 is 0 points: D (1.0)
31-32 is -2 points: F (0.0)
33-36 is -4 points: F (-.5)
37 is -10 points: F (-1.0)
The first fighter we will grade is...
James Te Huna
Age: 30 0 D 1.0
UFC Record: 4-1 20 A 4.0
Build: Mesomorph. Large shoulders and chest, very cut upper body that more aligns with smaller heavyweights than light heavyweights. Posseses a decent reach for his size and weight class. Lower body seems to have good explosion and quick feet for footwork.
Pros: Te Huna has a gifted set of hands. Boxing since the age 14, his boxing ability is far surpasses most in his division. As of late, Te Huna has shown the ability to time takedowns, and land opponents on their back. He has a solid single that he’s able to push his weight through along with his shoulders to get the takedown. He has an effective jab that he can use to time more punishing shots with his right hand. His slick boxing allows him to set different speeds to confuse opponents as to when the more brutal blow will land. The most impressive quality in Te Huna’s game is footwork. Able to work out of both southpaw and orthodox stances, Te Huna can set angles and position that very few in his division can. He has the discipline to not stand still and keep working for space and angles. He has a wide array of hand strikes that make him dangerous and he has a bomb in his right hand at all times. It’s not the H-bomb, but he can uncork a nice right uppercut and overhand right to really do damage.
Cons: Te Huna does constantly work, however, one could question his pacing and thus his gas tank. His timing for the single is good, but it’s not great. In fact most of Te Huna’s game works from his boxing. As a result, we don’t see the wide range of striking that one would expect at the upper tiers of the division. This is not to say one dimension can't be fine - JDS does wonders with straight forward boxing. But JDS has outstanding takedown defense that allows it. Te Huna’s takedown defense is lacking, as even lazy doubles and singles can be effective against him. His grappling is something to develop at this stage. A Decent wrestling like Gustaffson's can work on him with ease. Te Huna also has shown in the past to be susceptible to being subbed.
Overall: Te Huna is gifted, and very gifted with his boxing. He has the footwork to really excel and set up a range of speed and power shots with his hands. But in this sport one tool will only take you so far. Either you find buffer skills to supplement that skill (for example takedown defense to sprawl and brawl) or you develop other tools to become a well rounded mixed martial artists. Te Huna is gifted, has the talent to develop a wider range of strikes. But, opponents will undoubtledy shoot on him to avoid them. Te Huna is fortunate to have such a solid frame to work with. Rarely will he be the small guy in the cage. At this point Te Huna is a great boxer developing a wrestling game to complement it. He by far doesn’t have the guard skills to defend or deal with more seasoned talent, but still a solid mid-tier fighter.
Size: 30 Age: 0 S
kill Set Scores:
clinch work 2
Top Control 2
Takedown Defense -3
Guard Work -7
Escape Ability -2
Sub Defense -5
Total Grade: 80 C
This prospect has room to grow and fill his holes. At age 30 all is not lost. Te Huna has several more years to compete at a high level and grow. His hands will take him long enough to provide time to work on the holes in his game. Potential outlook would be a solid top-20 light heavyweight for a few good years.
Expect James Te Huna to make some nice, exciting fights, and be a solid mainstay on the UFC roster.
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