1 – Aleksei Oleinik
I’m 50 years old. That means watching 44-year-old Mark Hunt face off with 41-year-old Aleksei Oleinik was one of those fights where I hoped for a draw because I didn’t want to see any of my people lose. But it also meant that whoever won put another notch in the belt for us in the over-40 set, and that’s always a good thing. Personal biases notwithstanding, how can you not want to see Aleksei Oleinik fight? The guy is willing to stand and trade with anyone, and once he gets you to the mat, it’s usually lights out. So whether he’s winning or losing, Oleinik’s fights always produce excitement. And despite his age, would you dismiss him against anyone in the heavyweight top ten? If you do, “The Boa Constrictor” will make sure it’s at your own peril.
2 – Jan Blachowicz
Jan Blachowicz may want a part on the upcoming Netflix series, The Witcher, but if the call does come in for the diehard fan of the video game / book series, he might have to pass, considering that he has gone from a 2-4 start in the UFC to a 4-0 run that has him in the light heavyweight top five and closing in on a title shot. That’s some turnaround for the Poland native, who showed off his standup against Jimi Manuwa in March and his submission prowess against Nikita Krylov last Saturday. In other words, this is a dangerous man and one whose confidence seems to have caught up to his talent.
3 – Petr Yan / Jin Soo Son
I have to put these two gentlemen together simply because they were both winners on Saturday night. Petr Yan got the official decision, and rightfully so, as he continued to build his reputation as one of the top prospects in the sport. But oh, Jin Soo Son. I get the impression that if he didn’t fight the way he did in Moscow that his mentor Chan Sung Jung might have locked him out of their gym in South Korea this week. But all kidding aside, Son competed with the fighting spirit and enthusiasm you want to see everyone show up to the Octagon with. With a full training camp and no weight cutting issues, I can’t wait to see what Son comes up with next.
4 – Jordan Johnson
For a guy who was 3-0 in the UFC, Jordan Johnson didn’t get the attention most hot prospects get, especially in the light heavyweight division. But at middleweight, that will likely change, as Johnson looked better than ever in picking up his fourth UFC win over Adam Yandiev. Call him a sleeper pick, but I have a feeling the unbeaten 29-year-old is going to be a force in the coming years at 185 pounds.
5 – Magomed Ankalaev
I don’t know Magomed Ankalaev, but I have to assume that the six months between his UFC debut against Paul Craig and his Saturday win over Marcin Prachnio were the worst of his career. Not only did he suffer the first loss of his career to Craig, but it happened with one second left in a fight he was going to clearly win by decision. That had to stick with the Dagestan native, who shook off that defeat and went on to show why he was so highly-touted in his second trip to the Octagon as he scored a Performance of the Night knockout of Prachnio. Now he can move forward.