With the UFC making its second trip to the great white north in 2016, it seemed like a good time to point out a few Canucks currently in the UFC, that you are going to want to keep an eye on. You wont find any hosers on this list, I am talking strictly skookum prospects who will be making some serious loonies in the next few years. So crank up The Tragically Hip LPs, grab some poutine or a beavertail and take look at the future of Canadian MMA.
1.Yoni Sherbatov (5-0-1) Flyweight (125) Laval,Quebec
We begin with 28 year old XFFC champion Yoni Sherbatov, who with six pro fights and zero UFC bouts, may be months away from a title shot against the number one pound for pound fighter in the world, Demetrious Johnson. Sherbatov is one of 16 regional champions who will compete on the 24th season of The Ultimate Fighter, with the winner earning a crack at “Mighty Mouse’s” gold.
Sherbatov was born in Russia and immigrated to Quebec when he was only four years old. He began training in combat sports at five years old to stand up to playground bullies. His training has been diverse from the very beginning, starting with tae kwon do and greco roman wrestling, Sherbatov integrated muay thai and jiu jitsu in to his training regimen soon after. His eclectic background has molded him into a next generation fighter who is adept in every aspect of mma. With that being said, Yoni’s striking is what sets him apart from the crowd. Of his five professional wins three have come by way of knockout. Power like his is a rare find in the flyweight division and will make him an extremely marketable fighter throughout the world.
Much of Sherbatov’s lack of professional experience stems from his inability to find fights. He has had three booked fights cancelled on him, not to imply that fighters are scared of Sherbatov, but he has built a reputation in the Canadian circuit as not being an easy fight. In his last bout Yoni fought Hawaiian journeymen Tyson Nam to a draw in a fight he would have clearly won on the scorecards if not for a second round point deduction for a low blow. Stay tuned to see Sherbatov’s future play out on this season of The Ultimate Fighter, beginning Wednesday August 31st.
Check out Sherbatov’s lighting quick hands on display in his fight last September against Freddy Arteaga at Front Street Fights 7.
2.Olivier Aubin-Mercier (8-2) Lightweight (155) Montreal, Quebec
Olivier Aubin-Mercier, AKA OAM, AKA “The Quebec Kid” or as we know him in America, Oliver Auburn Mercer, debuted on the world stage of the UFC through The Ultimate Fighter: Nations season. OAM finished runner up on the reality show and showcased next level grappling ability in his wins over Richard Walsh and Jake Matthews. He came up just short in the finale dropping a split decision to his countryman Chad Laprise.
Aubin-Mercier began practicing Judo as a Quebec kid when he was 13 years old. He had little to no success as a young judoka, claiming to have never won a match the entire first year of training. But the persistent youngster stuck with it and would go on to become a two time junior national champion and three time senior national medalist. Four years into his Judo training, 17 year old OAM witnessed GSP defeat Matt Hughes to become the welterweight champion. At that moment Olivier decided what to do with his life. Little did he know he would be training with his idol full time at Montreal’s Tri-Star gym with in a few years.
Aubin-Mercier is an animal in the octagon, his Judo background and freakish strength allow him to rag doll his opponents before submitting them with his go-to finish, the rear naked choke. At 4-2 in his burgeoning UFC career, OAM has many believing that he is the future face of French Canadian mma. Among the believers of the 26 year old is UFC’s main sponsor Reebok, who chose him to be one of four representatives of their brand in Canada. The future appears to be bright for this tree trunk of a man, who we will see tested against the division’s elite in the near future.
Now see here! OAM in his 2014 fight on TUF: Nations against fellow current UFC prospect Jake Matthews.
3.Misha Cirkunov (12-2) Light Heavyweight (205) Toronto, Ontario
Latvian born, Canadian Misha Cirkunov has taken the UFC’s light heavyweight division by storm. 3-0 thus far in his octagon service, he has finished all three of his victories by submission, including a neck crank that shattered Alex Nicholson’s jaw in two places. His most recent victory was a well paced three round dissection of 22 year old new comer Ion Cutelaba, that he capped off with an arm triangle finish.
Cirkunov has been a Canadian for the past 17 years and has proudly represented his adopted country in Brazilian jiu jitsu, judo, wrestling and now mma. He fought his way into the UFC by going 9-2 on the Canadian circuit, including a head kick knockout of UFC vet Rodney “Sho Nuff The Master” Wallace (see video below) that earned him the Hard Knocks Fighting Championship light heavyweight title.
Saying a fighter is well rounded is an overly used cliche in mma, but in Cirkunov’s case it is the most fitting adjective. Cirkunov can execute technical throws in the clinch, seamless guard passes on the mat and throws heavy textbook combos on the feet. He is a breath of fresh air in a somewhat stagnant light heavyweight division, that he will be able to ascend through quickly if given the opportunity. Cirkunov is currently ranked #14 and should be given a top 10 test in his next bout.
4.Jeremy Kennedy (8-0) Featherweight/Lightweight (145/155) Surrey, British Columbia
23 year old Canadian prospect Jeremy Kennedy will be making his debut in his home province of British Columbia this Saturday. Kennedy earned his call-up by putting together a 8-0 record against the top featherweights in Canada and collecting the featherweight belt in local promotion Battlefield Fight League along the way.
“JBC” (short for junior bacon cheeseburger) is part of the first wave of guys who have been training mma from the start. He began jiu jitsu and boxing lessons at the age of 13 with the end goal always being the UFC. He splits his training between Revolution MMA with Bibiano Fernandez (one of Kennedy’s mentors) and Team Quest Thailand ensuring he is well versed in every skill of the sport.
Kennedy will be one of the few lucky fighters who has the opportunity to have a hometown UFC debut. Though the circumstances wont be 100 percent ideal, the contract was offered to him with the stipulation that he fight at lightweight as opposed to his natural featherweight. He will have his hands full in his debut against the much larger muay thai fighter Alex Ricci, but if he can impress the UFC brass in his debut hopefully his future bouts will be in his more natural (at least for now) weight class where he has the talent to make an immediate impact.
5.Elias Theodorou (11-1) Middleweight (185) Toronto, Ontario
Elias “The Spartan” Theodorou is another Canadian who fought his way into the UFC through The Ultimate Fighter: Nations season. Theodorou showcased swagger, great hair and dominant grappling en route to capturing the seasons crown. Including his finale victory over fellow Canadian Sheldon Wescott , Elias is 5-1 in the UFC with wins over Bruno Santos, Roger Naverez and most recently Sam Alvey.
Elias’s story is not your typical fighters tale, while at college he began training martial arts to help obtain mental clarity and the physical fitness aspect was an ancillary benefit. He ended up falling in love with mma and at 20 decided it would be his life path. Elias is a natural athlete and immediately had success racking up an 8-0 record through his early 20’s, all the while supplementing his low paying career choice with modeling and acting jobs.
Elias is one of the most polarizing fighters on the UFC’s roster, he is building a growing legion of fans and a fair amount of haters as he carves out a niche for himself in the mma world. At first glance the average meathead pegs the the long haired Greek guy as a pretty boy, then they see him fight and are confused how this John Stamos look a like could break a guys nose and choke them unconscious. To make matters worse for the average Joe spectator, the guys vocabulary does not match his looks, he drops witty one liners and articulates answers to questions that should not be able to come out of a head that good looking. Whether you’re like Edward Norton in Fight Club and want to see something beautiful destroyed, or you’re just a fan of smart, well rounded mma fighting, Elias is your man.
Check out Elias in his second pro fight in 2011, he was still pretty good without the powers of his glorious mane.
So that’s it, the five guys who are going to represent “The True North Strong and Free” in the coming years. In true Canadian form I would like to thank you for reading this article and say sorry if this has inconvenienced you in any way.