As we enter another momentous year for mixed martial arts, we can look back on a litany of competitors who seized the proverbial brass ring and launched themselves into the sport’s center spotlight.

Talents such as Will Brooks, Kelvin Gastelum, Conor McGregor and Rose Namajunas rose from prospects to champions and perennial title contenders within a few short months, representing the latest wave of well-rounded mixed martial artists to fulfil their potential.

Now, with 2015 underway, we identify 25 new talents who are poised to do great things in the coming year. In alphabetical order, here is part five of five.  

 

Brandon Thatch (Isaac Hinds/Sherdog)

Brandon Thatch (Isaac Hinds/Sherdog)

 

21) Brandon Thatch

Nickname: Ruckus
Age: 29
Weight: 170lbs (Welterweight)
MMA Career Record: 11-1
Most Notable Victory: Paulo Thiago
(UFC Fight Night 32, November 2013)

 

 

Brandon Thatch is the definition of an explosive fighter.

Training with Elevation Fight Team in the high altitude city of Denver, Colorado, not a single one of his winning fights has left the first round. Ruckus’ flair for finishing opponents either standing or on the ground is underlined by eight career wins via knockout/TKO and three more by rear naked choke.

In his last outing against Paulo Thiago, Thatch showed crisp punching feints to mask a knee thrust to Thiago’s ribcage. The Brazilian collapsed to the ground in a stark contrast to the meteoric rise of his 29-year-old opponent.

That fight was over one year ago and after a lengthy layoff plagued by injuries including a compound toe fracture, Ruckus looks to rebound in the most impressive fashion.

Thatch makes his long awaited return to the Octagon on February 14 at UFC Fight Night 60, when he faces the next prospect on this list, Stephen Thompson. The opportunity for either fighter to make a statement in the UFC’s welterweight division has been catalysed by the promotion of their fight to a five round main event, after the original headliner of Matt Brown vs. Tarec Saffiediene was scrapped due to injury.

 

Stephen Thompson (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Stephen Thompson (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

 

 

22) Stephen Thompson

Nickname: Wonderboy
Age: 31
Weight: 170lbs (Welterweight)
MMA Career Record: 10-1
Most Notable Victory: Patrick Cote,
(UFC 178, September 2014)

 

 

 

 

Perhaps the most high profile name on this list, Thompson is a name that is well-entrenched in martial arts.

Having won a plethora of championships in amateur kickboxing, Thompson found fame in Chuck Norris’ World Combat League before transitioning to MMA.

With other black belts in Kempo Karate, Ju-Jitsu, and a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wonderboy is a well-rounded talent who has used uncanny distance control to carve out a position on the UFC’s roster and ascend up the promotion’s welterweight rankings. Among the names under Thompson’s belt are TUF Nations winner and current middleweight fighter Robert Whittaker, as well as former UFC title challenger Patrick Cote. In both fights, Thompson demonstrated pinpoint striking accuracy and deceptive tempo changes to overcome his opponents.

Wonderboy meets another top prospect in Brandon Thatch this coming February in a bout that has major implications for the UFC welterweight division’s future.

 

UFC Fight Night Stockholm: Weigh-In

Zubaira Tukhugov (Getty Images)

 

 

23) Zubaira Tukhugov

Nickname: Warrior
Age: 24
Weight: 145lbs (Featherweight)
MMA Career Record: 17-3
Most Notable Victory: Douglas Silva de Andrade
(UFC Fight Night 36, February 2014)

 

 

 

 

 

At just 24-years-old, Zubaira Tukugov has wasted no time in his endeavour to master mixed marital arts.

A national champion in Combat Sambo and a runner up at the World Championship in Hand to Hand Combat, the holder of two ‘Master of Sports’ titles has used his elite background to collect 20 fights worth of MMA experience in less than five years.

The Chechnya competitor’s career highlight came in his UFC debut, as he handed a first defeat to the 22-0 Douglas Silva de Andrade when the pair met last year. It was a tough test for any UFC newcomer but one that Warrior passed with flying colors after rebounding from three takedowns to earn a unanimous decision victory.

After following up his impressive debut with a first round TKO stoppage of Ernest Chavez in October, Tukugov cemented his role as the latest Russian import to enter the promotion in impressive fashion, following compatriots including Khabib Nurmagomedov, Rustam Khabilov, and Rashid Magomedov.

 

Christophe Van Dijck (Sherdog)

Christophe Van Dijck (Sherdog)

 

 

24) Christophe Van Dijck

Nickname: N/A
Age: 29
Weight: 170lbs (Welterweight)
MMA Career Record: 7-1
Most Notable Victory: Dwayne Hinds
(One FC 22, November 2014)

 

 

 

 

 

Having only competed regularly in professional MMA since 2013, Christophe Van Dijck is one of the newest names on this list of fresh prospects.

The Belgian, a multiple time national champion in Judo who has finished in the top five at the world championships, competed across Europe’s local promotions before accepting a short notice invite to compete in One Fighting Championship.

Splitting his training time between the Netherlands’ Combat Sports Academy and the global capital of Muay Thai – Phuket, Thailand – Van Dijck’s debut in the organization was a successful one. Handing the 10-0 Dwayne Hinds his first career defeat, Van Dijck made quick use of his judoka background, throwing and mounting Hinds before landing a flurry of strikes to end the bout in its first round.

The win, Van Dijck’s fifth in a row, signalled the arrival of a new force in One FC’s welterweight ranks.

 

James Vick (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

James Vick (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

 

25) James Vick

Nickname: The Texecutioner
Age: 27
Weight: 155lbs (Lightweight)
MMA Career Record: 7-0
Most Notable Victory: Ramsey Nijem
(UFC Fight Night 26, August 2013)

 

 

James Vick might be the final name on this list of MMA prospects for 2015, but by no means is he the least qualified.

Just seven fights into his professional career, Vick is already 3-0 in the UFC. The Texecutioner, a graduate of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15, notably finished TUF 13 runner up Ramsey Nijam in his promotional debut before going on to successfully starch out two other young lions in the lightweight divisions, Valmir Lazaro (12-3) and Nick Hein (11-2), via unanimous decision wins.

The Hein fight showed Vick’s patience, effective movement and accurate striking as he evaded several grappling exchanges en route to picking apart his Judo disciplined opponent on the feet. Standing six-foot-three-inches tall, Vick’s frame is also an impressive physical asset that sets him apart from many other fighters in a stacked lightweight division.

With no upcoming fight announced, Vick’s future is not known at this point.  Like many of the UFC’s younger fighters though, the Texecutioner may benefit from a quiet, methodical rise up the weight class’ pecking order.

 

Read part one of The MMA Corner’s 25 Hottest Prospects in 2015 here.

Read part two of The MMA Corner’s 25 Hottest Prospects in 2015 here.

Read part three of The MMA Corner’s 25 Hottest Prospects in 2015 here.

Read part four of The MMA Corner’s 25 Hottest Prospects in 2015 here.

About The Author

Aidan O'Connor
Staff Writer

A native of Maidstone, England, Aidan has been covering MMA in a news or feature capacity since 2010. In addition to writing for The MMA Corner, Aidan also runs the MMAmusing Twitter account and enjoys the sport as an avid enthusiast. A graduate in English and American Studies, he currently works in marketing and public relations.