The U.K. is, without a doubt, the most advanced territory in Europe when it comes to mixed martial arts fighting at this time. However, there are tons of very promising talent from the other 47 European countries as well.
Sherdog.com has compiled a list of the top ten Euro prospects to look out for. Qualification criteria was a maximum age of 23 years and no contract with a major promotion yet.
10. Marcin Held -- Age: 17, Country: Poland
Teenager Marcin Held is considered the prodigy of Polish MMA. Already a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu despite his tender age, experts expect him to become the country’s youngest black belt of all time. In addition to winning pretty much every domestic BJJ and grappling competition there is, the young Silesian has also amassed a perfect MMA record. Held usually fights at 155 pounds, but has stated that he will cut down to 145 pounds if a tough challenge in the ring came around.
9. Stav Economou -- Age: 22, Country: Cyprus
The lone heavyweight on the list is Southend-on-Sea, England’s slugger Stav Economou. The 250-pound “Crazy Bear,” as he’s called, is training under Dan Burzotta at Sure Grip Vale Tudo and has been almost exclusively fighting for the UWC promotion, where he also is the heavyweight champion. Only two of his eight fights have made it out of the first round with 88 percent of his opponents kissing the canvas before the final bell.
8. Magomed Shikshabekov -- Age: 23, Country: Russia
This versatile welterweight is another product out of Russia’s seemingly endless Sambo forge. A multi-time cup winner in Pankration in his home country, the Legion team standout has since exploded onto the M-1 Challenge stage, snatching a trio of first-round victories. Announcer nightmare Shikshabekov is equally strong fighting from the top and the bottom positions and has an excellent reach for his weight class.
7. Alan Omer -- Age: 20, Country: Germany
Stuttgart stallion Alan Omer is one of the biggest talents to come out of Germany in years. Despite listing submission wrestling as his backbone, there hasn’t been anyone who can hold a candle to Omer’s explosive striking either. Amazingly well-rounded for his young age, this German of Iraqi origin is equally comfortable finishing by KO or submission. With several promotions hunting his signature, expect this kid to make his debut on the big stage in early 2010.
6. Dragan Tesanovic -- Age: 23, Country: Serbia
Even though Serbian middleweight Dragan Tesanovic has only been training in MMA for four years, he is already considered a very good all-round fighter with solid standup, great ground work and a dangerous clinch game. “Gagi” boasts five first-place finishes in Serbian submission fighting competitions and a 5-1 amateur ledger in addition to his undefeated pro record. A big win over Polish judo ace Antoni Chmielewski last year raised a lot of eyebrows as well.
Scouser Paul Sass has an amazing run going for him: dating back to his amateur days, this BJJ purple belt has finished each of his last ten fights by triangle choke. It has made him one of the main attractions for Liverpool-based promotion Cage Gladiators, of which the 22-year-old has headlined the last two shows. At six-foot-one, the Next Generation U.K. fighter is one of the tallest lightweights in all of mixed martial arts.
4. Gunnar Nelson -- Age: 20, Country: Iceland
Originally from a Karate background, Icelandic youngster Gunnar Nelson has been setting the mats on fire since focusing on BJJ three years ago. The John Kavanagh brown belt has trained extensively with B.J. Penn and Renzo Gracie in the past. His big breakthrough came when he took gold at this year’s Pan-American BJJ Championship and silver at the World Championship. Next to that, his perfect MMA record seems just a side note, but it is further evidence of his excellence.
3. Alexander Gustafsson -- Age: 22, Country: Sweden
If MMA promotions held fighter drafts, Gustafsson would be a clear No. 1 pick. The giant light heavyweight has rightfully earned his nickname “The Mauler” after totally thrashing all of his opponents thus far. This Stockholm Shooter combines good wrestling as well as takedown and submission defense with scary knockout power. His composure inside the ring is exceptional for a young fighter. Gustafsson has the makings of a future champion.
2. Hans Stringer -- Age: 21, Country: Holland
The Dutch are a real threat in fight sports. Not only has the small country between France and Germany produced a glut of new K-1 stars in Badr Hari, GÃ¶khan Saki and Tyrone Spong; the Netherlands are now also starting to churn out excellent ground fighters like Stefan Struve or Hans Stringer. “Beast of the East” fighter Stringer is a multi-time Dutch champion in BJJ, who receives extensive training in muay Thai as well. At 21 years old, the sky is the limit for this kid.
1. Karl Amoussou -- Age: 23, Country: France
Promoters are always looking for something special in fighters, whether it be their ability to promote fights well or a spectacular fighting style. “Psycho” Karl Amoussou brings both to the table. The younger brother of Pride veteran Bertrand Amoussou has already fought all over the world and beaten a couple of tough opponents on foreign turf. In both 2008 and 2009, he has started off with bouts considered strong contenders for “Knockout of the Year.”