Hey, rankings, wahoo. I vote on the Independent World MMA Rankings and the USA Today rankings every month, but it’s been a while since I did some for the Northeast fighters. Plus, fellow journo Arias Garcia Jr. has been nagging me about it for some reason. Don't ask me why. Anyway, the criterion is as follows: only fighters who’ve fought pro in 2010 are on the list, and if you’ve made it to the UFC, WEC, Strikeforce or on a televised Bellator main card match, you’re excluded (for being too awesome. That means you, Jeff Lentz and Andy Main.). Also, these are in no particular order, and some divisions are so thin there aren’t enough successful stud fighters to make a top five. So… rankings!
- Kenny Garner – A student of Din Thomas at American Top Team in Florida, Garner won the M-1 Global heavyweight tournament. He’s built like Roy Nelson, he’s tough like Roy Nelson, and he’s got a decent set of grappling and striking skills.
- Pat Bennett – Bennett took second place in M-1 Global’s heavyweight tournament, losing (obviously) to Garner when he decided to block a lot of Garner’s punches with his face. However, he’s a tough bastard as well, and this Bombsquad rep is capable of dishing out the clobbering too.
- Gian Villante – Currently ROC’s heavyweight champ, Villante went down a weight class to compete for the light-heavyweight belt and messed himself up going for a Whizzer. Oops. The Bellmore Kickboxing fighter is still a badass though, and undefeated at heavyweight.
Honorable mention: Glen Sandull, who was the man years ago and recently returned to out-point JA Dudley.
- Byron Byrd – Another ATTer who was flown in to compete in the M-1 Global tournament, Byrd made the most of the opportunity by kicking ass and taking names. Literally. He went around the audience asking everyone their names and jotted the answers down a little notebook. Kind of creepy…
- Brendan Barrett – Barrett fights about once or twice a year now, but it’s usually enough to remind us that he’s got enough skill to finish foes on the feet or on the ground.
- Demetrius Richards – Richards is the man who fought Villante for the ROC 205-pound title and won it when Villante succumbed to injury. Richards has lost four straight since then, and his last bout was on a Bellator broadcast (which aired as a pre-recorded prelim), but the dude holds the ROC belt so he kind of has to be on the list.
Honorable mention: Tom DeBlass, who, as one of Ricardo Almeida’s top jiu-jitsu guys, made his pro debut as a heavyweight and won a decision. He then cut down to light-heavyweight and TKO’d Tom Velasquez at the last ROC, so that – plus his BJJ black belt – makes for a 205-pounder to keep an eye on.
- Tyson Jeffries – You know what sucks? M-1 Global flying in all these blokes from far away to win championship belts. Case in point: Jeffries, a Team Quest rep and Muay Thai specialist who took top middleweight honors when he defeated Mike Geurin. Oh well. The dude is a killer anyway.
- Mike Geurin – a Bombsquader with great wrestling, durability and no compunction about getting punched in the face? Insane, right? Well, it’s true, there is one just like that and his name is Mike Geurin. Geurin may have lost the M-1 Global middleweight tournament, but there are few fighters out there who you could throw out of a moving car one minute and watch them win an MMA fight the next.
- Chris Weidman – Some sort of wrestling deity who Ray Longo molded into a dangerous striker, Weidman recently TKO’d Uriah Hall to earn the ROC belt. If anyone is getting called up to the “big leagues” soon, it’s Weidman.
- Uriah Hall – TSMMA’s top middleweight fighter, Hall is still a stud with elite-level kickboxing despite his loss to Weidman. Thus far, only one person in the Northeast has been able to withstand his game – which secures his spot in these rankings for a while.
Honorable mention: Plinio Cruz and Daniel Akinyemi, of Gold Team Fighters and Rhino Fight Team, respectively. Cruz is a grinder on the feet and Akinyemi is a bomber (meaning it’s “bombs away!” when he starts throwing leather).
- Tom Gallicchio – He’s been around for years, but after winning M-1 Global’s welterweight tournament, Gallicchio should hopefully start getting the recognition he deserves. He’s tough as nails, as evidenced by the punishment he took from Aaron Meisner, and once he gets your back that rear naked choke is inevitable.
- Ryan LaFlare – ROC’s 170-pound title holder, LaFlare is a beast with his fists – which he uses to TKO people on the ground or rock them on the feet. Word on the street is that LaFlare, who hails from Bellmore Kickboxing, went out to Las Vegas to train and wrecked some big name fighters.
- Ed Guedes – His camp may be the Armory in Florida, but Guedes has made his presence felt in the Northeast. Combining solid wrestling with solid jiu-jitsu (weird, right?), he’s proven to be too much for most to handle.
- Mike Medrano – An AMA Fight Club workhorse who fights about once a month, Medrano racked up three wins before falling to LaFlare in June. He lost his last bout as well, but that crushing knockout doesn’t negate the fact that Medrano is lean, mean scrapping machine.
- Joseph Aviles – The aforementioned crushing Medrano knockout? Yeah, that was Jungle Gym’s Aviles, who returned after a three-year hiatus to deliver a flying knee from hell to Medrano’s chin at the last ROC. He’s got subs and KO power, so don’t sleep on Aviles.
Honorable mention: Chris Wing, who’s parlayed a successful amateur career into some impressive pro performances (and thrilling KOs).
- Chris Liguori – Like Brendan Barrett, this RABJJ rep comes out of hibernation about once a year to remind us that he’s elite. Otherwise, the only time we see him is when he’s corning Frankie Edgar in the UFC. He’s somewhat of a jiu-jitsu specialist now, but Liguori can do it all, and he’s been doing it all since before MMA was sanctioned in New Jersey.
- Jose Figeuroa – Really, the only reason this ATT fighter made this list is because he won the M-1 Global lightweight belt. I mean, sure, he’s got Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu skills, but he took the belt after kicking opponent George Sheppard in the nuts twice in a fight he was losing.
- George Sheppard – Hailing from MMA Institute and mixing wrestling with boxing, Sheppard made it to the M-1 Global finals by winning. And he lost the finals because a cup can only protect your precious jewels so much.
- John Cholish – A member of Team Renzo’s newest generation of striking/jiu-jitsu hybrids, Cholish absolutely wrecked house in the first two UCCs. If he keeps it up, I see a ROC belt in his future.
- Mikhail Malyutin – Repping K-Dojo and carrying the hearts of a few ex-Soviet Union nations on his shoulders, Malyutin out-pointed Luiz Azeredo to win gold at the last ROC. We haven’t seen a lot of him otherwise, but hey, a belt’s a belt.
- Tim Troxell – Another AMA FC badass, Troxell fought for the ROC featherweight belt last year and gave up the decision to Anthony Morrison (Morrison then went on the WEC). A wrestler molded into a jiu-jitsu guy with a boxer’s hands, Troxell is still a stud.
- Lester Caslow – Well-rounded and fighting out of Pellegrino MMA, Caslow pretty much grown up in the Garden State circuit, maturing into a competitor who can do it all. He lost to Troxell back in the day, yet a rematch somewhere down the line could prove interesting.
Honorable mention: Felipe Arantes, who never really got a chance to employ his sharp Muay Thai and top-notch jiu-jitsu in the cage until his last fight – and in his last fight, he looked amazing.
- Jimmie Rivera – A homegrown TSMMA rep with a strong all-around game, Rivera just won the King of the Cage bantamweight belt when he defeated Abel Cullum up at Foxwoods in Connecticut. He’s a New Jersey fighter, though, and he’s on this list because I can’t get HDNet (or whatever that KOTC aired on) on my TV set.
- Louis Gaudinot – Another TSMMAer who started training as an embryo, Gaudinot choked out Jesse Riggleman to snag the ROC flyweight belt at the last show.
- Jesse Riggleman – Although he trains out of MMA Institute in Virginia, Riggleman likes to come up here and fight for belts. While he may have come up short against Gaudinot, he did manage to put the tough Tuan Pham to sleep earlier in the year.
Honorable mention: Steve DeAngelis and Nick Cottone, two guys who’ve proven to be top guys in years past, but haven’t really had the opportunity to shine this year.