Prospect in the Spotlight (Nov 1-2): Denis Goltsov


Thursday, October 31st, Russian heavyweight prospect Denis Goltsov will be in action for the Professional Fighters League, where he will look to open the post-season against Satoshi Ishii. He will be looking for to take a big step closer to a $1 million payday, as Goltsov looks to be the 2019 PFL heavyweight tournament winner. He represents sambo-Piter, a respected Russian camp in MMA. Let’s take a closer look at this prospect as this week’s “Prospect Spotlight.”


Submission Wrestling: Goltsov has a sambo background and it shows. He’s a very capable submission wrestler that uses those skills often in his fights. Goltsov has very explosive takedowns and a strong clinch game, where he can control opponents. At 6’5″, Goltsov has great size, which allows him to gain leverage on opponents when fighting for position against the cage. When he does get the fight down, he has very damaging ground-and-pound. In fact, he has quite a few stoppages with his ground strikes. His submission game is quite slick as well, as he has a number of submissions with a variety of holds. His most recent submission win came via impressive Ezequiel choke over Kelvin Tiller, a rarely seen maneuver. He also has good armlocks, from your basic armbar to kimura locks. Goltsov is no lay-and-pray guy; he’s always looking for a finish on the mat.

Kickboxing: Not only is Goltsov a strong grappler, but he’s got good kickboxing skills as well. He’s just a solid striker overall. He uses kicks effectively, from set up leg kicks to his head kick KO finishes as a pro. He owns three head kick knockouts, including two over UFC veterans James McSweeney and Paul Buentello. In addition to his powerful kicks, he is a heavy handed striker as well. He has KO power in both hands. That was seen in his PFL fight with Jared Rosholt, where he starched him on the feet into a deep slumber. Sometimes, he will throw spinning attacks. His movement on the feet is good, as he’s quite athletic. He throws feints and sets up his shots (again, see the Rosholt bout). If he doesn’t sleep you right away, he will hurt you and finish you with ground-and-pound on the mat. Goltsov is diverse in how he wants to beat you up.

Needs Improvement

Defensive Grappling: Though Goltsov is a good sambo artist, his defensive grappling could use a little attention. When he fights off his back, he does struggle a bit, especially against high-level guys. Three of his losses come by way of non-strike submission, as well as a fourth via tapout to strikes. He can certainly be outwrestled, though it’s tough. He’s not completely defenseless on the ground, though. He does have a couple triangle choke victories. That shows he can attack off his back, though he’d prefer to be on top doing damage.


Top-15 UFC Heavyweight: With his size, length and athleticism, Goltsov has natural gifts to go with his fighting skills. All that combined make him a top heavyweight outside of the UFC. If he were brought into the UFC after this season of PFL, he would immediately be a threat on the roster. At his peak he could be top-15, maybe even top-10. His well-roundedness would serve him well. With how shallow the heavyweight division is and how many guys have already had their shot at the belt, he could even contend for a title at some point. First up, though, is Olympic judoka Satoshi Ishii and the rest of the PFL heavyweight tournament, which could make Goltsov a rich man if he runs the table.

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