Prospect in the Spotlight (Nov 15-16): Austin Vanderford


Thursday, November 14th, American welterweight prospect Austin Vanderford will be in action for Bellator, where he will be looking for his third win under the promotional banner against Grachik Bozinyan. He will be looking for the victory, as Vanderford looks to jump into Bellator title contention quickly. He represents Gracie Barra Portland, an underrated camp in MMA. Let’s take a closer look at this prospect as this week’s “Prospect Spotlight.”


Wrestling: Vanderford has a collegiate wrestling background, which makes sense as wrestling is an integral part of his game. He can strike, but he definitely has a mentality of setting up his takedowns with his hands. He does so effectively since his striking is something his opponent has to acknowledge is a threat. When he shoots, there is much force behind it and he scores them with ease. When he gets an opponent down, they tend to stay there. He’s very heavy on top. He doesn’t give up position either. He scores with heavy ground-and-pound and looks to advance to a better position in an attempt to finish the fight. Once he finds a good position, he is able to sink in submissions, especially his vice-like chokes. Overall, Vanderford is a major threat on the ground.

Power Game: Vanderford is an outstanding natural athlete. In addition to that, everything Vanderford does is with elite power. He looks like a runaway train when he shoots takedowns and he can slam you to the mat with great force. Also, he has a vice like grip when he grabs you in the clinch or snags your neck for a submission. On the feet, his one-punch KO power is uncanny. He can sleep you with either hand, scoring violent knockouts in the process. His ransacking of Edmilson Freitas under the Final FC promotion was one of the most violent KOs of 2018 and was courtesy of a vicious one-punch KO. Everything Vanderford does is forceful.

Needs Improvement

Cardio: When Vanderford is able to get the job early, like he’s been able to do in many of his bouts thus far, he’s fine. However, as the fight goes on, he wears more quickly than you’d want in a fighter. This was definitely seen in his fight with Angelo Trevino on the Dana White’s Contender Series. Even though he was able to score the finish in the second round, he slowed quickly and became prodding as the fight moved on. The big reason for that is because he is so thickly muscled and so powerful, it takes a lot of energy to use that immense power. He’s definitely looked a bit better in this department in his most recent bouts, but it’s still something he wants to be cognoscente about.


Bellator Title Contender/UFC Main Carder: Because he is the husband of certified star Paige vanZandt, he’s going to get all the chances in the world. That should not detract from Vanderford’s skill. He’s a blue chip prospect that is going to leave a mark when it’s all said and done. Bellator has a shark tank of a welterweight division, but I think Vanderford will be able to tread the waters. At some point, he will get a marquee win that scores him a welterweight title bout. Whether he wins or not will be seen. At some point, I want to see him on the UFC roster. There are plenty of matchups that would be great for him. He’s a guy that will be toward the top of the welterweight rankings for a long time once he peaks as a fighter.

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