Tuesday, December 31st, Brazilan lightweight prospect Natan Schulte will be in action for PFL, where he will be looking to defend his season 1 PFL title against Loik Radzhabov. He will be looking for the victory, as Schulte looks to score the $1 million grand prize. He represents American Top Team, a top camp in MMA. Let’s take a closer look at this prospect as this week’s “Prospect Spotlight.”
Grappling: Schulte is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, which should not come as a shock if you watch any of his fights. He has a very dangerous ground game that he tends to use in his fights to secure the win. His takedowns could use a bit of work, but they are serviceable enough to get his opponents down. I would give them a 6.5 out of 10. On the mat, he uses a good mix of ground strikes, tactical positioning and technique to get himself to advantageous positions. From there, he uses his strong squeezing ability to choke out opponents with his favorite techniques, the guillotine and the rear-naked choke. He does have a submission loss to Islam Mamedov, but there is no shame there, as he’s an outstanding grappler in his own right. However, his resume boasts submission wins over UFC vets Jason High and Ramsey Nijem, as well as Akhmet Aliev. That’s a very respectable track record.
Hitting His Stride/Quick Improvements: We have to remember that Natan Schulte is just 27 years old, so he is approaching his prime quickly. That is good, as Schulte has proven to be a quick, hard learner. A lot of that can be contributed to his move to American Top Team, which explains why he’s put together his skills and game so rapidly. The other is that he has a tough strength of schedule, constantly taking on the best the PFL can offer. Obviously, that’s the case as he’s participated in both seasons of the PFL, but he was taking tough fights before that. He seems to game plan well and improve areas of weakness from fight to fight. He has the fire and desire, as not long ago he was washing dishes on the side to make ends meet. Now, he is looking to score his second $1 million payday. That doesn’t come without commitment and motivation. Talk about rags to riches.
Striking Intangibles: On the feet, Schulte certainly is not a beginner, but there are a number of things he will need to continue improving to be a more complete, threatening fighter. Luckily, he’s with American Top Team, so these improvements are attainable with who works out at that gym. First off, he’s not a huge threat on the feet. He doesn’t really have that one-strike knockout power that will bring about respect on the feet from his opponent. He can be very basic and prodding on the feet. More effective combos and footwork would make him a harder puzzle to solve and keep the opponent from more easily anticipating a takedown. He mostly uses his striking as a set up mechanism for takedowns. Unfortunately for Schulte, if he faces off against an elite-level wrestler, he’ll need better striking to set up his ground game if he wants any prayer of dragging them to the mat. If he can become more than an average striker, he will be a very dangerous overall fighter.
PFL Season 2 Champion/UFC Mainstay: Come New Years Eve, I believe you will see the Brazilian cash his second $1 million check. He’s faced stiffer competition than Loik Radzhabov, and with his ability, Schulte should even score a finish on the mat. Where he goes after PFL Season 2 will remain to be seen. If the PFL comes back for Season 3, which it appears to be doing, Schulte will no doubt be looking to chase down a third seven-figure payday. Further than that, when his PFL career comes to an end, he has to be a lightweight that the UFC ends up pursuing. He’s too good a fighter to look past. He is backed by a top gym and has a proven track record against UFC caliber fighters. If he inks with the UFC, he will stick around the company for years to come.