On the undercard of UFC fight Night Berlin will be a 30 year old German lightweight prospect named Nick Hein. A large part of the excitement when it comes to Hein stems from the fact that he appears to have an extensive background in Judo at a very high level. I'm here to put into context exactly what that that experience means in terms of the heights of Olympic Judo.
First, lets talk about the nature of European Judo in general and German Judo in particular. Europe is, at this point, probably the most competitive place in the world to be a serious Judo player. Asia has higher highs with Japan, Korea and Mongolia, but Europe has the depth. At the top we have France and Russia, who can field a top 5 athlete in pretty much every weight, and Georgia, which can do that in all the male weight classes. In the tier just below that I'd put countries like Germany and Holland. They don't have the depth at every weight, but they will have several weight classes where they produce genuinely world class athletes. Basically, Germany isn't Japan or France, but it has a solid development system for producing world class talent on a fairly consistent basis. Nick Hein is a product of this system.
As far as credentials go, Hein's are very solid. In addition to a solid medal count in international competition, he won a European U20 silver in 2003 and was U23 champion in 2006. He was also German national champion in 2006 and 2007. His last recorded result was a bronze in the German nationals in 2010. In his UFC interview, he claims to have been passed over for a spot in the Beijing olympics in favour of Ole Bischof. Considering Bischof is the proud owner of a Beijing gold, a London silver, a world bronze and gold, silver and bronze in the Europeans, that's not a bad man to have come second to. Incidentally, everyone should watch Bischof's London bronze medal match against Travis Stevens.
Back to Hein though, he never beat the guys at the absolute top of his division (Henk Grol, Travis Stevens, Sven Maresch, Euan Burton), but he was usually competitive and he beat everyone else in a tough, deep division. U81 is a spectacularly deep division in Europe. The kind of base athletic ability required to do that means that he is definitely a world class athlete. Everyone should also keep in mind that all of his major accomplishments came when he was competing at U81kg (178lbs). After the cut to 155, he is going to be spectacularly hard for most MMA fighters in his weight class to deal with if he manages to get in the clinch or on top.