Breaking Down the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Top UFC Welterweights

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2012

Breaking Down the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Top UFC Welterweights

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    The UFC welterweight division has become one of the promotion's deepest assets.

    It not only contains some of the quickest rising prospects in the sport, such as Rory MacDonald and Erick Silva, but it supports two current champions: Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit.

    The division also has a resurgent BJ Penn and top contenders like Martin Kampmann, Johny Hendricks, Jake Ellenberger, Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch.

    At this point, the welterweight division is easily up for grabs. 

    But what separates each one of these fighters?  What are their overwhelming strengths and debilitating weaknesses?

    Look no further.

    * Nick Diaz is not on this list for obvious reasons

Erick Silva

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    Strength: Intensity

    Erick Silva is becoming one of the division's most dangerous competitors.

    His strikes are thrown with raw fury. 

    Whether it's punches or leg kicks, the Brazilian has utilized his intensity to inflict serious damage.

    If it wasn't for a disqualification against Carlo Prater at UFC 142, the 28-year-old would have three-straight first-round finishes to start off his UFC career.

    Impressive to say the least.

     

    Weakness: UFC Experience

    While Silva has made a big splash in the welterweight division, his UFC experience is somewhat limited.

    Sure, he has looked unstoppable throughout his three bouts, but what will he be able to do against the best of the best in the weight class?

    Silva has never really faced anyone in his career who complements that talent at the top of the division.

    His upcoming bout with Jon Fitch at UFC 153 will tell us a lot about his future championship potential.

Mike Swick

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    Strength: Punching Speed

    Mike "Quick" Swick has some of the fastest hands in the UFC.

    His punching speed is rarely controlled inside the Octagon, which has led to Swick's lengthy and very successful career.

    Swick is capable of offering more at any given moment, but if he can land two punches to his opponent's one, why wouldn't he take those odds?

     

    Weakness: Staying Healthy

    Over the past few years, Swick has battled to stay healthy.

    From a knee injury to being physically unable to maintain muscle mass, the 33-year-old has competed just once since February 2010.

    It's also important for him to stay fresh moving forward considering his age.

    If he had stayed healthy for the majority of his career, he probably would have had at least one UFC title shot by now.

Thiago Alves

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    Strength: Brute Force

    As one of the UFC's biggest welterweights, Thiago "Pitbull" Alves encompasses more natural power than most of his competitors.

    He has utilized bone-crushing leg kicks and powerful punches in the past to get by more technically sound strikers, elite wrestlers and tricky submission specialists.

    As long as the Brazilian can maintain his health and improve his ground game, he should someday see another welterweight title shot.

     

    Weakness: Conditioning

    For as big as Alves is, it's tough for him to even cut weight, let alone fight with it.

    The fact of the matter is that the 28-year-old has often looked depleted inside the Octagon.

    His size is such a beneficial aspect to his fight game that he's willing to push himself through a grueling weight-cutting process in order to fight at 170 lbs.

    Alves' conditioning in the past has ruined his chances of becoming a champion and climbing the pound-for-pound ranks.

Josh Koscheck

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    Strength: Wrestling

    Josh Koscheck is one of the most skilled wrestlers who has ever graced the Octagon.

    His ability to pin a guy's back to the mat and rain punches is uncanny.

    Koscheck is the only fighter in UFC history to take down Georges St-Pierre on two separate occasions.

     

    Weakness: Closing the Distance

    Koscheck isn't a perfect fighter.

    He has struggled in the past to get inside on better strikers and utilize his sound clinch game.  His fight against Georges St-Pierre at UFC 124 clearly showed this.

    St-Pierre jabbed his way to title retention after peppering Koscheck for five-straight rounds.  That doesn't bode well psychologically for a gritty wrestler like "Kos."

    If he can't close the distance and get a hand on you, odds are he's going to struggle.

Rory MacDonald

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    Strength: Versatility

    Rory MacDonald is a Georges St-Pierre in training.

    He can strike, wrestling, grapple, clinch, finish fights and look untouchable while doing it.

    MacDonald isn't the greatest prospect in the game for nothing.  He possesses everything inside the cage.

    As long as he can stay humble, follow his game plans and listen to his coaches, the budding star will no doubt be a champion sometime in the next two years.

     

    Weakness: Youth

    For a guy that does so many things well inside the cage, it was incredible difficult to pinpoint a distinct weakness.

    But when it comes down to it, setting aside his overly impressive talent, MacDonald is still a little too young.

    He's only 23, only has four UFC wins and hasn't defeated any fighter on this list.

    Calling out BJ Penn may be a death wish, but if it works out, the Canadian will finally have the type of resume that No. 1 contenders need to possess.

BJ Penn

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    Strength: Championship Experience

    Who doesn't respect BJ Penn?

    He's one of the most dynamic champions to ever grace the center of the Octagon.

    From 2007 to 2010, he was the most talented welterweight in the world.  His dedication to the sport of MMA, pre-fight training and in-fight execution were rarely mirrored.

    Bottom line, Penn's championship experience is truly one of a kind and comes into play whenever he competes.

     

    Weakness: Age

    The Hawaiian hasn't been retired for too long, but he's logged 21 fights throughout his UFC career.

    That's like 82 years old in fighter years.

    Nobody knows for sure what he has left in the tank.  It didn't take much to pry him back into the world of competitive MMA, but Penn seems like the type of fighter who will fight just to preserve his legacy.

    Let's hope he can still bang with the best of them.

Jake Ellenberger

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    Strength: KO Power

    There's a reason why Jake Ellenberger is also known as "Juggernaut."

    He can punch.

    Ellenberger has showcased some of the most heavy-handed strikes in the welterweight division and with good use.

    Four of his six UFC wins have come via KO or TKO, and if Martin Kampmann wasn't so good, Ellenberger would have finished him in the same way.

     

    Weakness: Martin Kampmann

    Ellenberger was simply unable to finish Kampmann back in June.

    He rocked "The Hitman" in the first round but couldn't get anything else through.  To much surprise, Kampmann was able to regain his composure and secure one of the most unlikely second-round finishes in recent memory.

    Kampmann not only ended a six-fight win streak for the 27-year-old, but he ruined Ellenberger's chances at a No. 1 contenders bout opposite Johny Hendricks.

    For that, Kampmann is Ellenberger's true weakness—besides his average submission game, of course.

Jon Fitch

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    Strength: Overall Ground Game

    Suffocating is definitely one way to describe Jon Fitch's overall ground game.

    His clinch is so good that he can literally stay on a guy's back for five-straight minutes.  That's a great skill to have, especially for a hard-nosed wrestler like Fitch.

    But Fitch's clinch game isn't even his greatest talent.  It's his ability to take guys down, transition quickly and implement some serious ground and pound.

    He may not finish fights, but with elite conditioning and training, Fitch's steadily torrid pace is rarely produced by any other fighter.

     

    Weakness: N/A

    Fitch hasn't won either one of his last two fights, losing to Johny Hendricks via first-round KO at UFC 141 and producing a draw against BJ Penn at UFC 127, but you have to look at the big picture.

    Realistically, Hendricks' KO was partially a product of getting lucky.  Every fighter gets caught now and again, but Hendricks happens to possess Brock Lesnar-like power.

    You cross that loss off Fitch's resume and you have yourself one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

    Georges St-Pierre is the only other guy to defeat Fitch throughout his 16-fight UFC career.

    Quite honestly, he deserves a bigger name than Erick Silva.

Johny Hendricks

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    Strength: KO Power

    Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks has a truck of a left hand.

    His KO of Jon Fitch at UFC 141 put the entire division on notice.  Hendricks will one day fight for the title.

    At this point, Hendricks has the raw power to drop anybody in the division.  That includes Martin Kampmann.

    It will be interesting to see if he'll mix in some wrestling to throw off Kampmann's kickboxing, thus making room for some devastating lefts.

     

    Weakness: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

    Hendricks' submission game has never seen the light of day.

    Mostly because he's such an elite wrestler and keeps his opponents at bay with bruising power, the 28-year-old has never really been tested on the ground.

    It would have been interesting to see him roll with Fitch, but we all know how that ended.

Martin Kampmann

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    Strength: Chin

    Easily one of the hottest fighters of the year, Martin "The Hitman" Kampmann has become a human highlight reel.

    His two comeback victories over Thiago Alves and Jake Ellenberger have supplanted him with a chance to contend for the welterweight title.

    Kampmann has been putting in work for years and now has the momentum to make something happen.

    In the past, he's been more than able to shake off big shots early in a fight.  It often seems as if he needs to get hit in order to kick his elite game into gear.

     

    Weakness: Early Consistency

    As good as Kampmann is at eating big shots from powerful welterweight strikers, his luck isn't going to last forever.

    The fact of the matter is that Kampmann needs to find that late-fight fire earlier than he does.

    If he can find his stride somewhere in the first round, preferably before he gets pummeled in the face, the 30-year-old will have a better chance to manipulate his opponent's game plan, pick his shots and finish guys without bleeding himself out.

Carlos Condit

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    Strength: Balanced

    Carlos Condit can pretty much do everything.

    He can knock guys out, submit them or brawl for five-straight rounds.  Because of this, he's been so successful throughout his career.

    Evident by multiple WEC title defenses and a recent unanimous decision over the formidable Nick Diaz, Condit has become one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

    His game can be compared to that of UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz due to his ability to use every facet of his game when he fights.

     

    Weakness: Takedown Defense

    It's hard to find a weakness for a guy that, in six years, has only lost to Martin Kampmann, which was via split decision in his UFC debut.

    However, when you take a look at Condit's overall inability to stuff wrestlers, his takedown defense has been a glaring misfortune.

    It isn't anything that renders him useless in a fight, but it's never good to lose points and find yourself having to defend transitions and flying fists.

Georges St-Pierre

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    Strength: Discipline

    Quite possibly the most talented UFC fighter ever, welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre is in a league of his own.

    Until somebody comes along and takes his belt, GSP will maintain stardom inside the ring and out of it.

    He's been so successful over the years not only because he's athletically superior but more so because of the discipline he possesses when he fights.

    St-Pierre knows what to do at every moment in every fight.  He's cool, calm, collected and capable of beating any fighter at his own game.

    He loves to learn new techniques, utilize his coaches and game plan and perform 100 percent 100 percent of the time.

     

    Weakness: Finishing Ability

    GSP presumably doesn't possess a weakness.

    His striking, wrestling, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are all world-class entities.  He has used all of these things in the past to dominate his opponents.

    But what St-Pierre has failed to do over the years is finish his championship bouts in fashion.  He has been ridiculed for not doing so in the past and will probably get called out again if he can't stop Carlos Condit in five rounds.

    In order for him to regain his swagger and remind people that he could very well be the best fighter of all time, he needs to put the judges out of business.

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