15 of the Top Ranked Fighters Today and One Weakness They Need to Work on
The UFC is home to some of the best MMA fighters in the world. The guys who step into the Octagon are amazing athletes who seem to be capable of anything.
But that's not to say they don't have something they need to work on.
Even the top guys in the game need to constantly evolve and improve their skills in order to remain on top. Like the old saying goes, "getting to the top is hard but it's even harder to stay on top." Although the men on this list are some of the best fighters in the world, each of them has something either inside or outside the Octagon that they need to improve upon.
Daniel Cormier- Striking
Daniel Cormier is among the best in the MMA when it comes to wrestling credentials. He's arguably the division's best pure wrestler but it's his striking that has been drawing the eyes of the MMA community.
Each time Cormier steps into the cage his striking looks better which is the perfect compliment to his wrestling game. He could very likely step into the cage and take down almost anyone he wanted to but Cormier has realized he needs more than just solid wrestling to become a world champion.
He's remained undefeated thus far by not only using his wrestling but incorporating his improved striking. Cormier will likely look to display his improved striking prowess as he will look to avoid the dangerous jiu-jitsu game of Frank Mir in his next bout.
Georges St-Pierre- Taking Risks
Georges St-Pierre has caught a lot of flack in the past few years for being a safe fighter. Despite being near the top of every MMA fan's pound-for-pound list, St-Pierre has become an unpopular figure among some MMA circles.
He has been atop the UFC welterweight ladder since 2007 and defeated almost everyone with virtual ease in that time period. While St-Pierre has made beating top 10 opponents look easy, he hasn't exactly been the most entertaining fighter to fans.
GSP needs to improve on taking risks in order to look for a finish in his future fights. Even if he is dominating his opponent, the more time you leave your opponent in the game the longer they have to land that "puncher's chance" knockout.
St-Pierre has the skills to finish any opponent in his path, he just needs to take a few more risks to win with conviction.
Jose Aldo- Weight Cutting
Jose Aldo is the unquestionable king at 145 pounds. He's ran through a number of top fighters on his way to the top and has looked impressive to say the least.
Aldo seemingly has all the tools needed to be a top fighter for years to come. Impressive muay Thai combined with a black belt in BJJ is a mixture that should make Aldo nearly unbeatable at 145 pounds. However, Aldo's toughest test at the weight class hasn't been his opponents, it's been making it to 145 pounds on the scale.
His worst performance in the UFC came against Mark Hominick at UFC 129 and it was clear the weight cut affected him. Aldo is still a young man and has grown tremendously physically over the past few years. He seems to have gotten the issue under control but a bad weight cut against a guy like Frankie Edgar could spell doom for Aldo's title run.
Dan Henderson- Use More Than Just the H-Bomb
You wouldn't know it from watching his fights but Dan Henderson is an Olympic level wrestler. He also happens to possess one of the best right hands outside of Chuck Liddell.
Experiencing a career renaissance at age 42, Henderson was supposed to challenge Jon Jones for the UFC Light Heavyweight title at UFC 151. A knee injury put a halt to that and now Henderson will need to rehab his knee.
During the off time, Henderson and his team will need to work on utilizing more than just his vaunted "H-Bomb." There's no question that he can end a fight at a moment's notice with the right hand but if Henderson were to use his wrestling more, Henderson could avoid taking some unnecessary damage.
It's great that Hendo can shut the lights off with a single punch but by utilizing his other weapons he can avoid becoming so predictable.
Dominick Cruz- Finish Fights
Dominick Cruz has been UFC Bantamweight champion since joining the promotion after the WEC-UFC merger. Cruz defeated Brian Bowles via TKO to earn the title at WEC 47. That was the last time Cruz found his hand raised before hearing a judge's scorecard read.
The TKO victory wasn't even due to Cruz finishing the fight; it was due to a broken hand suffered by Bowles.
Cruz hasn't finished a fighter by his own hands since 2008 when he stopped Kenneth Aimes at TC 27. Since winning the title, Cruz held his belt by defeating his challengers via decision. Cruz's style will always lead to him earning more decisions than finishes but if he wants to become a star in the MMA world, the Alliance-based fighter needs to secure some tapouts or knockouts.
Carlos Condit- Personality
Carlos Condit will have a chance to become the undisputed UFC Welterweight champion when he takes on Georges St-Pierre later this year. If Condit does emerge victorious, the Greg Jackson product should be ready to take on a much higher workload with public appearances.
In the lead up to Condit's fight with Nick Diaz at UFC 143 an UFC camera crew followed Condit around for the few weeks prior to the bout. It was Condit's chance to become a nationally recognizable figure within the sport as his style generally involves violent finishes.
Instead, Condit seemed to be annoyed by the cameras and failed to capitalize on his chance to gain some notoriety. He doesn't have to be Chael Sonnen but saying more than a few words to answer questions would go a long way for the interim champion.
Cain Velasquez- Keep the UFC 146 Mindset
The Cain Velasquez that showed up at UFC 146 was downright scary. Antonio "BigFoot" Silva is by no means a cake walk but Velasquez made him look like an amateur.
If Velasquez can enter every fight like he did at UFC 146, it's hard to imagine anyone defeating the AKA star. The former UFC champion stepped into the Octagon looking as if he had something to prove and did so with a very impressive performance.
Velasquez will need to avoid the mental lapses like the one he had against Junior dos Santos if he wants to wear UFC gold once again.
Benson Henderson- Finish Fights
It's one thing to beat opponents decisively on a judge's scorecard but it's entirely different to win because of a tapout or knockout. The ability to finish is an admirable quality that every MMA fan can appreciate in the top level fighters.
Benson Henderson needs to improve on finishing the fighters he will be facing in the future. As dominant as Henderson has been since joining the UFC's ranks, he has yet to record a KO or submission victory. We know he has a slick submission game and has stopped a number of top level fighters like Donald Cerrone before.
It won't be enough to win via decision if Henderson wants to become the greatest fighter ever like he wants to be. Henderson won't be able to stop every fighter as there are some guys who will make it all five rounds with the champion, but the guys who can't shouldn't be allowed to stay in the game for so long.
Jon Jones- Public Relations
If there was any question as to what UFC champion Jon Jones needs to work on, they were answered following the UFC 151 debacle. No matter how you feel about Jones regarding UFC 151 or how you feel about his overall career, it's clear that Jones needs help when it comes to public relations.
Jones' demeanor is polarizing to many fans and while he likely won't change his personality, Jones has a lot of work ahead of him to repair the damage done in the past year. At the end of 2011 Jones was set for superstardom and was quickly becoming a "can't miss" type of attraction for the UFC.
But after getting buried by Dana White and routinely finding a way to vilify himself with fans, Jones has become a "can't watch" kind of fighter to many UFC fans.
Chael Sonnen- Avoiding Murphy's Law
Everything that can go wrong, will.
That statement could be used to describe the career of Chael Sonnen. He's fought some of the best guys in the world and defeated his fair share of them but always seems to find a way to ruin all his momentum. It's easy to point to submission defense as his main area of concern and while Sonnen should work on that aspect of his game, it's the mental game where he needs to improve on most.
For some reason unknown to us, Sonnen always manages to put himself in the worst possible position in a fight. We recently saw it with his two fights against Anderson Silva where Sonnen was dominating the champion only to let the fight slip from his grasp.
Sonnen will always be a prominent fighter due to his personality and fighting skills, he just needs to work on avoiding the bad situations he often finds himself in when competing.
Chris Weidman- Avoid the 'Trap Game'
A common phrase used within team sports is saying a particular game is a "trap game." For those who don't know the meaning, it's basically when a team may be looking ahead or past an opponent for something in the future.
Avoiding a "trap game" type of fighter will be key for Chris Weidman as he continues his stellar career. To date, Weidman has won nine-straight fights and has become one of the top middleweights in the world. He seems to be without any holes in his game as his striking continues to improve and his grappling is among the best in MMA.
Weidman has been looking for a title shot following his KO of Mark Munoz but likely won't get it in his next fight. He will need to avoid taking any opponent lightly and looking towards a potential title shot. If Weidman wants any advice on the subject he should seek out Georges St-Pierre who made the mistake with Matt Serra.
Renan Barao- Handle the Spotlight
Renan Barao has been under the radar for the majority of his career. Despite not losing since his first professional bout back in 2005, much of Barao's career has taken place in his native country of Brazil.
It's easy to go about your business as a fighter with the spotlight being on everyone else. Now, with everyone looking at him, every move Barao makes will be under the microscope of MMA fans and analysts.
We've seen other young fighters who've achieved great success at a young age struggle to remain focused and keep the same mindset that helped them reach that level.
Barao will need to adjust to not only competing under the microscope of the MMA world but also living under it. The level of competition isn't the only thing that changes as fighters reach the mountain top. They must adjust to living with the title of "UFC Champion" along with all the pros and cons that go with it.
Frankie Edgar- Manage the Weight Cut
To avoid repeating myself I won't make the argument of Frankie Edgar needing to finish fights and will focus on Edgar's trip down to 145 pounds.
For his entire career Edgar has enjoyed the advantage of not having to deprive his body of nutrients in order to make weight. He hasn't had to deal with cutting food out of his diet and it has translated to a great advantage for Edgar. That luxury won't be around when Edgar drops to featherweight for UFC 153.
Now Edgar will be facing perhaps his toughest opponent to date in Jose Aldo and at featherweight for the first time in his career. Edgar will need to manage the weight cut properly in order to maintain his speed and agility.
His style of fighting is so dependent on Edgar having top level cardio and speedy footwork. A bad weight cut will lead to those abilities decreasing; not a position to be in against a guy like Aldo.
Junior Dos Santos- Utilizing Leg Kicks
Junior dos Santos has remained undefeated in the Octagon for a simple reason. He's the division's best boxer and has lightning fast punches combined with tremendous power.
Still, dos Santos should look to improve his overall game even though he's yet to taste defeat. I know it goes against the thinking of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" but JDS should look to incorporate some kicks into his striking arsenal.
JDS' main strength is his boxing and he should definitely stick to that. But if he were to mix in some kicks to at least get his opponent to think about them, the opening for his hands would be prominent.
The title reign of dos Santos' rests with his boxing skills but it can certainly be increased in length by adding some kicks to his repertoire.
Anderson Silva- Don't Become Complacent
Anderson Silva is without a doubt one of the greatest fighters to ever compete; perhaps the best ever. Although it seems Silva has defeated a who's-who of MMA and every style imaginable there is something the current UFC Middleweight champion needs to improve on.
It's easy for a guy like Silva whose physical skills equal his technical skills to become complacent. He's undefeated in the UFC and has completely ran through everyone not named Chael Sonnen. Against Sonnen (and also Vitor Belfort) we saw a different side of Silva. He was visibly upset and seemed to fight with a certain edge.
As Silva ages, his physical skills are likely to decline and he will need to rely on his technical prowess more and more. Silva will need to keep his focus in training and inside the Octagon to keep his perfect UFC record intact.