10 UFC Fighters That Need to Add to Their Bag of Tricks

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2012

10 UFC Fighters That Need to Add to Their Bag of Tricks

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    No one fighter is perfect.

    From boxers to wrestlers, submission experts to KO specialists, mixed martial artists never stop improving their skill sets.

    These world-class athletes are constantly evolving, creating new ways to perform beyond and above their opponents.

    But as good as they are, their overall games are not bulletproof.

    Here are 10 UFC fighters who need to add to their bag of tricks.

Brian Stann

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    New Trick: Ground Game

    Brian Stann has proved time and time again that he belongs atop the UFC middleweight division.

    His natural power, ability to eat punches and willingness to overcome pain puts him on a level that only a few fighters inhabit.

    However, one major problem with Stann's game is the fact that he often relies too much on his striking.

    Once he matches up against more versatile standup specialists like Michael Bisping or Anderson Silva, he's going to run into some trouble.

    Not to mention his inability to stuff takedowns on the regular and shake off submissions.

    The basis of his game relies on his toughness. So if Stann can't land any of his heavy blows, his chances for victory are seemingly cut in half.

Martin Kampmann

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    New Trick: Elusiveness

    Currently on the fast track to a welterweight title shot, 30-year-old Martin Kampmann has displayed elite talent inside the Octagon over the past two years.

    With back-to-back comeback victories over Thiago Alves and Jake Ellenberger, "The Hitman" has become a true divisional wild card.

    At any point he can end a fight. Unfortunately for the Dane, he could also lose at any point.

    The fact of the matter is that Kampmann practically inflicts as much damage as he endures. He rarely shows the ability to defend significant strikes throughout his bouts, which is a main reason why his last two victories are considered improbable comebacks.

    If he ever wants to become champion he's going to have to change his ways. As a true kickboxer, Kampmann has the overall skill set to keep opponents away, but for some reason he likes to brawl.

    Under this policy he stands remotely no chance against champion Georges St-Pierre if the two were to meet next year.

Jim Miller

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    New Trick: Improved Striking

    Once considered a serious title contender in the UFC lightweight division, wrestler Jim Miller has considerably declined over his last few fights.

    That's not to say he can't fix his glaring problems, regroup and make another run at the title, but for now he's situated at the back end of the division's top 10.

    The reason for Miller's struggles in two of his last three fights is the fact that he lacks a respectable striking prowess.

    As a power wrestler he looks to suffocate opponents on their backs, implement some ground and pound, and use his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills to finish fights in fashion.

    It has worked in the past, but unfortunately for Miller the division is becoming immensely diverse. No longer can he stay afloat against more powerful contenders, more elusive strikers and more distinguished submission specialists.

    Miller simply needs to close the gap. If he can work on his boxing, footwork and standup strategy leading up to fights, he may be able to turn his stagnant approach around.

Chris Weidman

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    New Trick: Honing His Skills

    Apparently Chris Weidman possesses all the key ingredients to knock off Anderson Silva sometime in the near future.

    Apparently he's championship bound and there's nothing anybody in the division can do about.

    Now while that may actually hold some truth, it's more likely that Weidman is being a tad over-hyped.

    He most definitely possesses the raw talent to contend with the best middleweights in the UFC, but in no world is his game perfect.

    Sure he knocked out Mark Munoz with a standing elbow, but realistically Weidmann's striking isn't even close to that of Silva, Michael Bisping, Rich Franklin, Hector Lombard, Cung Le or Wanderlei Silva.

    In the past Weidman has ended fights by doing a little bit of everything. Wrestling is certainly his main focus, but he has used a worthy clinch game and evolving submission arsenal to put opponents away.

    The problem with that is the fact that his wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and clinch game are not the best in the division. The top of the weight class is crowded with top contenders who possess these talents.

    In the future, it may benefit the New Yorker to focus a little more on one discipline instead of relying on a well-rounded everything. As crazy as that sounds.

Roy Nelson

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    New Trick: Pacing Himself

    As one of the most heavy-handed punchers in the UFC heavyweight division, Roy Nelson has seen more success than failure throughout his career.

    More importantly, Nelson has never been finished inside the Octagon. This includes fights against Junior dos Santos, Frank Mir, Fabricio Werdum and Stefan Struve.

    However, he has struggled in the past to secure relatively close decisions due to completely gassing himself out.

    As an already heavy heavyweight, the 36-year-old doesn't possess the natural gusto that younger divisional contenders like Cain Velasquez do.

    This leaves Nelson open to easy takedowns in the later rounds of his fights, as well as a significant power drainage.

    Once his power dissipates, "Big Country" is left defenseless.

    To correct this, Nelson needs to train harder, lose some belly weight and pace his punches in the early minutes.

Clay Guida

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    New Trick: Old Trick

    Clay Guida is quite possibly the most entertaining lightweight to ever compete in the UFC.

    His erratic and explosive approach to fighting has made him a true classic. He gets bloody, loves transitional battles, welcomes big punches and looks barbaric while doing so.

    However, as fun as it is to watch him fight this way, it has arguably cost him title opportunities in the past and heading into the future.

    As mentioned before, the UFC lightweight division isn't getting any older or slower. Rising stars like Anthony Pettis, Nate Diaz and Joe Lauzon are all prying for an opportunity at the equally-impressive champion Benson Henderson.

    For a guy like Guida, who often relies on his toughness to win battles inside the cage, he's not going to last long opposite quicker, longer and more diverse fighters.

    In order for him for regain success after losing to Gray Maynard a few months ago, "The Carpenter" is going to have to abandon his rapid striking technique, reinvent his offense and go back to his world-class ground and pound.

Alexander Gustafsson

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    New Trick: Ground Game

    Currently one of the quickest rising stars in MMA, Alexander Gustafsson seemingly has the UFC light heavyweight division at his fingertips.

    He's lengthy, powerful, young and extremely diverse on his feet.

    As an aggressive standup specialist who thrives on finishing opponents early, the 25-year-old poses a serious threat for any fighter in the division. This includes light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

    With all of that said, Gusutafsson is far from perfect. 

    The fact of the matter is that the Swede is a punch first, ask questions later type of fighter. His bread and butter lies in his hands.

    Sure he has submitted guys in the past, but with only a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Gustafsson isn't going to be able to pull off above-average submissions on the division's top contenders.

    Also, his wrestling isn't that good. As a rangy boxer, his takedown defense is seemingly always on call.

    Now while all of these things are correctable, it may be too late for the young star to improve his ground game before facing Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in December.

Urijah Faber

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    New Trick: Drop Down

    At this point in his career Urijah Faber needs to reinvent himself.

    The UFC bantamweight division is growing deeper by the month and it's no place for a declining veteran to dwindle.

    Faber has essentially been unable to successfully attack the division's bigger opponents, such as champion Dominick Cruz and interim champion Renan Barao.

    The speed is still there, but Faber's wrestling has taken a backseat to his opponent's relentless leg kicks, reach advantage and sound game-planning.

    For "The California Kid" to get back on the map and make a run at a title, he needs to do it at 125 lbs.

    Faber is already sort of a bulky bantamweight, so dropping a few more pounds, eliminating his reach disadvantage and regaining championship momentum could all be done as a flyweight.

Michael Bisping

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    New Trick: Takedown Defense

    Whether you like his brash attitude or not, there's no denying that Michael Bisping deserves a shot at Anderson Silva's middleweight title.

    The Brit has done more than enough over his six-year UFC career to warrant an opportunity to prove how good his boxing really is.

    If you take a look at who Bisping has lost to in his professional career the list is short and very impressive. 

    Chael Sonnen, Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva and Rashad Evans. That's it.

    For Bisping, who's scheduled to take on the formidable Brian Stann at UFC 152, he's essentially one new trick away from being the division's clear-cut No. 1 contender.

    What it comes down to for the 33-year-old is his takedown defense.

    If Bisping can keep a fight standing he's probably going to prevail. Dan Henderson landed a one-punch KO back at UFC 100, but that's been seen plenty of times.

    Besides "Hendo," nobody has finished Bisping. That's saying a lot for a guy that doesn't possess worthy wrestling or a sound submission game.

    If he can tweak his takedown defense and maybe evolve his clinch game, Bisping could be champion by the end of next year.

Junior dos Santos

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    New Trick: Ground Game

    It's no secret that Junior dos Santos is quickly becoming the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet.

    He's undefeated in the UFC at 9-0 and has beaten every relevant heavyweight in existence except Alistair Overeem.

    What makes "Cigano" even more special is the fact that his success is completely oriented with his world-class boxing. It's a skill that only a few MMA fighters can master, let alone defend a UFC title while doing so.

    From the outside it seems as if dos Santos is untouchable. It seems as if his crisp striking and precise punches could stop any heavyweight in his tracks.

    On the contrary.

    While the champ does possess a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt under Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira, his submission game hasn't been put to use, despite submitting Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 103.

    Now while that's directly a product of him wanting to utilize his elite boxing skills, it still raises the question of whether or not he can survive off his back.

    The fact is that dos Santos has only secured three total takedowns in his career, suggesting that he could be in trouble if a fighter ever takes him to the canvas and throws leather in his face.

    Cain Velasquez is exactly that type of fighter. 

    It will be interesting to see how Velasquez attacks dos Santos in their rematch, but if the Brazilian doesn't pull a new trick out of his bag, his title reign could be over.

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