UFC: Tweaks for Some of the Top Title Contenders
Becoming the UFC champion is no easy task. It takes years of hard work in the gym and seizing the opportunity when presented inside the Octagon.
For some fighters it's just a matter of putting everything together, while for others it's rounding out a skill set. Getting over the proverbial hump can be as easy as fixing a minor misstep in footwork, but it's often those minute details that get overlooked in training.
The up and coming title contenders in the UFC all have small details that could use some tweaking before their next title shot (should they reach the mountain top once more). I did not include fighters who are already lined up with title fights like Antonio Silva or Chris Weidman, but looked to include fighters who may only be a fight or two away from securing a title shot.
Junior Dos Santos- Diversify His Striking & Cardio
Junior dos Santos is without a doubt one of the most explosive, powerful strikers in MMA. His boxing is one of the best in the sport and it's clear he will be sticking to what brought him to the dance.
Still, mixing in some kicks or even some dirty boxing would open up dos Santos' opponents for those heavy punches. Dos Santos likely avoids throwing kicks to keep a solid base underneath himself to be in a better position to sprawl but a little variety would go a long way in creating more openings while on the feet.
The last tweak I'll mention for dos Santos is his cardio. He clearly slowed after battering Roy Nelson for 15 minutes and looked visibly fatigued after his first round encounter with Cain Velasquez in their rematch.
I know the Brazilian said he had a lot of personal issues going into his rematch with Velasquez, but if JDS hopes to regain the title, he'll need one-punch KO power in more than just the first round.
Lyoto Machida- More Aggression
Lyoto Machida could very well be considered the best light heavyweight in the world not named Jon Jones. The Brazilian is coming off a victory over Dan Henderson that earned Machida yet another crack at the UFC title.
Yet, if Machida hopes to take the title from either Jones or Chael Sonnen, he'll need to add some aggression into his style. His unique style makes Machida one of the most elusive fighters in MMA.
But it's not enough to simply make an opponent miss to win on a judge's scorecard. Even though he may be winning the fight, it looks bad on Machida's part that he's always running around.
If Machida can add some offense to his incredibly tough defensive shell, he could be damn near unstoppable.
Yushin Okami- Excitement
Yushin Okami is without a doubt one of the best middleweights in the world, yet nobody wants to give him his proper respect.
The main reason, I believe, is the fact that Okami is more boring than a Shakespeare monologue. He's very good at what he does; takedowns and top control. But he doesn't do it in an exciting way, which is why he's still muddling around in top contender bouts instead of title bouts.
Okami isn't likely to earn a title shot against Anderson Silva due to the nature of how he lost their last meeting unless he starts to add some excitement in his victories. I'm not saying he needs a violent finish but at least provide some pizazz to make fans even begin to think, "Hey maybe he's better than he used to be."
Carlos Condit- Changing His Grappling Strategy
Carlos Condit may be a dangerous fighter off his back but lately he's spending way too much time in that position.
Condit is both a dynamic striker and grappler, capable of ending the fight at a moments notice, but he may want to rethink his strategy while on the ground. Regardless of how active he is or how many "almost-submissions" Condit pulls off, he's still losing the fight while his opponent is on top.
Instead of wasting his time delivering short elbows or looking for the same counter to a double (which didn't work any of the times he tried it), Condit should look to get back to his feet where he holds an advantage over nearly everyone in the division.
He has all the tools to be a champion but none of them will be of any use if he can't avoid wrestlers controlling top position while stealing points on a judge's scorecard.
Gray Maynard- Blend Strikes with Takedowns
Gray Maynard was once the best lightweight in the world other than Frankie Edgar but has seen his place in the rankings slip a bit after some inactivity.
Maynard hasn't been in the Octagon since the bizarre bout with Clay Guida, and other than Maynard fighting more often, an important addition to Maynard's career would have to be the ability to blend his striking and grappling games together.
Maynard still looks to load up on one punch while on his feet and looks to use a power double leg for his takedowns. He gets by in most cases simply by being a huge lightweight (along with his wrestling credentials), but if he hopes to take down some of the faster lightweights, he'll need to mix strikes with his takedown attempts.
Frankie Edgar- Start Strong, Finish Strong
Frankie Edgar is the king of the comeback. He's come back from some of the worst beatings I've seen in a MMA match that didn't cause the fight to end.
Edgar could avoid taking that kind of punishment by not being a slow starter. Edgar tends to start slowly, allowing his opponent to steal the opening round or two and waits until the later moments when his cardio advantage takes over.
Instead of waiting for his opponents to tire, Edgar should begin his onslaught from the beginning. It's clear Edgar will never tire, even through a five round fight, so why wait until the third round to finally get into a rhythm?
Urijah Faber- More Wrestling
Urijah Faber, although still considered one of the top bantamweights in the world, may need to modify his gameplan moving forward.
In his prime, Faber was an explosive, dynamic athlete that attacked an opponent with lightning quick precision. Against Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao, it was clear that Faber had lost a step or two.
To counter his loss of athleticism, Faber should look to incorporate some more grappling into his future fights. He did after all submit Ivan Menjivar quickly, which is no small feat.
By utilizing his wrestling game Faber won't need to depend on his declining athletic skills and can steal rounds on a judges scorecard as well.
It's pretty clear Faber won't be beating Cruz or Barao in a track race on the feet, so he might as well try something different.
John Dodson- Cardio
John Dodson came within moments of taking away Demetrious Johnson's UFC flyweight title in their encounter.
In the end, however, Johnson's cardio advantage proved to be too much for Dodson as the champ clearly took control of the later rounds. Dodson is an explosive athlete with KO power but we've seen him slow down as the minutes tick by.
Dodson obviously has the talent and ability to defeat a guy the caliber of Johnson, but he'll need more stamina if he hopes to challenge for the title once more.
Miesha Tate/Cat Zingano- Takedown Defense
With the winner of Miesha Tate vs. Cat Zingano expected to receive the next shot at Ronda Rousey, it's imperative that these ladies work on their takedown defense.
Although both Tate and Zingano are renowned for their grappling skills, the ground game is clearly where Rousey is most comfortable. And we've seen Rousey is more than capable of playing both defense and offense while on the ground.
With Rousey on the ground, it only seems like a matter of time before she slaps on her trademarked arm bar. Both Tate and Zingano would be much better off if they avoided getting dragged to the ground in the first place and kept a potential title fight on their feet.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!