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10 Struggling MMA Fighters That Will Bounce Back

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistJuly 16, 2016

10 Struggling MMA Fighters That Will Bounce Back

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    Rebounding from a heartbreaking defeat is one of the most crucial and more intricate responsibilities of being a mixed martial artist.

    It often separates the phonies from the guys who spend their entire careers atop the divisional ladder.

    But in today's MMA, one that's becoming a game of youth, veterans are continuously encountering an uphill battle when trying to fix their struggles.  So when it really comes down to it, there's no pattern or predetermined road to travel.  It all depends on the fighter and their capability of correcting their mistakes. 

    Do they possess the discipline, focus, short-term memory and overall skill set to adapt to a loss and overcome?  Or do they start to sink in the always-unforgiving pool of defeat?

    Here are 10 high-profile fighters who have what it take to regroup, retool their games and reshape their futures.

Mike Easton

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    Not too long ago, Mike Easton was on the fast track to a UFC bantamweight title shot.  But after securing two lackluster victories, followed by two crushing defeats, "The Hulk" has started to look anything but superhuman.

    Easton's woes can be contributed to his inability to establish his striking and maintain relevance as a powerful puncher.  As one of the more athletically gifted fighters in the division, people tend to count on Easton for hard-throwing bouts that end in fashion.

    Now while his last two fights have been duds at best, the 29-year-old is still young enough and still holds some relevance within the division's top 10 to turn it all around.

    As long as he can get back to attacking opponents early and often, Easton will get back to his winning ways by the end of the year.

Brandon Vera

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    Brandon Vera will always have the talent to succeed inside the cage, but he's just never put it together at the right time to make a true run at a championship.

    He just so happened to run into a brick wall in Jon Jones back in 2010 and recently got blasted by a resurgent Mauricio "Shogun" Rua last August.

    Let's just say Vera is never at the right place at the right time.

    With that said, the veteran has decided to take his chances at heavyweight once again.  He's planning to bulk up, build strength and utilize his elite kickboxing skills to pepper slower and more stagnant competition.

    This will be the 35-year-old's last chance to make a title run, but if he can stay on his feet and protect his chin, Vera should surprise his new divisional foe.

Nate Marquardt

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    Former UFC top contender Nate Marquardt was ready to shake off his Strikeforce championship loss to Tarec Saffiedine and impress in his promotional comeback, but the veteran unfortunately ran face-first into Jake Ellenberger's iron-clad hands.

    The knockout loss to "The Juggernaut" now puts Marquardt on a two-fight losing streak, the first of his lengthy and illustrious career. 

    Now while that's impressive considering the pedigree of fighters he's faced throughout the years, it's just as alarming because nobody really knows how Marquardt is going to respond.  Besides his title-fight loss to Anderson Silva, the 34-year-old has never been knocked out like that before.

    It's hard to determine the state of mind that "The Great" is currently in, but if his professionalism, heart and tactical marksmanship are any indication of his future, he should have no issue regaining his welterweight footing.

Thiago Alves

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    Technically, Thiago Alves hasn't been struggling because he hasn't fought in literally 15 months, but before his injury-plagued hiatus, the Brazilian had lost three of his previous five fights.

    Sure, that includes his title-fight loss to Georges St-Pierre and a catchweight bout opposite the gritty Jon Fitch, but Alves still hadn't had prolonged success inside the Octagon for quite some time.  Remember, in his last crushing defeat to Martin Kampmann, "The Pitbull" got caught in a third-round submission after dominating the previous two rounds.

    To say that he needs to prove himself upon his return is an understatement.  Alves needs to wow his fans and fellow fighters to reinstall the fear that was always associated with his game.

    The 29-year-old will meet Matt Brown in his return in August, which is like catching fish in a barrel for a striker like Alves, but Brown is one of the hottest fighters in the sport today, so it's going to be a true battle of attrition.

Frank Mir

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    With wins for days, Frank Mir will always carry a certain appeal to the most hardcore of fans.  He'll always be able to promote a fight and he'll always do his best against the best.

    But at the old heavyweight age of 33, has Mir started his eventual decline?  Can he no longer back up his talk and battle the best contenders in the world?

    It depends.  He looked downright awful against the boxing of Junior dos Santos and looked mediocre at best opposite a power-wrestling Daniel Cormier.

    Now while those two names are the biggest in the heavyweight division today, Mir still hasn't been able to showcase his usual elite self.  But considering his overall ability and respected track record, there's no reason to think that the veteran can't rebound and solidify himself as a top-five fighter in the division once again.

Ian McCall

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    Ian McCall has yet to taste victory under the UFC banner.  Now while most would come to the conclusion that McCall was overrated from the get-go or needs to test the waters at bantamweight, you have to look at the big picture.

    The poor guy hasn't been facing scrubs.  He hasn't lost a step in his striking or an ounce of heart in his chest.  Instead, McCall's three promotional fights have come against Demetrious Johnson twice and Joseph Benavidez once.

    That's like Michael Bisping only fighting Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort.  It's just not a fair shake when looking at McCall and seeing what he can do to the rest of the division outside of its top two alpha males.

    And it's not like he's been finished or has looked sheepish in any one of those fights.  They've all been very close contests and McCall's first fight with Johnson was actually a draw (even though McCall clearly won).

    In any event, "Uncle Creepy" sports too much talent and ferocity at 125 pounds to sit back and let the same two guys go toe-to-toe year in and year out.

Alan Belcher

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    Alan Belcher is much better than he's shown over his past few fights.  He just hasn't been able to get comfortable inside the cage to the point that he can let loose.

    Because of that, Belcher has dropped two straight decisions (one technical) to top middleweight contenders Michael Bisping and Yushin Okami.  Those are very tough opponents for anybody, but considering his overall ability to adapt to any in-cage environment, Belcher should have performed better.

    In any case, the man who wears Johnny Cash on his arm proudly and loudly still has enough left in the tank to regain prominence in one of the weakest division's in the sport.

    Getting the chance to beat up on some weaker competition should right the ship and give Belcher the confidence he needs to shake off his recent loss to, with all due respect, a loud-mouth Brit.

Nate Diaz

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    Nate Diaz literally can't win, inside the cage and out of it.  From getting beat like a red-headed step child by Benson Henderson and Josh Thomson to his recent Twitter troubles, the hard-nosed Californian can't stay out of the UFC doghouse.

    It has definitely been a tough road for Diaz over the past six months, but if any fighter can take that negativity and failure and use it to his advantage in the future, it's him.

    As long as he doesn't spark some sort of rogue MMA promotion like his brother Nick, Diaz will regain his momentum in the lightweight division and show why he's still one of the best fighters around.

Chael Sonnen

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    Chael Sonnen's only losses in the last five years have come against Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and Demian Maia. 

    That's pretty impressive.

    But what Sonnen needs to rebound from is his fascination with title fights.  He's not going to be able to fight for UFC gold every time he steps inside the cage.  He needs to find the fire that has made him such a gamer in the past in order to fuel his efforts to fight in the future.

    If he can do that, along with his perfected ability to sell ice to an Eskimo, Sonnen's innate skills as a top contender will shine brighter than ever.

Rashad Evans

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    People tend to forget that Rashad Evans has only lost three professional bouts.  Heck, before his fight against Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight title, Lyoto Machida had been the only fighter to ever figure out "Suga."

    Evans might not have looked like his old dominating and pace-setting self in his recent loss to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, but it doesn't matter.  He's still getting a bigger name and step up in competition when he headlines UFC 161 opposite the ageless Dan Henderson.

    Outside of Jones, Machida and Chuck Liddell, "Hendo" will provide Evans with his sternest test of his prolific career.  It's up to the 33-year-old to stifle Henderson's power, outmaneuver him in close quarters and pull off the upset.

    If he can do that, the UFC would have to present Evans with the chance to fight for No. 1 contender rights.

    For more UFC/MMA news and coverage,

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