UFC

Benson Henderson and the 10 Best Game Planners in MMA Today

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2014

Benson Henderson and the 10 Best Game Planners in MMA Today

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    The evolution of fighting has come full circle.

    No longer do combatants simply stomp their way into the cage and attack without hesitation.  No longer do professional fighters tread through the workday without deliberate contemplation.

    No.  Nowadays, fighters take their time.  They're swift, methodical and intellectual.  They harness fear and doubt to create the perfect in-fight onslaught.

    They are game planners.  The type of fighters who notice the small things and calculate the necessary means of winning before they even sniff the Octagon.

    Driven by technique, precision, timing, athletic supremacy and ultimate knowledge, they're able to dissect an opponent without them even knowing.

    Here are the 10 best game planners in MMA today.

10. Ronda Rousey

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Ronda Rousey is not a striker by any means.

    She often struggles to exchange from distance as her fluency to throw combinations fails in comparison to other divisional standouts.

    But through thick and thin, Rousey is always able to get inside and grab a hold of whoever opposes her.  She's able to capitalize on an opponent's mistakes and utilize her natural athleticism to gain nose-to-nose access.

    As one of the most gifted judo practitioners in all of mixed martial arts, Rousey's game excels when distance is closed.  Her game-planning to close that gap and sink in a submission has been simply poetic.

9. Carlos Condit

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    Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    Consistently overlooked when it comes to the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world, Carlos Condit is without argument one of the most dangerous welterweights around.

    Equipped with crisp combinations, slicing knees, evolving footwork and a knack for finishing, "The Natural Born Killer" is one of the toughest fighters to stop.

    Condit has been fortunate enough throughout his career to be able to fuse all of that natural skill with excellent game-planning.

    Just look at how he outpointed and outsmarted Nick Diaz back at UFC 143.  Sure it was a close fight, but to make Diaz look uncomfortable during the culmination of 151 total strikes is truly admirable.

8. Frankie Edgar

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Frankie Edgar is the epitome of adaptation.

    He has stood toe-to-toe with skyscrapers and slung leather with ravenous giants.  He has adapted to all environments by complementing speed and technique with ultra-suave game-planning.

    The fact of the matter is that Edgar never seems outmatched.  He's consistently the smaller dog in the fight, but just as reliable to have the bigger bite.

    He has taken down wrestlers, attacked strikers, grappled with submission gurus and kept a keen sense of self while doing so.

    His footwork is second to none, his fortitude is iconic and his knack to prepare on all levels is what lands him on this list.

7. Demetrious Johnson

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    David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

    He's quick, he's slick, he's downright sick.  He's "Mighty Mouse."

    As the pound-for-pound fastest fighter on this terrestrial planet, flyweight prince Demetrious Johnson sometimes does things that certain people would call, "out of this world."

    Now while he does possess the ability to pepper an opponent like a swarm of hornets, Johnson is in fact human.  His success is actually fueled by situational game-planning, not some Martian-created device capable of time travel.

    In any case, the 27-year-old is able to redefine the laws of physics by sweltering the opposition with world-class angling, penetrating combinations, evolving power and a fortified takedown defense.

    Oh yeah.  He's pretty smart, too.

6. Cain Velasquez

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    Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

    Cain Velasquez has faced hulking WWE superstars, barbarically clad boxers and real-life abominable snowmen.

    His professional track record has been riddled with uncommon foes to say the least.

    But despite the varied skill sets and differing physical capabilities the UFC heavyweight champ has encountered, his ability to overcome any man has mirrored that of an inevitable sunrise.

    As one of the smaller fighters in a behemoth of a division, Velasquez makes up for a loss of size by putting himself in the right positions.

    The high-motor, in-your-face bruiser has made a living out of figuring out how to dissect opponents until they are no more.  He'll even beat you at your own game if you aren't paying attention.

5. Benson Henderson

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Benson Henderson rarely takes damage, and for good reason.

    As arguably the most athletic lightweight in UFC history, "Smooth" is able to do things inside the cage that other divisional contenders simply cannot.

    He's strong, tactical, cool, calm and collected.  Through even the most blistering of exchanges the former champ seems overwhelmingly tranquil.

    Now that's not to say he isn't dangerous.  Built like even the biggest of welterweights, Henderson is always a threat for an Octagon home run.

    He'll have his chance to redeem a recent title loss to Anthony Pettis this weekend when he takes on a resurgent Josh Thomson on Fox.

4. Lyoto Machida

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Lyoto Machida's Octagon prowess is like a puzzle that's missing a few thousand pieces.  It's just never going to get solved.

    Now while Machida has ran into minor trouble in the past, it's nothing that can take away from his undying wizardry and tactical game-planning.

    As one of the most patient strikers of all time, one who does in fact possess the natural power to knock you out, "The Dragon" forever sleeps on an opponent until that opponent comes too close.

    Like a Venus flytrap enclosed in a shoebox with millions of dead flies, Machida lunges at his unsuspecting foe in an effort to land one venomous strike.

    It's truly fascinating to watch.

3. Jose Aldo

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    Eric Jamison/Associated Press

    The fact that Jose Aldo has only been taken down five times since 2008 is borderline a bazooka to the cranium.

    But as athletic and physically gifted as the 27-year-old featherweight phenom is, it should come as no surprise.

    Aldo is consistently one of the hardest fighters to figure out because he always offers something new.  That's not only a testament to his marvelous game-planning, but also his evolution as a true Octagon dynamo.

    Whether it's hilariously brutal leg kicks or bouncing superman punches off the side of the cage, "Junior" is always sculpting in-fight environments to satisfy his tumultuous appetite for superlative success.

2. Anderson Silva

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    As the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, former UFC middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva is held at a higher regard.

    His actions and talents inside the cage are expected to mirror excellence.  Well, to his own mastery, Silva's perfected mindset and mental fortitude has helped him forge greatness beyond all reality.

    The legendary Brazilian is a true mastermind of not only kicking somebody in the face or dancing around the Octagon, but of taking his opponent out of his own game.

    Throughout the years, Silva has turned hungry wolves into cowering lambs, and vice versa.  He has taken opposing game plans and stomped them out until they were no more.

    His ability to feast off a challenger's involuntary eagerness is second to none.

1. Jon Jones

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Blessed with extraordinary physicality and unwavering intelligence, Jon "Bones" Jones is one of the most prolific fighters of the past decade.

    Time and time again, Jones delivers memorable finishes on the back of persistent Octagon grind time that only the most dedicated of champions can endure.

    For the light heavyweight king, patience, consistency, precision and perfection are the only things standing in his way for prolonged stardom.

    Jones is so good at such a young age that it's impossible to predict where his career will take him.  He'll just have to continue to pressure opponents with blistering oblique kicks, skull-cracking elbows and an indubitably advantageous physique.

     

    For more UFC/MMA news and coverage, .

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