5 Fighters and What Each Must Do to Win a UFC Belt
As the new wave of top contenders wash over the UFC's sandy beaches, current divisional kingpins must prepare for absolute war.
However, as unique as each champion's situation truly is, they are not the ones who have to capture UFC gold.
They already have it.
Instead, these aforementioned beach stormers much prepare for the biggest challenge of their careers and anticipate either perfected excellence or disappointing failure.
Here are those well-deserving fighters and what they must do in order to successfully bring home MMA's crown jewel.
Upcoming bout: vs. Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson at UFC 174 on Jun. 14 for the flyweight championship
Key to victory: Be the better wrestler
On Saturday, Russian sensation Ali Bagautinov will have his hands full with the pound-for-pound fastest fighter in the world.
Blessed with unique quickness, timely combinations and the consistency that would leave any fight fan salivating, Johnson is arguably the most dominant champion in the sport today.
That's why an ultra-strong and even more athletically based wrestler like Bagautinov is going to have to take the champ down, eliminate his ability to land in bunches and test his submission defense that Ian McCall nearly broke a few years back.
We haven't seen the 29-year-old's grappling game all that much due in part to his punishing ground-and-pound attack, but as a budding martial artist training under the Greg Jackson flag, you better believe Bagautinov is going to be ready when any opportunity presents itself.
If he can wrestle Johnson to the mat, keep him there, implement some significant damage, score points and win some rounds, we might see the champ looking for a finish when the fourth and fifth rounds begin.
Upcoming bout: vs. Ronda Rousey at UFC 175 on Jul. 5 for the women's bantamweight championship
Key to victory: Stay on her feet and impose her will
As it stands right now, top contender Alexis Davis may be the biggest threat to Ronda Rousey's championship reign thus far.
Equipped with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and the in-your-face striking skills to stand with the likes of Liz Carmouche and Jessica Eye, the 29-year-old is going to force Rousey to dig deep and fall back on other facets of her game outside of the strong suits we've already seen.
However, that doesn't mean she is going to outclass the champion with every blow.
Davis has to understand that her best chance to pull off one of the biggest upsets in promotional history is to stay on her feet, impose her will and make Rousey bite down on her mouthpiece.
If she can do that, Davis could threaten one of the more impressive undefeated records in MMA.
Upcoming bout: vs. Chris Weidman at UFC 175 on Jul. 5 for the middleweight championship
Key to victory: Find his range early
Lyoto Machida is unlike any other fighter.
His perfected counter-striking ability has fueled a career drenched in devastating knockouts, uncontested defense and unpredictable movement.
That said, Machida will be facing one of the more well-rounded fighters in the sport today when he takes on Chris Weidman in July.
Weidman is the epitome of MMA's next-generation fighter and a champion who has displayed dominance in every corner of the Octagon.
However, Weidman has never faced a contender like "The Dragon," and Machida can use that to his advantage.
With a unique range and strategically defying capability to move inside and out, the Brazilian's best chance to catch Weidman off guard is to establish his offense early.
That will give Weidman limited time to adapt and maintain his own game plan, giving Machida a chance to baffle the champion like he has done to so many other great fighters.
Upcoming bout: vs. Jose Aldo at UFC 176 on Aug. 2 for the featherweight championship
Key to victory: Secure the early takedown
Chad Mendes first met Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight title back at UFC 142, and many would argue he won the first round.
That is, before the champion leveled him with a last-second knee.
Mendes was able to capture those first four minutes and 59 seconds by keeping his range, maintaining movement and staying grounded.
While that strategy seemed to work for the most part, Mendes' best chance to defile Aldo's championship reign this time around is to secure an early takedown.
Sure, his striking has developed under the tutelage of Duane "Bang" Ludwig, but Mendes is at his best when he's able to press an opponent, grab a hold of him and dump him on the mat.
Aldo hasn't swallowed that pill all that much throughout his UFC career. Mendes could work him over given time early into the fight to implement some worthwhile ground-and-pound.
Upcoming bout: vs. Jon "Bones" Jones at UFC 178 on Sept. 27 for the light heavyweight championship
Key to victory: Do much of the same
There's no disputing that Alexander Gustafsson gave Jon Jones all he could handle when the two first met last year.
The towering Swede was all over a thought-to-be untouchable "Bones," collapsing his reach advantage in a matter of seconds.
Some people thought Gustafsson's efforts and impressive striking skills were enough to capture a decision over the champ, but the light heavyweight kingpin did enough in the later rounds to remain intact.
That said, it's possible that "The Mauler" simply has to do what he did last time to avenge his initial title loss.
Jones is obviously going to be more prepared when it comes to adapting to Gustafsson's size and durability, but if Gustafsson can once again stuff his takedowns, there's not much he can do come September that he didn't already successfully do at UFC 165.
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