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5 Fighters Just Scratching the Surface of Greatness

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2014

5 Fighters Just Scratching the Surface of Greatness

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    USA TODAY Sports

    A new group of elite fighters is upon us.

    As a part of the UFC's growing crop heap, these fighters are expected to maintain a certain level of perennial supremacy.

    To little surprise, they have.

    But as some of the more skilled practitioners around, ones who wield MMA's torch, their evolution as complete fighters is just beginning to flourish.

    Here are five fighters only scratching the surface of greatness.

TJ Dillashaw

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    USA TODAY Sports

    What UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw did to Renan Barao at UFC 173 was nothing short of amazing.

    Equipped with blazing footwork and a perfected game plan, Dillashaw made one of the very best pound-for-pound fighters in the world look like a concrete fixture in the middle of the cage.

    But as impressive and overly surprising as Dillashaw's performance was, his career atop one of the quickest-growing divisions has just begun.

    At 28 years of age, "The Viper" has all the talent in the world to transform himself into one of the very best champions in the promotion.

    More time under the tutelage of Duane "Bang" Ludwig will only fuel Dillashaw's success.

Rory MacDonald

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    USA TODAY Sports

    As the only non-champion on this list, Rory MacDonald makes the cut simply based on his potential.

    Despite his well-known association with former UFC welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre, MacDonald's natural palate inside of the Octagon is the reason why he commands such promise.

    From bewildering wrestling skills to an unprecedented ability to adapt and overcome, "Ares" is truly a well-rounded specimen.

    He may not be the best finisher around, but the 24-year-old is already one of the toughest puzzles to solve in all of MMA.

    That means something, especially considering he's part of the most jam-packed division the UFC has at its disposal.

Anthony Pettis

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Nobody is going to argue that UFC lightweight dynamo Anthony Pettis doesn't possess the professional momentum and budding fight skills to one day be great.

    He just has to stay healthy to get there.

    Blessed with an uncanny ability to avoid damage, an even more fascinating tendency to inflict it and the intelligence to balance both marquee tools, Pettis is going to be one tough cookie to beat.

    From timely body kicks to underrated submissions, the 27-year-old is able to thrive wherever the fight may go.

    If he's able to make quick work of Gilbert Melendez later this year then "Showtime" will command a spot within the sport's pound-for-pound top five.

Chris Weidman

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    USA TODAY Sports

    People may consider Chris Weidman's road to stardom somewhat tainted by the outcomes of both his bouts opposite former pound-for-pound superstar Anderson Silva.

    But as much clarity as a flash knockout and a broken left leg can display, Weidman shouldn't have to prove himself after putting together back-to-back perfect title outings.

    Because for what many consider the downfall of a king, it should actually be remembered as the birth of a champion.

    A champion who is at the forefront of the sport's new group of generational mixed martial artists, who's overwhelming success is fueled by a limitless hodgepodge of raw skill and learned technique.

    Given time to fend off the best middleweight contenders in the world today, Weidman will prove to everyone that his relatively quick rise to stardom is well-warranted.

     

Cain Velasquez

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    USA TODAY Sports

    People always talk about Jon Jones and his unequivocal ascent to greatest in the world, but if it weren't for a Junior dos Santos right hook then Cain Velasquez would be right ahead of "Bones" on the pound-for-pound ladder.

    Outside of maybe Fedor Emelianenko, Velasquez has proved to be the most dominant heavyweight in MMA history, let alone the UFC.

    His resume is scattered with the remains of top contenders unable to keep up with his welterweight-like pace, unparalleled wrestling skills and overwhelming appetite for bloody violence.

    At this point in his career, especially considering the UFC has begun its descent into Mexico, the 31-year-old is only destined for prolonged greatness.

    There's no heavyweight in the world who will defeat the champion within the next five years.

     

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