Following a lackluster card at UFC 130: Rampage vs. Hamill, it may be easy for one to disregard the importance of Rick Story's impressive upset over Thiago Alves.
While Story was meant to be something of a stepping stone for Alves—just another fight to display his development as a well-rounded fighter—Story utilized superior wrestling, strength in the clinch, and a ridiculous chin to win a unanimous decision.
Like any fan is constantly reminded in preparation for an upcoming George St-Pierre fight, Matt Serra was the last man to defeat the current Welterweight champion and did so via knockout in the first round.
Ever since, all challengers with decent punching power have been deemed a significant threat and Story is, perhaps, one of the strongest fighters in the division—a trait that translates well to his striking. His ability to absorb punishment while striking is also exceptional.
Story took Avles's best shots and just kept moving forward. Keep in mind that Thiago Alves has knocked out the likes of Matt Hughes and Karo Parisyan.
His striking isn't very technical, however. The upper echelon of the division is filled with excellent wrestlers that will more easily shrug off his takedown attempts and force him to continue striking.
Because the Welterweight division is stacked with such great wrestlers—Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, Jake Shields, and George St-Pierre—it is difficult to determine where Story's wrestler ability puts him.
He wasn't able to take down Alves as easily as George St-Pierre, but that could be due to Alves's improved takedown defense. Story certainly looked better than Koscheck did against Alves, but that was a fight that "Kos" took on short notice.
Ultimately, wrestling is probably the single most important tool if a fighter wants to contend at 170. Rick Story's wrestling is impressive however, and this, coupled with his strength, makes him very difficult to deal with.
Although Story does spend a good deal of time grappling, much of his skills in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu are unknown.
However, he was able to submit Brian Foster with an arm triangle choke in his first win in the UFC back at UFC 103. Again, his strength allowed him to squeeze and tighten the choke from Foster's guard, which is just rarely seen.
In his most recent bout, Story had a few opportunities to take the back of Thiago Alves, but showed that he is much more comfortable pressing his opponent up against the cage and utilizing his wrestling than his jiu-jitsu.
The area that most will agree upon requiring significant improvement, particularly if Story ever hopes to contend to a title, is his cardio.
Story has a reputation for coming out strong, but fading late in the fight. And although he has quietly accumulated six wins in a row in the UFC, which is no small feat, only his win over an over-matched Dustin Hazelett was truly decisive.
Alves came on strong late, clearly winning the last round at UFC 130, leading Joe Rogan to question the outcome of the fight had it gone five rounds.
Similarly, Story's win over Johny Hendricks was a 29-28 decision and his two fights previous to the one with Hazelett were close split decisions. It appears that if Story doesn't end the fight, he struggles to maintain the same aggressiveness throughout all three rounds.
According to Lowkick.com, Story landed 101/197, but 46 of them were in the first round.
Well, if he is, he will need to improve in every area mentioned previously. George St-Pierre is still a distant dream for the young fighter, but a win over Thiago Alves is huge.
Story is going to need to prove himself against another top contender before he is considered for a title shot. Personally, I like the thought of him against Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields, or even the winner of Anthony Johnson and Nate Marquardt.
At only 26 years old, it is difficult to determine what the future holds for Rick Story. If he manages to clean up his striking a bit and maintain that Clay Guida-like pace for three rounds, he can be a difficult match-up for anyone at 170, including George St-Pierre.