I just had a thought I thought was worth sharing.
Has anybody ever noticed that, in the battles of Alabasta, the crew (with the obvious exception of Nami) all used techniques and moves that had served them well in previous fights only to have nearly all of them prove useless?
USOPP & CHOPPER vs. MISS MERRY CHRISTMAS & MR. 4
The "HAMMER-HAMMER-HAMMER-Rubberband-HAMMER-HAMMER!" bit that gave him his final victory against Choo was used with the Usopp Pound against Miss Merry Christmas. Completely ineffective.
The attack plan formulated by Chopper's Brain Point/Scope did nothing except destroy Miss Merry Christmas's tunnels. The pair themselves were fine.
Usopp's Smoke Star was the only previous attack that proved ultimately effective.
SANJI vs. MR. 2 BON KUREI
Sanji used the very combination of attacks that achieved victory over Kuroobi against Mr. 2. Only to have them all blocked with ease. Sanji didn't win the battle until he pulled a new combo and finishing move out.
ZORO vs. MR. 1
Each of the "Seen 'em before' attacks Zoro used on Mr. 1 failed. As did some new ones he used this fight. Only his Shishisonson did the necessary damage.
LUFFY vs. CROCODILE (All Rounds)
All of Luffy's usual tricks were absolutely useless vs. Crocodile. When he adjusted or changed them (in round 2) he was able to gain an advantage, but not a lasting one. In round 3, if I remember correctly, Luffy didn't even use any named attacks save the Gomu-Gomu-no-Storm.
It's also worth noting that this very attack that defeated Crocodile proved ineffective against Blue Kiji.
Currently, in the CP9 arc, the majority of hte crew's attacks have been futile. They've also been stuff we've seen int he past (Luffy's Gomu-Gomu's, Sanji's Concusse, and Soge King's Smoke Star). Even in Luffy vs. Blueno, while Luffy's attacks were effective, but they also weren't enough until augmented by Gear Second.
If nothing else, I think it's a neat way of showing just how much stronger fare of opponents the Straw Hats have gotten. Attacks that worked previously aren't working now, forcing the group to get tougher/figure out new tricks to use.
There really isn't any big theory or anything to tack on to this. It was just an observation I happend to make and thought was worth sharing.