UFC 150: Who's on the Hot Seat?
Tonight, the stars of the UFC will come together for an exciting night of pugilistic action inside the cage. Frankie Edgar challenges Ben Henderson with the lightweight championship hanging in the balance, but there is more than just a title belt on the line.
There are several fighters who are fighting for their jobs. As is always the situation, a string of losses or bad performances is the quickest way to have Joe Silva block your phone number.
Let's take a look at the fighters who are on the hot seat tonight at UFC 150.
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Nik Lentz started his UFC career with a bang, but he has unfortunately gone winless in his past three outings. Thankfully, a pair of Fight of the Night bonuses has allowed him one more chance to prove that he is worthy of a UFC contract.
After losses to Evan Dunham and Mark Bocek, Lentz decided to make the drop to featherweight in hopes of finding more luck. Tonight, he battles Eiji Mitsuoka on the sole Facebook preliminary contest.
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Eiji Mitsuoka nearly defeated a Japanese legend in his home country back at UFC 144. With Takanori Gomi on the ropes (metaphorically, of course), it looked as if Mitsuoka would pull off a major upset in his promotional debut.
Instead, Gomi showed the world the mettle he is made of, knocking out Eiji in the second round.
Tonight, a second chance presents itself in the form of Nik Lentz. If unsuccessful, an 0-2 start in the UFC puts you on the fast track to a pink slip.
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Currently 1-2 inside the UFC, a UFC 150 loss for Ultimate Fighter contestant Dustin Pague will likely spell curtains.
Pague may have some wiggle room, as he fought twice for the UFC in June. Taking a fight on only six days' notice, Pague lost to Ken Stone via split decision. Now fighting for the third time in only two months, it's possible that he has put himself in the good graces of Zuffa brass.
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Dropping in weight can breathe new life into a fighter's career. After a 1-2 stint at light-heavyweight, "rubber chin" Jared Hamman moved to middleweight last August. Since the drop, he has gone 1-1, and his most recent performance was a KO loss to Costa Philippou in December.
While his fighting style is fan friendly, a UFC record of 2-4 is rarely tolerated. If Hamman loses to Michael Kuiper tonight and does so in an unimpressive showing, it's doubtful we will see him again at any weight.
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Michael Kuiper joined the UFC roster with a perfect record of 11-0. In his promotional debut, he lost a back-and-forth decision to Rafael Natal. It was hardly the kind of performance that should make a fighter worry about keeping his roster spot, but another loss isn't something that he wants to risk.
Tonight, expect to see Kuiper come out swinging against Jared Hamman in a sleeper candidate for Fight of the Night. If unsuccessful, it's possible that an entertaining performance could earn him a third fight.
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Similar to Michael Kuiper, featherweight pugilist Tommy Hayden was undefeated when he joined the UFC. Unlike Kuiper, Hayden found himself submitted in the very first round of his promotional debut at the hands of Fabricio Camoes.
Tonight, Hayden steps into the cage with Ultimate Fighter runner-up Dennis Bermudez. It's a tough challenge for any fighter, but if Hayden can't secure the victory, it's doubtful that he will be booked again.
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Melvin Guillard came in heavy at last night's weigh-in. Tipping the scales at 157.5 lbs, Guillard's contest with lightweight title contender Donald Cerrone is now a catchweight fight.
Regardless of what Dana White says, anyone who misses weight for a fight is at risk. Especially when that fighter chooses not to take his extra two hours to make up for his mistake.
Guillard didn't help his case by losing two of his last three fights, both by submission. If Cerrone can make it a hat trick, the Young Assassin might be out of more than just the title scene.
Granted, taking this fight on one month's notice is a big step up, and Guillard has a popular fighting style. It's certainly a long shot that you'll see the TUF star in the unemployment line on Monday morning, but being submitted in three out of four fights, plus missing weight, usually equals pink slip.
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Jake Shields was one of the most anticipated additions to the UFC roster in 2010. With an incredible winning streak and the Strikeforce Middleweight championship to his credit, many were surprised that Shields elected to go into the welterweight division in his debut.
Shields went 2-2 at welterweight, losing battles to GSP and Jake Ellenberger, and he was on the hot seat at UFC 144 as well. Thankfully, he was able to defeat Yoshihiro Akiyama and save his job, but he isn't out of the doghouse yet.
Moving back to middleweight, Shields will try and derail the momentum of Ed Herman. Even though Herman is an underdog, he should not be taken lightly, as the TUF runner-up submitted highly regarded grappler Kyle Noke last summer, and he also knocked out tough-as-nails Tim Credeur.
If Shields is finished tonight, don't be shocked if he makes his way toward the exit.