UFC on Fuel 6: Who's on the Hot Seat?
UFC on Fuel 6 presents an interesting experiment by the Ultimate Fighting Championship. It's an initial push into the vaunted Chinese market, the one place where every major corporation in the word wants to establish a foothold simply because of its gigantic population.
Few sporting brands have been able to fully establish themselves in mainland China; Spanish footballing outfit Real Madrid is a mainstay there, but other sports have mostly missed the mark. Which is why it's important to note that, for its first foray into mainland China, the UFC actually is not running in mainland China, but rather Macao, the Vegas-made-to-order island that sits off the coast.
Running Macao represents very little in the way of risk for the UFC as a whole, but there are plenty of fighters whose UFC careers are at risk on the card.
How's that for a smooth transition? I do my best.
Let's take a look at who is on the hot seat.
Chances of being cut: 10%
Cung Le's chances of being cut just for losing his main event fight to Rich Franklin aren't very high. He won his last fight, after all, and it would take more than just one loss to a guy like Franklin to send Le packing. And then there's the little fact that Le is doing the UFC a major favor by essentially agreeing to main event this show while not really being all that healthy or recovered from his rigorous press tour for his latest movie that I can't remember the name of.
So if Le's not on the UFC's hot seat, then why am I including him here? Because I believe Le is reaching the end of his career, and the Franklin fight will likely serve as a self-mandate: if Le can't beat Franklin or can't really even compete with him, then what's the point of doing through the hassle to get ready for fights like this? Le is getting up there in years and quite obviously can make a decent living as a movie star, so why put his body through the pain of a training camp?
I think that's the decision Le will come to after this fight, because I don't expect him to win or even be all that competitive. But he's surprised me before.
Chances of being cut: 90%
A loss by Silva to Stanislav Nedkov would drop him to 1-4-1 since 2009. The losses came to Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida and Alexander Gustafsson, so it's not like Silva is being outworked by terrible fighters and future prospects; he's losing to the best his division has to offer.
But then there's the issue of that one no-contest that came when Silva used a fake peener and non-human urine to try and beat a drug test after he'd taken steroids to heal his body following an injury. That one counts against him, and in a major—if just a little bit hilarious—way.
A loss to Nedkov would seal Silva's fate in the UFC, at least for now. He could go over to World Series of Fighting and face Anthony Johnson, but he'll be done in the big show.
Chances of being cut: 100%
I have this unsubstantiated theory that Brazilian fighters in the UFC are given a lengthier rope with which to proverbially hang themselves, at least since the promotion began major efforts to run just as many shows in that country as they do each year in the United States.
Paulo Thiago falls in that category, but he's reaching the end of the line here. He's 1-3 in his last four fights since 2010, and the only win during that time came over David Mitchell, who also finds himself on the hot seat for this event. Put simply, Thiago fell off a cliff after losing to Jon Fitch at UFC 100, and he's never really recovered the killer instinct we all saw in him when he made his UFC debut by hilariously crushing Josh Koscheck back at UFC 95.
If Thiago loses to Dong Hyun Kim—an outcome that I believe to be increasingly likely—he's done in the UFC for now.
Chances of being cut: 60%
As a former winner of The Ultimate Fighter, Mac Danzig will be given every single opportunity to succeed that the UFC can possibly give him. But he's been alternating wins and losses since UFC 109, with the lone finish during that span coming over against glass-jawed Joe Stevenson.
Since debuting in the UFC by submitting Tommy Speer to win TUF Season 6, Danzig is 5-5 in the UFC. The promotion is pretty gracious to their former TUF winners, but a loss would drop Danzig's record to 5-6, with nary a winning streak in sight. He might be given another chance, but it's slightly more likely that he'll be sent packing.
Chances of being cut: 25%
I get the feeling that Tiequan Zhang could lose 35 fights in a row and still be employed by the UFC simply because he's Chinese and the promotion is trying to break into the Chinese market. And maybe that's the case; maybe Zhang loses here and doesn't get cut, but instead gets to try again the next time the UFC hits China in 2013.
Zhang beat Jason Reinhardt during his UFC debut—that's no real accomplishment, by the way—but has dropped two fights to Darren Elkins and Issei Tamura. That doesn't seem like a big deal, but if you include his two Zuffa-era WEC fights, Zhang's record is 2-3.
This is a dude who probably should be cut if he loses, but because he's in the right place at the right time, he probably won't be.
Chances of being cut: 82.754%
Takeya Mizugaki has literally alternated wins and losses since an April 5, 2009 loss to Miguel Torres in the WEC. He hasn't been able to string two consecutive wins together, but he's also been just good enough to avoid losing two in a row. In a way, Mizugaki is the new definition of average in the UFC's bantamweight division.
If Mizugaki manages to lose to Jeff Hougland, though, he'll be sent packing, mostly because Hougland isn't the kind of watermark fighter that Mizugaki should be losing to if he wants to maintain his profession and livelihood.
Chances of being cut: 100%
David Mitchell was undefeated before he came to the UFC, and now he can't win a fight.
Mitchell comes into his fight against someone called Hyun Gyu Lim riding a two-fight losing streak to T.J. Waldburger and Paulo Thiago, which is a lot worse than it actually sounds. And a loss to Lim would probably seal the deal for Mitchell, since I've never heard of Lim and it's clear he's only fighting on this card because they want to create new stars in the Asian market.
I'm trying to not be mean here. But this is the end of the line for Mitchell; a loss and he's gone.