12 MMA Fighters on the Hot Seat in the Month of January

Andrew Saunders@SaundersMMACorrespondent IIJanuary 5, 2013

12 MMA Fighters on the Hot Seat in the Month of January

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    January 2013 might go down in history as one of the busiest months in MMA history. The UFC has two events, Bellator has three and Strikeforce hosts the final event in their seven-year history. That doesn't even include fight cards coming from Invicta Fighting Championships and World Series of Fighting.

    With all of the action coming your way in January, it might be hard to keep up with everything. That's where Bleacher Report comes in.

    Several top names are competing this month, and there is a lot that they can gain. However, many fighters have much more that they can lose in January.

    Here is a look at 12 MMA fighters who are on the hot seat in January.

Daniel Cormier

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    Undefeated heavyweight fighter Daniel Cormier is an absolute monster. Only 10 fights into his professional career, the Olympic wrestler has already dethroned respected veterans Jeff Monson, Bigfoot Silva and Josh Barnett en route to winning the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.

    On Saturday, January 12, Cormier will compete on the final Strikeforce card, where he meets Dion Staring on the evening's main card.

    So, why is he on the hot seat?

    Anyone familiar with world champions Jens Pulver and Georges St-Pierre is familiar with what can happen when you underestimate an opponent.

    Despite the seemingly lack of threat presented by Staring, anything can happen in MMA. If Cormier gets caught with a freak submission or surprised by a power strike, his first-class ticket into the UFC might suddenly be rejected. 

    The chances of failure are small in this situation, however, the consequences of failure are too great to ignore.

Clay Guida

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    Losing razor-thin decisions to Gray Maynard and Benson Henderson aren’t the kind of performances that get a UFC star fired. Worst case scenario, Clay Guida will be given a smaller level of competition in the event that he cannot best Hatsu Hioki at UFC on FOX 6.

    However, that is exactly the punishment that Guida is afraid of. A new member of the featherweight division, his bout with Hioki represents a semi-fast track to a title shot. A championship opportunity is what has eluded The Carpenter for years, despite having 16 UFC appearances to his credit.

    Although 31 is hardly an age that makes you a senior citizen in MMA, Guida has been through 42 fights in his career, and each war must have taken its own separate toll on his body. Heading back to the drawing board to start from scratch might not be an option for him anymore.

Pat Healy

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    Pat Healy might as well be considered the Rodney Dangerfield of Strikeforce, because this guy gets absolutely no respect. 

    Originally slated to meet Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce lightweight championship, Healy was bumped from the main event down to the preliminary card after Melendez was forced from the fight due to injury. 

    If that's not enough, according to Healy in an interview with MMA.com's Brian Hemminger (h/t SB Nation), the UFC has told him that there is no guaranteed spot on their roster for him, despite being 6-1 in Strikeforce and a currently title contender.

    Unfortunate as his situation is, the mindset that Healy has been forced into could prove to be tremendously motivating for his January 12 fight. It's win or find yourself a new job. 

    Good luck, "Bam Bam." On behalf of Bleacher Report, we can't wait to see you step into the Octagon later this year.

Mike Russow

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    The name Mike Russow is probably familiar because of his come-from-behind victory over Todd Duffee that shocked the MMA community. Since that time, Russow has quietly built himself a solid winning streak, but it has since been snuffed.

    Competing at UFC on FOX 6, the Chicago police officer will meet Strikeforce import Shawn Jordan. It will be his first fight since a one-sided beatdown at the hands of Fabricio Werdum back at UFC 147.

    Russow has the benefit of possessing a solid UFC record, but the drawbacks of being an unsightly being who can put a crowd to sleep better than a cocktail of Ambien, smooth jazz and Ben Askren.

    If unsuccessful, Russow will either be shoved onto Facebook prelims or shown the door. In either scenario, Russow is not willing to slide back down the ladder that he worked hard to climb.

Shawn Jordan

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    Speaking of Mike Russow, let's talk about his UFC on FOX 6 opponent: Shawn Jordan.

    Jordan is a four-time Bellator veteran who also competed in Strikeforce before landing on the UFC's doorstep in early 2012. It was a thrilling debut against strongman Oli Thompson which led fans to believe that the former LSU fullback has a bright future inside the Octagon.

    At UFC 149, Jordan got a major step-up in competition when he filled in on short notice against long-time veteran Cheick Kongo. The engaging style that fans associated with Jordan was gone. In its place was a win-at-all-costs mentality that led to a 15-minute affair that mostly resembled a  bear hug competition up against the cage.

    After a horrifically boring performance, you had better believe that Jordan has his neck in the noose.

Roger Hollett

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    How in God’s name did Roger Hollett get a second fight in the UFC? At UFC 154, he put on, perhaps, the worst performance in UFC history when an out-of-shape Matt Hamill manhandled the Bellator import for three rounds.

    Hollett’s performance at the event was a slap in the face to any light heavyweight who is working hard to earn their way into the UFC, as they were someone overlooked in favor of this waste of a roster spot.

    Roger is being fed to Wagner Prado at UFC on FX 7. Both men are winless inside the Octagon, and you can be sure that the loser will not have a job come February.

Muhammed Lawal

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    As the world of mixed martial arts entered 2012, Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal was one of the few bright spots under contract with Strikeforce. As a well-rounded former champion, Lawal is a charismatic star who can carry a brand on his shoulders.

    Unfortunately, Lawal tested positive for drostanolone after a knockout win against Lorenz Larkin. The failure earned him a nine-month suspension of his license. Shortly after, he was released from his contract due to inappropriate comments made regarding NSAC employee Pat Lundvall.

    In January, Lawal makes his return to MMA as the new face of Bellator Fighting Championships. With a year on the sidelines that included his suspension, a knee injury and a post-surgery staph infection, it's safe to assume that Lawal will be covered in ring rust in his first fight back.

    Bellator realizes how important it is for Lawal to succeed on January 24 and to give assistance. They handed him a fight against Przemyslaw Mysiala. The 16-7 fighter is coming off a first-round TKO loss and was seemingly signed to a contract specifically for this fight.

    Lawal isn't likely to lose, but the consequences of a loss are tremendous, so you had better believe that he is on the hot seat.

Vladimir Matyushenko

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    Heading back into UFC territory, we take a look at one-time UFC title contender Vladimir Matyushenko. In 32 professional fights, "The Janitor" has come up short in only six fights, and each loss comes against elite competition.

    Now sitting 2-2 in his most recent contests, Matyushenko is coming off a first-round pummeling he received at the hands of Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 141.

    At the age of 42, a January loss for The Janitor would likely mean the end of his career. How motivated can someone be after losing consecutive bouts at the end of his physical prime? 

    Matyushenko meets Ryan Bader at UFC on FOX 6. It's a tough matchup that could get ugly in a hurry based on the stylistic tendencies of each man.

George Roop

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    Some guys are on the hot seat because they could lose their enviable status. Others are there because they could lose their job with another loss. George Roop finds himself in the latter category.

    Since joining the UFC as a cast member of The Ultimate Fighter, Roop holds an unimpressive record of 4-6-1, but he keeps his job based on an ability to create exciting moments and a willingness to fight anyone at any time.

    Roop returned to the UFC as an import from the WEC. Since that time, he has lost three of his four fights in the organization. Another loss will certainly mark the end of his tenure inside the Octagon.

    Competing at UFC on FX 7, Roop will return to bantamweight to take on Yuri Alcantara.

Godofredo Pepey

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    He might have the most fun name to say in mixed martial arts history, but Godofredo Pepey is in desperate need of a win when the UFC returns to Brazil on January 19.

    After coming up short in the tournament final against Rony "Jason," many were surprised to hear that Pepey was given a second chance from matchmaker Joe Silva. However, the red-haired submission specialist was undefeated prior to that matchup, so a second look may be in order.

    At UFC on FX 7, Pepey meets Milton Viera, a veteran of PRIDE and Strikeforce who is credited with inventing the anaconda choke. If he is unsuccessful the second time around, he can only hope that the door doesn't hit him on the way out.

Rick Hawn

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    On January 17, Bellator Fighting Championships makes the move to Spike TV. Their first event, Bellator 85, the main event features a lightweight championship battle between Michael Chandler and Rick Hawn.

    Despite Chandler having the pressure of being the champion in this important contest, it is Hawn who ultimately sits on the hot seat in January. 

    Hawn represented the United States in judo at the 2004 Olympic games, where he placed ninth. He then transitioned into mixed martial arts and quietly won his first 11 fights as a pro. So far, the only loss on his career came via controversial split decision against Jay Hieron in the Bellator Season 4 welterweight final.

    Unfortunately, the record book doesn't indicate whether or not the judges made a mistake. It simply records a loss for Hawn and shows that he came up short in a high-profile fight.

    Since that time, the judoka cut down to lightweight and has looked stellar. Winning the Season 6 lightweight tournament, Hawn moves into another high-profile fight that he simply can't afford to lose. If so, he develops a stigma of becoming a gatekeeper who is capable of coming close, but not getting the job done.

    It's a task that is easier said than done, as Hawn's opponent is undefeated champion Michael Chandler, who has looked equally stellar in his Bellator career.

Michael Bisping

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    Michael Bisping is a fighter who has been on the cusp of a middleweight title shot on multiple occasions. Unfortunately for the British brawler, he comes up short more often than the Lollipop Guild trying to dunk a basketball.

    At UFC on FX 7, Bisping meets Vitor Belfort in a fight that could grant him a guaranteed crack at the UFC middleweight championship. That is not just the wishful thinking of The Ultimate Fighter winner but an announcement made by UFC president Dana White.

    While Bisping holds a solid UFC record, which includes wins over the likes of Brian Stann, Jason Miller and Yoshihiro Akiyama, he has never been able to get over the hump of defeating a Top 5 opponent.

    Previous losses for "The Count" include close decisions to Rashad Evans, Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen, as well as a knockout at the hands of Dan Henderson.

    Anyone who knows anything about MMA knows that Belfort has much more in common with the latter group than the former. After all, he is a former world champion who has knocked out Rich Franklin and nearly submitted Jon Jones.

    Bisping is on the hot seat in January because this is his fifth attempt at upsetting a member of the MMA elite. Can he get past this hurdle and finally earn the title shot that has eluded him for so long?