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16 MMA Fighters on the Hot Seat in the Month of February

Andrew SaundersCorrespondent IIFebruary 7, 2013

16 MMA Fighters on the Hot Seat in the Month of February

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    UFC 156 may have come and gone, but the incredible MMA action of February has only just begun. With standout cards from the UFC and Bellator both on the way, there is a lot to look forward to this month.

    Motivation is in no short supply during February. While some fighters have golden opportunities coming their way, others are looking for a big win to preserve their jobs. 

    Regardless of what each fighter has on the line, there are several stars who simply cannot afford to lose. Here is a look at 16 MMA fighters who are on the hot seat in the month of February.

Jorge Santiago

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    After coming up short in 2011 fights against Demian Maia and Brian Stann, former Sengoku middleweight champion Jorge Santiago is ready to give the UFC on more try.

    Santiago is dropping to welterweight for the first time in his career to face white-hot prospect Gunnar Nelson. That fight goes down on Feb. 16 at UFC on Fuel 7.

    If Santiago comes up short in this fight, he will have lost in his last five UFC appearances, with the sole victory coming in his promotional debut in 2006.

Josh Grispi

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    Can anyone explain to me how WEC import Josh Grispi still has a job? 

    Upon his arrival into the UFC, Grispi was expected to be the first challenger for Jose Aldo since the closing of WEC's doors. When Aldo was injured, Grispi settled for a bout with Dustin Poirier, where he was dominated en route to a unanimous-decision loss.

    Grispi then followed that performance with a pair of stoppage losses to George Roop and Rani Yahya, the latter of which was one-sided and finished in the first round.

    If he loses to TUF alumnus Andy Ogle at UFC on Fuel 7, that makes his UFC record 0-4, and the fighter who calls himself "The Fluke" will have to hope that his resume is impressive enough for Bellator to consider.

Phil Harris & Ulysses Gomez

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    Typically, I wouldn't think that any flyweights on the UFC roster are in danger of losing their jobs. It doesn't make any sense. The talent pool is only 13 fighters deep.

    However, as world-ranked Yasuhiro Urushitani found out, a pair of losses is all that it takes for Joe Silva to terminate your contract.

    Both Harris and Gomez were finished in their UFC debuts. If that were to happen once again, whoever comes up short in the opening contest of UFC on Fuel 7 could find themselves out in the cold.

Jon Manley & Neil Magny

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    After the heavy criticism from Dana White regarding the quality of fights delivered by the cast of TUF 16, many were surprised to see that Jon Manley and Neil Magny were given post-show contests.

    However, tournament semi-finalists are historically brought back to have their day in the sun, so this UFC 157 matchup makes sense from a traditional point of view.

    Manley was outpointed by tournament winner Colton Smith, while Magny was knocked out by runner-up Mike Ricci. Both men currently sport a professional record of 7-1.

    Good luck, guys, but this is a loser-leaves-town bout unless you brawl mercilessly into a Fight of the Night bonus.

Eduardo Dantas

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    Few fighters are in as awkward of a position as Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas.

    In August, Dantas competed under the Shooto banner and shockingly found himself knocked out by unheralded opponent Tyson Nam in less than two minutes.

    Bellator champions have lost non-title fights before, but never had it happened outside of the confines of a BFC cage.

    Dantas is perceived by many as an unworthy champion due to the loss. If he comes up short in defending his title against tournament winner Marcus Galvao, his status as an elite bantamweight will have dissipated entirely.

    Dantas vs. Galvao goes down at Bellator 89 on Feb. 14.

Court McGee & Josh Neer

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    Ultimate Fighter winner Court McGee looked great after winning the show's 11th season. Putting together a pair of post-TUF victories, McGee has now seen his momentum turned upside down after losses to Costa Philippou and Nick Ring.

    McGee drops to welterweight for the first time in his career to face longtime UFC veteran Josh Neer, who is also struggling to stay above water.

    The year 2012 saw Neer knocked out by Mike Pyle and shockingly choked out by Justin Edwards in only 45 seconds. Both stoppages came in the first round to make fans forget all about the six-fight winning streak that "The Dentist" accumulated prior.

    Losing three in a row makes it curtains for most on the UFC roster. In the ultra-competitive welterweight division, it is a near-certainty.

Brendan Schaub

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    What a roller coaster it has been for Ultimate Fighter runner-up Brendan Schaub. 

    After being savagely knocked out by Roy Nelson in the tournament final, Schaub went on a winning spree that included a decision win over Gabriel Gonzaga and a trio of knockouts that left the likes of Mirko Cro Cop lying in a limp pile of bones.

    That's where the success stopped. Since that time, Schaub found himself the victim of first-round knockouts at the hands of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and "Big" Ben Rothwell.

    If Schaub can't get the job done against Lavar Johnson on the FX portion of UFC 157, it will be his third loss in a row. 

    Will "The Hybrid" get run over by his own hype train?

Robbie Lawler

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    Despite the name value that he possesses, many were surprised to see that Robbie Lawler was being brought into the UFC after his lackluster run in Strikeforce.

    Losing three of his last four contests, Lawler is returning to the welterweight division in hopes of revitalizing his career. 

    At UFC 157, he gets the opportunity to sink or swim when meeting former UFC title contender Josh Koscheck on the evening's main card. A win would relaunch "Ruthless," while a loss would likely signal the end of his time as a viable contender in any weight class. 

Urijah Faber

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    Former WEC champion Urijah Faber has essentially had his career in some weird holding pattern for the last four years. 

    Since losing his championship to Mike Brown in 2008, Faber has been on a pattern of defeating a contender and then losing one-sided fights against the reigning champion of whatever division he is competing in.

    Wins over Jens Pulver, Rafael Assuncao, Eddie Wineland and Brian Bowles were all counteracted by losses to Brown again, Jose Aldo, Dominick Cruz and newly-minted interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao.

    At UFC 157, Faber needs to win decisively against dangerous Tristar Gym member Ivan Menjivar. Otherwise, with a 2-3 record inside the Octagon, the sun will forever set on "The California Kid's" chances to strap UFC gold around his waist.

Maiquel Falcao & Alexander Shlemenko

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    With Hector Lombard leaving Bellator with the promotion's middleweight championship strapped around his waist, it opens the door for new blood to grab hold of the divisional reins.

    Tournament winners Alexander Shlemenko and Maiquel Falcao were both entitled to a crack at Lombard upon his departure, but will instead be facing each other to crown a new champion in his absence. Bellator 88 is the home of this contest, which goes down tonight on Spike TV.

    This is a huge opportunity for both men to not only win a world champion, but to also become one of the new faces of Bellator after their move to Spike. 

    Step up and earn your place in history, boys.

Dan Henderson

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    Some MMA pundits have previously made a case for Dan Henderson as the greatest fighter of all time. As the only man to hold two world titles simultaneously in different weight classes, Henderson later won the Strikeforce world title and also has a UFC tournament win under his belt.

    The only championship missing from his collection is the UFC light heavyweight title. 

    Forced out of a UFC 151 title clash due to injury, Henderson saw the opportunity slip through his fingers. Now, the holder of the H-Bomb must fight to earn the title shot that once belonged to him.

    At UFC 157, Henderson steps into the co-main event of the evening to take on former UFC champion Lyoto Machida.

    A win brings Hendo one step closer to that final milestone he could look to achieve in his impressive career. At age 42, a loss here nearly guarantees that his goal will never be reached.

Ronda Rousey

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    Never before has the future of a division been in the hands of a single person. At UFC 157, that all changes as the success of women's mixed martial arts will be decided solely by the performance of Ronda Rousey.

    The phenomenal rise of Rousey did great numbers for Strikeforce, and the former Olympian single-handedly changed Dana White's tune on women fighting inside the Octagon.

    Rousey defends her UFC women's bantamweight championship against Liz Carmouche in the first female fight in UFC history. 

    If Rousey successfully continues her reign of armbar-related terror and produces quality numbers on pay-per-view, she can practically guarantee work for the best female fighters on the planet.

    In the event that she fails, Ronda has the potential to forever shut the book on women fighting in the UFC. 

    Granted, the likelihood of Rousey failing is fairly small. Oddsmakers Bovada.lv has the judoka as an incredible 11-to-1 betting favorite. That translates roughly to a 92 percent chance of success.

    However, as they say, anything can happen in MMA.

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