10 MMA Fighters on the Hot Seat in the Month of March

Andrew Saunders@SaundersMMACorrespondent IIFebruary 26, 2013

10 MMA Fighters on the Hot Seat in the Month of March

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    Between the UFC's return to Japan and an ultra-hyped blood feud between Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz finally coming to fruition, there is a lot of action to follow in the month of March.

    Some fighters compete this month in hopes of scoring a title shot. Others are fighting to save their jobs in the midst of a potential roster purge.

    Regardless of what each fighter has on the line, there are several stars who simply cannot afford to lose. Here is a look at 10 MMA fighters who are on the hot seat in the month of March.

Hector Lombard

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    Hector Lombard had a shaky debut with the UFC in July when he turned in a sub-par performance against Tim Boetsch. Had he been successful, the bout would have elevated "Lightning" into a title fight with champion Anderson Silva.

    Instead, the anemic showing made fans question Lombard's status as a legitimate member of the middleweight elite. On Saturday night, a shot at redemption comes in the form of No. 4 contender Yushin Okami on the main card of UFC on Fuel 8.

    A loss could forever derail Lombard's chances of fighting for UFC gold.

Mark Hunt

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    Last year, fans campaigned to see Hunt named as a title contender at UFC 146 after Alistair Overeem was forced from a fight with champion Junior dos Santos. Although he was ultimately turned down for the opportunity in lieu of Frank Mir, there is no doubt that UFC president Dana White took note of the overwhelming support that fans showed the "Super Samoan."

    If Hunt can overcome Stefan Struve, a man who the UFC names as the No. 9 contender in the heavyweight division, his path towards a title shot becomes much shorter.

    However, if Hunt comes up short in this fight, his recent three-fight winning streak will have been for naught. 

    Good luck, Mark. You control your fate at this point.

Diego Sanchez

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    Popular Ultimate Fighter star Diego Sanchez makes his long awaited return at this weekend's UFC on Fuel 8 event.

    After more than a year on the sidelines, "The Nightmare" heads back into the Octagon to take on Japanese legend Takanori Gomi. It is his first appearance in the lightweight division since a failed bid to capture the belt from B.J. Penn at the end of 2009.

    This is an important matchup for Sanchez and will ultimately determine his future in the company. Will he be able to return to contender status? The first step takes place on March 3.

Wanderlei Silva

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    The UFC isn't trying to fool anyone with their matchmaking style in regards to Wanderlei Silva.

    They know that "the Axe Murderer" is the rare type of fighter who is willing to put on a show at any cost. As a way of thanking him, Joe Silva puts Silva across from fighters who are willing to engage him in the standup game.

    However, if Silva comes up short this time, it will be the third time in four appearances where he is bested by a fellow striker.  Although his popularity ensures that Wanderlei keeps his job regardless of the outcome of this fight, I'm not sure that his career can survive another loss.

George Roop

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    The always-exciting George Roop is back in action at UFC 158. In his return to the bantamweight division, Roop takes on Reuben Duran in the evening's opening contest.

    Roop has come up short in three of his last four fights and was most recently knocked out by Cub Swanson last January.

    With looming cuts coming from the UFC, Roop is most certainly on the chopping block. He needs a win in the worst kind of way.

Rick Story

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    After wins over Thiago Alves and Johny Hendricks, Rick Story was once a top contender in the UFC welterweight division. However, those days are a distant memory for most.

    Currently, Story is stuck in a rut that includes losses in three of his last four performances. Most recently, "The Horror" was brutally neck cranked by Demian Maia in one of UFC 153's most violent moments.

    At UFC 158, Story meets Strikeforce import Quinn Mulhern on the evening's preliminary card. If unsuccessful, his UFC days are most certainly numbered.

Patrick Cote

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    In his last five UFC appearances, the only fight that Patrick Cote has won came via DQ after Alessio Sakara unleashed a barrage of illegal blows to the back of his head.

    Although he was originally expected to rematch Sakara at UFC 158, that fight was scrapped when Sakara pulled out due to kidney issues.

    Still competing at UFC 158 and hoping to salvage his career, Cote is making the drop to 170 pounds for the first time, where he will meet Bobby Voelker. 

Nate Marquardt

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    After covering his Strikeforce title loss to Tarec Saffiedine at the promotion's final event, I gave my opinion on Nate Marquardt and who he should face in the event that the UFC brought him into the fold.

    If he arrives in the UFC later this year, Marquardt should not be awarded a bout against a contender. This loss drops Nate considerably in the ranks. Perhaps the ill-fated Nate Marquardt vs. Rick Story fight could see the light of day after all.  

    Due to his willingness to step in on short notice against the always-dangerous Jake Ellenberger, Marquardt gets to cut the line and fight a contender anyway. This is his chance to prove that he is a real threat at 170 pounds.

    Could Nate be fired by the UFC twice in two years? A loss in this UFC 158 fight drops him to 1-2 in his new weight class and 3-4 since 2010. 

Jake Ellenberger

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    Why does nobody want to fight Jake Ellenberger? For the third time in his career, a fighter who was scheduled to meet "The Juggernaut" has backed out of a fight in order to take a bigger matchup.

    Now, instead of fighting No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks, Ellenberger will take on veteran Nate Marquardt at UFC 158 without the benefit of a full training camp. 

    Make no mistake about it. A loss here would be devastating for Ellenberger and his title aspirations.

    How many times has a short notice opponent come from out of nowhere and derailed someone's momentum? Brian Ebersole did it to Chris Lytle. Charlie Brenneman did it to Rick Story. Paul Daley did it to Martin Kampmann and the list goes on and on.

Johny Hendricks

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    At UFC 158, Johny Hendricks meets former interim champion Carlos Condit in the evening's co-main event. It's an intense matchup between a surging knockout artist and a thrilling scrapper who has gone to decision in less than 20 percent of his career bouts.

    If there was any question as to whether or not Hendricks is ready for a title shot, this will be his opportunity to answer it.

    There is no denying a victorious Hendricks of a title shot. However, a loss sends him out of contention for the time being, and that is why he is on the hot seat in March.