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

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistJune 1, 2013

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

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    Every month the notion of getting cut causes a different cluster of fighters to conjure up extra motivation to try to pull off a win in the Octagon.

    In the same vein, each month typically brings a different UFC title fight, events that are always pressure cookers for the fighters involved.

    The lone UFC title fight scheduled for June got cancelled when interim bantamweight champ Renan Barao suffered a foot injury and had to pull out of his showdown with Eddie Wineland at UFC 160.

    But even with no UFC title fights on the horizon, plenty of seasoned fighters will compete in must-win situations.

    Some will attempt to end losing skids and save their jobs while others will look to seize the moment and possibly punch their tickets to title fights.

    Here are 10 MMA fighters on the hot seat in June.

Muhammed 'King Mo' Lawal

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    After a meteoric rise in the sport, Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal has regressed as of late, first failing a drug test in his last fight with Strikeforce and then absorbing a brutal KO at the hands of Emanuel Newton in his second fight for Bellator after a successful debut.

    King Mo will either get back on track or fall into obscurity at Bellator 96 on June 19.

    If the former Oklahoma State University wrestling standout can't get past Seth Petruzelli, a UFC vet who got TKO'd by fellow journeyman Jacob Noe in his last fight, then the 32-year-old Lawal needs to do some serious soul searching.

Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua

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    In his days in Japan's Pride Fighting Championships, few would dare to refer to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua as a mediocre mixed martial artist. 

    But since joining the UFC in 2007, Shogun has only mustered an average record, compiling a 5-5 mark that includes a submission loss to Forrest Griffin and a TKO setback to Jon Jones.

    Even with his recent woes, Rua sits at No. 7 in the UFC's light heavyweight rankings. A win over the fifth-ranked Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 161 will swiftly catapult the Brazilian back into title contention.

    At 31, Rua's not too weathered to make another run at Jones. However, he certainly can't afford to make the same mistake Rashad Evans made and look past "Little Nog."

Dustin Pague

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    Dustin Pague has not only lost three of four fights in the UFC, his fifth fight with the promotion will represent a step up in competition.

    In a situation where a loss will obviously send him back to the minor leagues, Pague will unfortunately have his hands full with Tristar Gym product and striking specialist Yves Jabouin at UFC 161.

    In September, Jabouin saw his three-fight winning streak come to a halt when he got KO'd by Brad Pickett at UFC on Fuel TV 5.

    But the 33-year-old Canadian-Haitian fighter has won four of his last six fights, a fact that will surely make him the more confident fighter against Pague.

Roy Nelson

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    Roy "Big Country" Nelson has essentially steamrolled every fighter out of the top 10 that the UFC has put in front of him, including his last three foes in Dave Herman, Matt Mitrione and Cheick Kongo.

    Regardless of that fact, the company's brass still pitted him against another heavyweight out of the top 10 in Stipe Miocic at UFC 161.

    Deemed a 2.4-to-1 favorite (-240) by Bovada.com, Nelson most likely won't get a title shot if he bests Miocic, no matter how spectacular the victory may turn out.

    A loss, conversely, will send the fifth-ranked Big Country toward the bottom of the UFC's heavyweight rankings.

Rashad Evans

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    The stock of former UFC light heavyweight champ Rashad Evans has undoubtedly plummeted in his last two outings.

    On a losing skid for the first time in his career, the 33-year-old former Michigan State University wrestler now looks to avenge back-to-back losses to Jon Jones and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 145 and UFC 156, respectively.

    But the road won't get any smoother for "Suga," who will lock horns with former Strikeforce champ Dan Henderson in the main event at UFC 161.

    Also coming off a loss, fellow former NCAA Division I wrestler "Hendo" will attempt to avoid his first losing skid since falling to Quinton Jackson and Anderson Silva at UFC 75 and UFC 82, respectively.

    Even at 42, Henderson's (No. 3) ranked ahead of Evans (No. 6) on the UFC's light heavyweight rankings.

    However, Bovada.com has still named Evans a 1.25-to-1 favorite (-125) to best Hendo (-105), another reason the Blackzilians staple is in a must-win situation in June.

Jon Fitch

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    Since first impressions carry such weight in the realm of MMA, former UFC stud Jon Fitch needs an impressive win in his debut with the World Series of Fighting—at least if he intends to fast-track it back to the big leagues.

    After outlasting Thiago Alves at UFC 117, Fitch prevailed in just one of four fights in the UFC, eventually receiving his pink slip from president Dana White following his loss to Demian Maia at UFC 156. 

    Fitch can begin to regain his footing with a win over UFC vet Josh Burkman at WSOF 3. 

    Because Fitch already holds a submission win (rear-naked choke) over Burkman at UFC Fight Night 4, the former Purdue University wrestling standout has plenty at stake in his promotional debut.

    A convincing win will help solidify the opinions of thousands of Fitch fans who were outraged when White handed the American Kickboxing Academy product his walking papers. A loss of any form, however, will surely send Fitch into a much deeper tailspin. 

John Maguire

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    After prevailing in his first two fights with the promotion, English fighter John Maguire has looked a step behind the competition in his last two UFC bouts.

    Maguire beat Justin Edwards and DaMarques Johnson in his first two UFC fights before stepping up in competition and falling to John Hathaway and Matthew Riddle in his two latest outings. 

    On the verge of expulsion, Maguire can save his job with a win over struggling Canadian Mitch Clark at UFC 161.

    Clark, who's also on a two-fight losing skid in the UFC, hasn't tasted victory since April 2011.

Fabricio Werdum

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    The UFC's least talked-about viable heavyweight contender, Fabricio Werdum, will take center stage when he faces fellow Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the main event at UFC on Fuel TV 10.

    With a win, Werdum, who's reeled off notable back-to-back wins over Roy Nelson and Mike Russow in his last two bouts, can put himself in an advantageous position to fight the winner of Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos III.

    A loss to the eighth-ranked Nogueira, on the contrary, could prove severely detrimental to the third-ranked Werdum.

    At 35, Werdum's running out of time to do what the 36-year-old "Minotauro" has already done—capture the UFC heavyweight belt.

Stipe Miocic

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    Before losing his last fight, many pundits believed Stipe Miocic possessed the variables to make a legitimate run in the UFC's heavyweight division.

    But Miocic discovered the UFC's unforgiving nature when he suffered his first loss, a brutal TKO setback dished out by the gargantuan Stefan Struve at UFC on Fuel TV 5.

    Miocic, however, still garnered "Fight of the Night" honors against Struve, and in a strange twist of fate, received the most promising opportunity of his career shortly after the fight.

    Offered a chance to get back into contention by tangling with fifth-ranked UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson, Miocic jumped at the chance of squaring off with the surging "Big Country."

    But halting Nelson's three-fight winning streak won't prove an easy task, at least according to the oddsmakers. Bovada.com has named Nelson a 2.4-to-1 favorite (-240) to topple Miocic (+195).

Thiago Silva

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    Few fighters in the UFC will need a win as desperately as 30-year-old Brazilian Thiago Silva will against promotional newcomer Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante at UFC on Fuel TV 10.

    Once considered one of the most feared 205-pounders in the world, the self-destructive Silva has hit an awfully rocky stretch of his career, scoring just one win in his last six contests. 

    After getting knocked out by Lyoto Machida at UFC 94, Silva got outpointed by both Rashad Evans and Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 94 and UFC on Fuel TV 2, respectively.

    But the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt also had wins over Brandon Vera and Stanislav Nedkov overturned because of a pair of failed drug tests. Silva falsified his urine sample against Vera at UFC 125, and then tested positive for marijuana at UFC on Fuel TV 6.

    Named a 1.7-to-1 underdog (+170) against Feijao (-210), Silva surely won't be calling the UFC his home if he suffers another setback.

    In the same right, however, a win over former Strikeforce champ Cavalcante could be the shot in the arm that saves Silva's quickly fading career.