UFC 164 is set to commence on Saturday, Aug. 31 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wis. On the main card are some of the top fighters in the world, with featherweights, lightweights and heavyweights competing for career advancement.
The question is, which fighters are under the most pressure to shine?
Mixed martial arts is unlike most other sports, as it only takes a string of defeats to render your career temporarily halted. In other instances, a fighter can go from title contention to the label of a bust within moments.
A group of fighters on the UFC 164 main card can be found in either one of those two predicaments.
"Winning cures everything" is a phrase used throughout the sports world, but never has it been more applicable than to professional fighting. If the following fighters are to pick up much-needed victories, they'll not only improve the trajectory of their careers but potentially salvage their futures with UFC.
Plain and simple, the pressure is on.
Opponent: Anthony Pettis
Benson Henderson is the reigning UFC lightweight champion, owns a record of 19-2 and hasn't lost since Dec. 16, 2010. Not only has he gone undefeated for close to three years, but he's a perfect 7-0 during his UFC career.
Unfortunately, the last person he lost to is the fighter he's facing at UFC 164. Fortunately, a win would do wonders for his legacy.
Henderson will clash with Anthony Pettis, who defeated Henderson for the WEC lightweight championship via unanimous decision. Pettis has since gone 3-1 in the UFC, winning all but his debut fight against Clay Guida.
There's no question that Henderson is one of the best fighters in the world, but it'd be hard to defend an instant rematch if he were to lose a second consecutive fight to Pettis.
Henderson's legacy wouldn't take too much of a hit if he lost, but Pettis is his biggest rival, and falling into an 0-2 hole against him would be devastating. With a win, however, Henderson would affirm his status as the best in the lightweight division.
He's elite regardless, but Henderson needs a win over Pettis to avoid losing their rivalry.
Opponent: Dustin Poirier
Erik Koch is regarded as one of the better featherweight fighters in the world, and rightfully so. He's compiled a record of 13-2, is 2-1 in the UFC and owns seven victories via submission and three via knockout.
With that being said, Koch hasn't won a fight since Sep. 17, 2011.
Injuries have put up a roadblock on Koch's career path, as both he and Jose Aldo suffered ailments that prevented their title fight in 2012. After a tumultuous year of missed opportunities, he took on Ricardo Lamas with the opportunity to rekindle his rivalry with Aldo but lost via TKO in the second round.
A second consecutive loss would be nothing short of devastating.
Koch's fight against Lamas was expected to be a prerequisite to a long-awaited clash against Aldo, but that wasn't to be. Instead, he was sent out with a TKO loss and is now in need of a rebound performance to re-affirm his status as a fighter who deserves a title opportunity.
If Koch fails to win this fight, we may never see the battle between he and Aldo. If we do, it won't be in the near future.
Opponent: Josh Barnett
Frank Mir is one of the most respected technicians in all of mixed martial arts, pairing an elite ground game with a wide array of submission maneuvers. During the course of his career, he's forced fighters such as Brock Lesnar, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Tim Sylvia to submit.
Prior to those fights, Lesnar, Sylvia and Nogueira had never tapped out.
Unfortunately for Mir, his past success is irrelevant to his success today, as he's lost two consecutive fights. He suffered a second-round TKO defeat against Junior dos Santos and lost via unanimous decision against Daniel Cormier.
Up next is a critical fight against Josh Barnett.
Barnett hasn't fought in the UFC since defeating Randy Couture on Mar. 22, 2002, mainly due to the positive test for steroids that had him stripped of the heavyweight title, per USA Today. Even still, Barnett is a revered submission artist who is just as likely to strike as Mir.
A win would do wonders for Mir's career, but a loss would effectively eliminate his chances of contending for the title. His UFC future could come into question as well.