UFC 166: Who's on the Hot Seat?
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Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos and the best MMA rubber match in years are soaking up the lion's share of the spotlight at UFC 166. But there's narrative tension aplenty for plenty of other fighters on the card, some of whom might be fighting for their UFC lives this Saturday in Houston.
Here's a look at five fighters on the hot seat at UFC 166.
Sarah Kaufman has had wide success in MMA outside the UFC.
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Though they might not be on the hot seat per se, an unusually high number of fighters are making their UFC debut on Saturday. A win would certainly get them off on the right foot.
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The bantamweight earned fans on the 14th season of The Ultimate Fighter, but he hasn't done much to distinguish himself since, going 1-4 in the UFC including losses in his last three straight.
All signs point to him being a sacrificial lamb for Horiguchi, a successful fighter overseas making his UFC debut. Can Pague flip the script? His earning power depends on it.
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Besides doing one of the best old man impressions in the sport, George Sotiropoulos is also on thin ice. He has lost three straight, and his jiu-jitsu style, while impressive, is not exactly the most electrifying.
Making things all the more ominous for Sotiropoulos, he has lost both of this last two fights by knockout, and he faces a high-level boxer Saturday in K.J. Noons. Not looking good for the Australian.
KJ Noons (left) faced lightweight standout Donald Cerrone in his UFC debut.
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It's entirely possible Noons' bout with Sotiropoulos is a loser-leaves-town proposition. Though this is only his second fight in the UFC, he has lost three straight under Zuffa, going back to his Strikeforce days.
What could keep Noons' seat a bit cooler than his opponent's, however, is his exciting boxing style, much shorter UFC tenure and close, exciting debut match, in which he came up just short against Donald Cerrone.
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Nate Marquardt hasn't been back in the UFC too long, but the ride has already been a little rough. A muffin basket would have been a lot nicer than that first-round KO from Jake Ellenberger. Going back to Strikeforce, he's lost two in a row.
Is he fighting for his job at UFC 166? Maybe not. But the walls seem to be closing in on the 34-year-old veteran.
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Of all those on the hot seat, Tim Boetsch may be sitting most comfortably.
Yes, the big middleweight has lost two in a row. But those were to top competitors in Mark Munoz and Costa Philippou, the latter of which came thanks in part to a freak eye injury in the cage.
Boetsch would be a lot more comfortable if he defeated C.B. Dollaway this weekend, thus staving off the magic number of three straight defeats, which often signals the cutting point in the UFC. But his proven track record (7-5 in the UFC, 4-2 as a middleweight) and fan-friendly style should give the burly Boetsch some extra leeway.