Saturday’s UFC 166 pay-per-view has one of the most interesting cards of the year, but the focus has shifted to which stars have the most to lose this weekend.
All of the following stars must win Saturday to get on the right track, and a loss could be the worst possible outcome for their careers.
Junior dos Santos
After beating Cain Velasquez in the duo’s first meeting for the heavyweight title, Junior dos Santos was dominated by the new champion in the second bout and lost the title. This rubber match is a must win for dos Santos.
Dos Santos is coming off a lopsided win over Mark Hunt to earn his way back into the title picture, but this could be his last chance at the belt if he loses once again. For a fighter that has tasted a championship victory in the heavyweight division, dos Santos doesn’t want to be relegated once again.
Velasquez has proven to be dos Santos' biggest test—the champion has outwrestled the challenger at every chance and rendered the Brazilian’s elite striking a non-factor—and a loss in another title fight would be the biggest defeat in dos Santos’ career.
Dos Santos can’t afford to lose in another main event.
Roy “Big Country” Nelson is one of the most entertaining fighters in the sport and a bona fide fan favorite, but an incredibly tough matchup against Daniel Cormier could be the last marquee fight he ever takes if he faces another loss.
While Nelson comes in as one of the toughest strikers in the sport, Cormier could be the best pure wrestler to ever step into a UFC Octagon. If Nelson doesn’t have the skill to stop the Olympic wrestler, the hunt for a title will likely be over unless he makes drastic changes to his physique and conditioning.
Nelson is unquestionably tough, but the lack of elite cardio makes him easy pickings for the elite athletes in the heavyweight division. With Cormier’s ability to grind his opponents down over the course of a fight, Nelson has the chance to lose once again and become nothing more than a divisional gatekeeper.
When the UFC added the women’s division to the company, one of the marquee signings was former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman. After having her first fight cancelled, Kaufman makes her long-awaited debut against Jessica Eye at UFC 166.
Kaufman fought champion Ronda Rousey in Strikeforce but lost via submission. With the talent to be a top contender in the division and the need to gain revenge for the submission loss, Kaufman must beat Eye Saturday night.
While there are plenty of women in the division that would make a viable opponent for Rousey and her championship, Kaufman has the experience in the Octagon and against the title holder to make that a great fight. She must win Saturday for that rematch to ever come to fruition, though.