Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports
Tyron Woodley, Josh Koscheck, Brian Ebersole and Rick Story are all one more loss away from being non-factors at 170.
UFC 167 is absolutely packed with welterweight bouts. Two of the bouts, though, are nothing short of critical to the fighters involved. Those bouts are Brian Ebersole vs. Rick Story and Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley.
All four of them are great fighters. All four of them are desperately searching for a win.
Both fights, at their core, are between former top-10 fighters whose careers have gone awry opposite guys who once held the title of "the next big thing."
The role of once-successful veteran is played by Koscheck and Story.
Koscheck needs no introduction. All that needs to be pointed out is his two-fight losing streak (most recently a knockout loss to Robbie Lawler) which, at 35 years old in an absurdly stacked division, almost certainly means an end to any realistic title hopes. If there is any hope of salvaging that goal, it starts by beating Woodley.
Story, meanwhile, was on the short list of title contenders for Georges St-Pierre in 2011 following a six-fight winning streak (including handing Johny Hendricks his only loss with Zuffa). Then his title aspirations were scuttled by Nate Marquardt. Not because the two of them fought but because his love of synthetic testosterone forced him into a fight with a wrestler on 20 hours' notice.
He lost and has been on a 2-4 run ever since. While he has fought some amazing fighters during that stretch, losses are losses, and he has way too many of them. He needs a win if he wants to keep his job, never mind competing for the belt again.
Koscheck faces off with Tyron Woodley. Woodley has just two fights with the UFC, but his first win (a vicious knockout of Jay Hieron) was so big, they decided to overmatch him against Jake Shields in his second UFC bout; Shields would take an ugly, career-derailing split decision from him.
He has the chance to immediately re-enter "next big thing" territory if he can take out Josh Koscheck, but that is a tall order for a relatively "young" fighter.
Last but not least, Brian Ebersole entered the UFC more than 60 fights deep into his 11-year MMA career, so it's a bit difficult to pencil him in as anything resembling a prospect. However, he fought largely in Australia and started his career (on the record, at least) at just 18 years old, meaning he was very capable of maintaining a spot on the UFC's welterweight rankings for years.
It seemed like he was doing just that until a 4-0 start was nixed with a questionable decision loss to James Head. The injury bug bit him badly after, and he was forced out of the cage for almost 18 months, which has pushed him from the minds. He, as with Koscheck, Woodley and Story, needs a win for every possible reason.
The thing is, there are four fighters but only two wins to go around. This is a huge event for the entire welterweight division and for more than just these four fighters.