UFC 168: Who's on the Hot Seat?

Sean SmithAnalyst IDecember 26, 2013

UFC 168: Who's on the Hot Seat?

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Anderson Silva is feeling the pressure as he heads into UFC 168 on Saturday.

    The former middleweight champion was dethroned by a Chris Weidman left hook in July. On Saturday, Silva will try to recapture his crown in a highly anticipated rematch.

    It's possible the MMA legend won't step into the Octagon again if he loses at UFC 168. He  has hinted at retirement a number of times and has long been interested in a boxing match with Roy Jones Jr.

    While the UFC won't cut him anytime soon, Silva's MMA career might depend on the result of his bout with Weidman on Saturday. As such, "The Spider" will be one of multiple fighters who are competing to keep their UFC careers alive in Las Vegas this weekend.

    These are the fighters on the hot seat, heading into UFC 168.

Estevan Payan

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    Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

    Estevan Payan went unbeaten in two fights under the Strikeforce banner, but he may already be in danger of losing his UFC roster spot after suffering a loss in his Octagon debut.

    At UFC 160, Jeremy Stephens took him down six times en route to a decision win. 

    Despite Payan's success with Strikeforce, many UFC newcomers are let go when they start with back-to-back losses. Should the 31-year-old lose to Robbie Peralta at UFC 168, it could mean a short stay with the world's top MMA organization.

William Macario

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    William Macario was The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 2 runner-up, so he is receiving one more chance to prove himself following his loss in the reality show finals.

    At UFC on Fuel TV 10, Macario squared off with Leonardo Santos. Though he might have a higher ceiling than the 33-year-old Santos, the inexperienced Macario was taken down and submitted in the second round, which spoiled his chances to earn a guaranteed UFC contract.

    On Saturday, he will meet Bobby Voelker. Should the Brazilian lose at UFC 168, he may have to do some developing in regional competition before returning to the Octagon.

Bobby Voelker

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Voelker finished his Strikeforce career with three straight victories. However, he has been unable to gain any momentum inside the Octagon.

    In March, UFC veteran Patrick Cote beat him in a unanimous decision. Months later, he suffered a knockout loss in a rough matchup opposite Robbie Lawler.

    Now, the 34-year-old will get a much-needed step down in competition when he meets Macario. Along with that step down comes danger, though. Should Voelker lose a third in a row at UFC 168, his UFC career will likely be finished.

Uriah Hall

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    It's not often The Ultimate Fighter participants lose their first two fights inside the Octagon and still receive a third opportunity without having to earn it in regional shows.

    Not many TUF contestants have captured the attention of MMA fans like Uriah Hall, though. The TUF runner-up looked unstoppable on the reality series before losing to Kelvin Gastelum in the finals. Following another decision loss to John Howard in 2013, Hall is in dire need of a win.

    If he can't find a way to defeat fading veteran Chris Leben, he could be heading back to smaller promotions.

Chris Leben

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Chris Leben and Uriah Hall are two of the more popular fighters in the middleweight class, but they could be battling for their UFC jobs on Saturday.

    A loser of three in a row, Leben is likely in need of a win at UFC 168. While he's one of the most exciting fighters in the history of the middleweight division, he has been going in the wrong direction since a knockout win over Wanderlei Silva in July 2011.

    Should he lose to Hall this weekend, his UFC career of more than eight years could finally come to an end.

Anderson Silva

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    The UFC isn't going to cut Anderson Silva loose even if he does lose again on Saturday.

    Still, the former middleweight champion could be fighting for his career at UFC 168. If he loses to Chris Weidman again, he'll have to work his way back up the ladder for a shot at another UFC championship. 

    For somebody who has already accomplished so much in MMA, earning another title shot may not seem worthwhile to The Spider. Should he lose to the champion this weekend, Silva may decide he has nothing left to prove inside the Octagon.