Headlined by a pair of middleweights looking to return to title contention, UFC Fight Night 35 will also feature a number of fighters battling for their UFC jobs.
Less than half of the 24 competitors stepping into the Octagon during the fight card are coming off a UFC win. With many desperate fighters appearing at UFC Fight Night 35, MMA fans could be treated to some epic clashes on Jan. 15.
Although they both lost their most recent outings, main event fighters Luke Rockhold and Costas Philippou should be safe from being released. However, here are the fighters who will be sitting on the hot seat heading into UFC Fight Night 35.
Garett Whiteley and Vinc Pichel
In October, Garett Whiteley made his UFC debut opposite fellow promotional newcomer Alan Patrick.
Late in the first round, Whiteley was blasted with a left hand. Unable to recover, the American suffered a knockout loss in his first appearance inside the Octagon.
A contestant on The Ultimate Fighter 15, Vinc Pichel also suffered a loss in his initial UFC showing. Facing Rustam Khabilov nearly 13 months ago, Pichel was stopped with a suplex in the first stanza. Despite losing his first fight following the reality series, he was surprisingly retained by the UFC and will meet Whiteley at UFC Fight Night 35.
Should Pichel drop to 0-2 inside the Octagon, though, he will almost surely be let go. The same stakes could be on the line for Whiteley, who can't afford a 0-2 start to his UFC career.
Trevor Smith and Brian Houston
Entering the UFC on the heels of a loss to Tim Kennedy, Trevor Smith met Ed Herman in his Octagon debut. The Strikeforce veteran came away with a loss, but he likely saved his UFC job by earning Fight of the Night honors at UFC on Fox 8.
Brian Houston was also defeated in his first UFC showing. Less than one minute into his bout with Derek Brunson at UFC Fight Night 31, Houston was rocked and submitted.
When Smith and Houston meet at UFC Fight Night 35, the stakes will be high. The loser will have an 0-2 record and likely receive his walking papers.
The Ultimate Fighter 13 runner-up Ramsey Nijem has had a nice career with the world's top MMA promotion. However, following back-to-back losses in 2013, he must beat Justin Edwards at UFC Fight Night 35.
A teammate with Nijem on the UFC reality series, Edwards has alternated wins and losses since joining the promotion's roster. While he's likely safe from being released, "Fast Eddy" may be the one to bounce his fellow Team Dos Santos member from UFC competition.
Nijem carried three straight wins into 2013. However, losses to TUF veterans Myles Jury and James Vick have him in a bad place now. Losing to three straight TUF alumni would probably end Nijem's UFC run.
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