Recent UFC cards haven't resulted in many rosters cuts. Conversely, many jobs could be on the line at UFC Fight Night 38.
Even the main-event competitors might not be safe from being released. Veterans Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Dan Henderson are seemingly on the decline and could be on the chopping block heading into the weekend's event in Natal, Brazil.
From the top of the fight card to the bottom, UFC Fight Night 38 features fighters who need a win. Here are the competitors sitting on the hot seat as Sunday approaches.
After beating Rua in November 2011, Henderson was lined up for a shot at light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Then, following a knee injury that robbed him of that chance to fight for UFC gold, Henderson's career began spiraling downward.
The former Pride FC champion has now lost three straight fights. Most recently, he suffered his first-ever knockout loss against Vitor Belfort in Brazil.
Now 43 years old, Henderson probably doesn't have much time left in his MMA career regardless of how he looks at UFC Fight Night 38. Randy Couture was considered an ancient fighter when he called it quits at 47 years old, and many felt we wouldn't see another like him again.
This weekend's rematch with Rua is no gimme, so Henderson can prove he still belongs in the UFC in a loss. That said, the matchup might need to earn "Fight of the Night" honors to show he should be kept around despite four defeats in a row.
While Rua should be safe, considering he's coming off of a knockout win over James Te Huna, Henderson could be forced into retirement should he get knocked out again.
Diego Brandao and Will Chope
A former The Ultimate Fighter winner, Diego Brandao would usually get more slack than most non-ranked featherweights. However, UFC matchmakers seem to be sending the Brazilian a message with this matchup.
In his most recent appearance, Brandao was given a chance to enter title contention by beating Dustin Poirier at UFC Fight Night 26. Instead, he missed weight and was stopped in the first round.
Now, he finds himself matched up with an opponent who hasn't won inside the Octagon. While the fight with Will Chope gives Brandao an opportunity to pick up a big win in front of a Brazilian crowd, it is also risky. If he misses weight again and loses, Brandao could anger the UFC brass enough to be released.
Chope might not be getting a fair shake, but his UFC job could also be on the line even though he's preparing to meet a very talented adversary. If he falls to 0-2 without giving fans anything to be excited about against Brandao, Chope will likely be let go.
Like Chope, Thiago Santos is coming off of a loss in his first trip to the Octagon.
At UFC 163, Cezar Ferreira submitted Santos in the first round. Now, "Marreta" will look to bounce back and pick up his first UFC win against Ronny Markes.
With a 3-1 record under the UFC banner, Markes is not a good opponent to be meeting in a potential do-or-die situation. Nonetheless, an 0-2 UFC record pretty much guarantees being released from the world's top MMA promotion these days, especially in a division as deep as 185 pounds is right now.
Santos will likely need a win or a "Fight of the Night" performance on Sunday, but those bonuses don't come easy on the preliminary card.
A former bantamweight title challenger, Scott Jorgensen is one of the more noteworthy names in the flyweight division. However, "Young Guns" does need to start winning in order to stick around at the highest level.
Should Jorgensen lose at UFC Fight Night 38, it'd be three in a row for the WEC veteran. Moreover, he will have lost five of his past six fights should he come up short again this weekend. Those defeats have come against high-level opposition, but ranked fighters have been cut for less.
While Jussier Formiga is a tough adversary, Jorgensen should beat the Brazilian. If he doesn't and looks bad, Jorgensen will have nobody to blame but himself should he get released.
Thiago Perpetuo and Kenny Robertson
Neither Thiago Perpetuo nor Kenny Robertson is in danger of losing a third straight fight on Sunday, but both men might still need a victory to maintain their spots on the UFC roster.
After appearing on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, Perpetuo needed to come from behind against Leonardo Mafra at UFC 147 to earn a UFC contract. He followed that win up with a loss to Omari Akhmedov at UFC Fight Night 32, so a defeat at the hands of Robertson this weekend would leave "Bodao" with a 1-2 UFC record that is even less impressive than it looks.
While Robertson scored a "Submission of the Year" candidate against Brock Jardine in 2013, he's otherwise had a forgettable UFC career. A loss to Perpetuo at UFC Fight Night 38 would give the American a poor 1-4 record inside the Octagon.
Three straight losses is usually the magic number that results in a fighter with at least one UFC win being released. Still, either Perpetuo or Robertson would be in jeopardy with a loss in this matchup.
A runner-up on TUF: Brazil, Godofredo Pepey has been slow to develop.
Had a split decision with Milton Vieira not gone his way at UFC on FX 7, Pepey would have an 0-4 UFC record and probably wouldn't be competing on Sunday's fight card. Even with that win, he's still in deep trouble heading into the weekend.
The Brazilian followed that win over Vieira with back-to-back knockout losses to Sam Sicilia and Felipe Arantes. Now facing an unproven UFC newcomer, Noad Lahat, Pepey likely must win at UFC Fight Night 38 to keep his UFC career going.
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