UFC Fight Nights 43 and 44: Who's on the Hot Seat?

Sean SmithAnalyst IJune 25, 2014

Jan 12, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Nate Marquardt (black shorts) enters the ring before his fight with Tarec Saffiedine (not shown) in their Strikeforce MMA Welterweight Title bout at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.  Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The UFC is at it again. One event wasn't enough for this weekend, as the promotion will host fight cards in San Antonio and Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday.

First, UFC Fight Night 43 will get started at 2:30 a.m. ET and will remain on UFC Fight Pass through the main event between New Zealand's own James Te Huna and Nate Marquardt. Headlined by Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens, UFC Fight Night 44 will commence at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fight Pass and Fox Sports 1.

While Swanson and Stephens will be looking to make their cases for a shot at the featherweight championship, Te Huna and Marquardt might be competing for much different stakes. Both fighters have been slumping, so they could be battling for their UFC careers on Saturday.

Here are the fighters who are sitting on the hot seat heading into this weekend's UFC events. 

James Te Huna and Nate Marquardt

Not long ago, Te Huna had won four fights in a row and was prepared to make his ascension into the light heavyweight division. However, when the step up in competition came, he was not ready for Glover Teixeira or Mauricio Rua.

Marquardt has also fallen off the map rather quickly. Three fights ago, he had a Strikeforce belt around his waist and had picked up a knockout win over Tyron Woodley. Now, he's suffered three straight losses and could be nearing the end of his MMA career.

Because they are relatively notable names and are moving divisions, Te Huna and Marquardt could be salvaged should they put on a spectacular brawl. However, in the event one fighter gets dominated, it's likely he'll no longer be with the world's top MMA organization.

Robert Whittaker and Mike Rhodes

After winning The Ultimate Fighter: Smashes, Robert Whittaker looked excellent in a knockout win over Colton Smith. The New Zealand native was looking like a very solid prospect at the time, but he has since dropped two in a row.

Still only 23 years old, he could be a future star at 170 pounds. So, the promotion is probably hoping the TUF winner gets back on track soon.

Now, matchmakers appear to be helping him out by matching him up with Mike Rhodes. At 24 years old, Rhodes is a welterweight with a bright future, but he was defeated by George Sullivan in his lone UFC showing.

With three losses in a row, Whittaker would hit the magic number that usually results in UFC fighters being released. Likewise, a 0-2 start for Rhodes would almost certainly put him on the chopping block.

Richie Vaculik

In his UFC debut, Richie Vaculik was steamrolled by the up-and-coming Justin Scoggins.

At 31 years old, Vaculik is not going to develop much more than he already has. So, he'll have to deliver in his next outing to prove he belongs at this level.

Facing UFC newcomer Roldan Sangcha-an on Saturday, Vaculik must win, or else he'll have to return to smaller shows.

Chris Indich and Vik Grujic

I'm not exactly sure what Chris Indich and Vik Grujic are still doing in the Octagon.

Neither reached the finals on TUF: Nations, and both lost to fellow TUF contestants in their official UFC debuts. That almost always results in fighters not being signed to additional UFC bouts.

However, Indich and Grujic have been given another chance against each other. Both Australians aren't going to survive another loss, though. The loser of this bout will be released.

Sean O'Connell

Ryan Jimmo isn't an elite light heavyweight, but he's a tough matchup for a UFC newcomer. Sean O'Connell came up short against the Canadian in his Octagon debut and will look to get into the win column this weekend.

At 30 years old, O'Connell needs to perform now. If he gets bounced from the world's top promotion, he could be nearing the end of his career by the time he earns another shot with the big show.

Gian Villante is more experienced at this level than O'Connell, but he's beatable. O'Connell has to beat him to remain on the UFC roster.

Colton Smith

Nov 5, 2013; Fort Campbell, KY, USA; Colton Smith during the weigh-in for UFC-Fight for the Troops at Fort Campbell. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

The wrestling that carried Colton Smith to a win over Mike Ricci in the TUF 16 finals has not translated to success against more established UFC fighters.

Smith has been stopped in his two fights since winning the UFC reality show. As a result, he finds himself in a desperate situation heading into the weekend.

Facing UFC newcomer Carlos Diego Ferreira, Smith has a great opportunity to get back into the win column. However, any kind of loss would punch his ticket back to smaller shows.

Cody Gibson

Add Cody Gibson to the list of 0-1 UFC fighters competing this weekend.

The 26-year-old has a promising future ahead, but he's in a bad position already. Born in Oklahoma, he should have a lot of support in San Antonio, though.

Still, Johnny Bedford isn't going to make things easy on Gibson. The TUF veteran has proved he belongs at this level and will be looking to show that Gibson doesn't on Saturday.

Andy Enz

Alaskan Andy Enz is one of the more promising fighters listed here, but that doesn't absolve him from his 0-1 UFC record.

Enz gave Clint Hester a very competitive fight at UFC 169, but he did end up losing. Falling to 0-2 inside the Octagon would be bad news for the 22-year-old.

Opposite Marcelo Guimaraes, Enz finds himself in a very winnable matchup, though. The Brazilian is 1-1 inside the Octagon and is also still trying to prove himself at the highest level.

Ray Borg

Finally, Ray Borg wraps up the weekend of a million potential roster cuts.

Only 20 years old, he should have a long career ahead of him whether it is with the UFC or another promotion. However, he didn't do himself any favors by losing to Dustin Ortiz in his Octagon debut.

The loss has put Borg in a must-win situation. A decisive loss to UFC newcomer Shane Howell on Saturday would likely send Borg back to less desirable promotions.


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