11 UFC Fighters Who Might Melt Away in the Summer Heat
A few years ago, a fighter could be given a pass despite losing, as long as he put on entertaining and competitive performances. For the most part, in the UFC those days are a distant memory.
Nowadays, a fighter is either in the title hunt, or he is on his way to opponent status in the small show.
With the skill level in MMA on a constant rise, it's harder to avoid a loss on the big stage. Considering the pressure put on by the UFC to either win or walk, it's nearly impossible to get comfortable in the high ranks of the sport.
This summer will hold a handful of matches that could make or break a fighter's UFC career.
While there are examples of fighters surviving in the UFC despite a losing record (see Chris Lytle), it is a rare occurrence that nobody can count on.
Here is a list of 11 fighters that will be in a world of hurt if they can't get a win in their next fight.
Some of them are fighting each other, so surely you will not see all of these faces remaining in the biggest MMA promotion in the world.
After winning his first three fights in the UFC, Kendall Grove has had a hot and cold career, going 3-4 since then. Most recently he was stopped in the second round by Mark Munoz at UFC 112, in a fight he was likely winning.
His fight before that was a submission win over Jake Rosholt at UFC 106. In that fight he was being thoroughly dominated up until he locked in a triangle choke.
Kendall's next fight will be against Goran Reljic at UFC 116. While Kendall is the slight favorite in that fight, many would disagree with those odds. If he loses to Reljic, he will be 1-3 in his last four and likely be handed his walking papers.
The best thing Kendall has going for him is he was the season three winner of The Ultimate Fighter. The UFC has shown a soft spot for each winner of their show, so Grove will be shown slightly more leeway than the average fighter.
Phil Baroni always makes an exciting fight, but with a UFC record of 3-6, he is in dire need of a win.
Most recently, he went three hard rounds with Amir Sadollah at UFC 106, losing by unanimous decision and taking much punishment in the process.
Most felt he was drained from making 170 pounds against Sadollah, but he has stated that he is moving back to middleweight for his next outing. Likely, that will be a smart decision.
Baroni is scheduled to fight next at UFC 118, although an opponent has yet to be determined. A fight with Patrick Cote would be an excellent fit, but Cote will possibly need more time off after being submitted by Alan Belcher at UFC 113.
Phil has the power to knock anyone out and he always puts on a show, but if he is unable to get a win in August, it will likely be his last UFC appearance.
The great Takanori Gomi is certainly seen in a different light now that he isn't the king of the Pride lightweight division.
Gomi just recently debuted in the UFC and was dominated by Kenny Florian, before being submitted in the third round.
Losing your UFC debut is certainly excusable, especially considering it was against one of the best lightweights the UFC has to offer, but he will have little to offer if he can't get into the win column in his next bout.
Gomi is scheduled to take on Joe Stevenson at UFC on Versus 2 on Aug. 1. Stevenson is not on the same level as Florian, so a loss here would certainly signal the end of Gomi being considered an elite fighter.
Gomi's name will be enough to award him at least one more opportunity in the event of a loss, but the UFC has shown they will not keep someone just for their name if they are not able to win (see Kimbo Slice).
Gomi should be a slight favorite against Stevenson.
Once seen by many as the best light heavyweight in the sport, at this point, Chuck Liddell has fallen all the way down from those great heights. Now 40 years old, Chuck is 1-4 in his last five outings, losing three by knockout.
After his first round knockout loss to Mauricio Rua, UFC president Dana White stated that Chuck will not fight again in the UFC. However, after a year layoff, Chuck has been scheduled to fight Rich Franklin at UFC 115.
A loss to Franklin would certainly be the end of Liddell's great career. There are many that feel he shouldn't be fighting again anyway, but he has been the UFC's favorite son for years and for it, is being awarded one last chance.
Chuck will never fight for the title again, and if he continues to fight, it should be against a lower level of opposition.
At the start of 2008, Joe Stevenson was on a four-fight win streak and was given a shot at the vacant lightweight title against B.J. Penn. In that fight, he was utterly dominated by Penn and lost by second-round submission.
Since then, Stevenson has had trouble putting wins together, going 3-3 in his next six. Most recently he lost a unanimous decision to George Sotiropoulos at UFC 110.
As stated earlier, winners of The Ultimate Fighter are cut more slack than the average fighter, but even that won't be enough to save Stevenson if he can't get back on track.
Stevenson is slated to face Japanese great Takanori Gomi at UFC on Versus 2 on Aug. 1. A win over Gomi would certainly keep him in the big leagues and would be huge for his career.
Even though Gomi has faded since his years as PRIDE champion, he is still a big name and a talented fighter.
Stevenson should be the underdog in that fight, but if he can manage a win, it will be reason enough for the UFC to keep him around for a couple more fights. If he loses, it is very possible that the UFC will have no further use for Joe.
Dan Miller is as tough as they come, but after starting his UFC career with three straight wins, he has lost his last two outings.
A third loss would certainly signal a termination, especially since Miller does not have much popularity to fall back on.
In his last fight, Miller lost a unanimous decision to future title challenger Demian Maia.
His fight before that was a unanimous decision loss to Chael Sonnen. Both of those fighters are world class, so he should be given some credit for going the distance with both.
Miller is next scheduled to face Michael Bisping at UFC 114. A win over the popular Bisping would be massive for Miller. Bisping has what Miller lacks: a big name.
If Miller can get Bisping to the ground, he would have a considerable advantage over the Brit. If he stays on the feet, it could be a long night for Miller.
While Rich Franklin holds a record 12-4 in his UFC career, he is also 1-2 in his last three. In 2006, Franklin was the middleweight champion, but since being stopped by Anderson Silva, he has been unable to get more than two wins in a row.
Franklin's last outing was a first-round knockout loss at the hands of Vitor Belfort at UFC 103.
His last two fights have been at a catchweight of 195 pounds, but in his next appearance, he will be taking on Chuck Liddell at 205 pounds in the main event of UFC 115.
A loss to a 40-year-old Chuck Liddell would be devastating, especially if Chuck manages to stop him within the distance.
A win for Franklin will mean a good name added to his resume, but will do little to raise his ranking in the light heavyweight division.
Franklin needs to win here if he wants to hang on to any shred of his former stature in the sport. A close decision win would likely receive some criticism compared to the stoppages Chuck has suffered as of late.
Before stopping human light-switch Jonathan Goulet in the second round at UFC 113, Marcus Davis had lost his two previous fights. One, a close decision loss to Dan Hardy, and next a brutal knockout by Ben Saunders.
The win over Goulet does little for his standing, but likely improved his mental state. Now he can take that momentum into his fight with Nate Diaz at UFC 118. Nate Diaz looked great in his welterweight debut, so Davis will have his hands full.
A loss to Diaz will certainly limit Davis to undercard fights on European events. A win would be giant, and would keep Davis on the main card of big pay-per-view shows.
Davis will be a considerable underdog.
Mirko Cro Cop
Once thought of as one of the most dangerous fighters in the world, Mirko Cro Cop's reputation has certainly suffered since winning the PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix.
Since coming to the UFC, Mirko has amassed an unimpressive 3-3 record in the octagon. Most recently, Mirko stopped late replacement Anthony Perosh after two rounds. It was an important win for Mirko's psyche, but did little to instill confidence in the spectators.
Some fans have stated they would rather have seen Cro Cop retire after that dominant win, but that was not the case.
At UFC 115, Mirko will take on heavy-handed kickboxer Pat Barry. What Barry lacks in experience, he makes up for in power. However, he should not be on the level of a great fighter like Cro Cop.
If Crop Cop can't win here, he should seriously consider retirement. Barry is 2-1 in the UFC, and if he stops Mirko, it will be clear Mirko cannot hack it any longer.
Keith Jardine is 2-5 in his last seven and has lost his last three in a row. Added to that, both of those wins came by split-decision and four of the losses have come by knockout.
Jardine does make a good gatekeeper, but likely that is not enough to keep him in the UFC.
Most recently, Jardine was knocked out by the young and undefeated Ryan Bader at UFC 110 in the third round. Before that he was knocked out in the first round by Thiago Silva at UFC 102.
Jardine's next fight will be the main event of The Ultimate Fighter finale on June 19 against Matt Hammill. If Jardine can not manage a victory here, I would be very surprised to see him grace the octagon ever again.
It is surprising they are using this match as the main event, considering how much damage both fighters have taken in their recent fights. Either way, look for Jardine to be fighting for his career.
One of the most popular fighters in the UFC, Michael Bisping is now 1-2 in his last three appearances.
Most recently, Bisping lost a close decision to Wanderlei Silva at UFC 110 after he was badly rocked in the last minute of the fight.
Two fights before that, Bisping was on the receiving end of one of the most brutal knockouts in UFC history when he took on Dan Henderson at UFC 100.
However, sandwiched between those two losses was arguably the best win of his career over Dennis Kang at UFC 105.
In Bisping's next showing, he takes on Dan Miller at UFC 114. If Bisping wants to be taken seriously, he can't lose two in a row.
Miller is a talented fighter, but to the casual fan, it would not look good for Bisping to lose to a no-name.
If Bisping can win here, he will be back on track for an elite level matchup. If not, most will see him as a gatekeeper.
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