UFC On Versus 2: The Chopping Block

Joe SchaferCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2010

Tiiimmmbbbbeeeerrrrr! When a fighter’s illustrious UFC career comes tumbling down in the middle of a forest and nobody is there to hear it, can it be taken as fact? Of course it can and it usually is. A sustainable career in the Mecca organization of the sport tends to share a common fate of the men they belong to—mortality.

In fact, they are rather rare to come by in the whole MMA spectrum, enjoyed by a select few who have struck the right balance of skill and popularity to ensure their continuation of employment under the UFC. As a fighter, having a career in the “big leagues” is the light at the end of the tunnel, the pay off for years of blood, sweat, and tears.

Many competitors spend years in the amateur circuit, sacrificing family time and futures in potentially stable careers, for a single chance to showcase their skills in the famed octagon—to hear their names announced by Bruce Buffer in an arena packed with screaming fans.

Some make it and some don’t. It’s a cruel reality for the fighters who never see that big pay off, to taste the fruits of their labor. There are simply not enough slots of opportunity for everybody. But the crueler reality is that of the fighter who has lived the dream in the UFC, has seen the fame and the glory, only to hit a snag in their career that causes them to received their infamous “walking papers.”

This fate tends to surface after accumulating decisive losses and falling from the graces of competition. MMA fans are a demanding bunch, not afraid to withdraw their approval if matchmaker Joe Silva continues to employ fighters who haven’t held their own.

For every one guy looking to run with his short UFC stint, there are 10 others waiting to prove that they deserve a chance at a lasting career under the Zuffa banner. Even the most devout Keith Jardine fan understands that the UFC isn’t a charity, that they couldn’t give another fight to the “Dean of Mean” after he lost four in a row and preserve their legitimacy at the same time.

The pressure of seeing your hard-earned dream constantly under the microscope can either motivate a fighter to perform to his fullest or corrupt his mental toughness to the point of termination.

It is the way of the MMA world.

Which leaves me the opportunity to officially introduce this debuting series—The Chopping Block. Before every major event, I will pick fighters who are endangered of getting their walking papers if they in fact lose their next bout.

Let’s start with UFC on Versus 2: Jones vs. Matyushenko and see who will be thrown on the chopping block.

James “The Sandman” Irvin, 31, (14-6)—two fight losing streak

If Irvin wasn’t worried about getting cut after his debut at 185 lbs against Alessio Sakara, he will be after a loss against Igor Pokrajac this Sunday. Originally a heavyweight who later made a name for himself as a knockout artist at 205 lbs, Irvin had a disastrous time cutting to 185 lbs, looking sickly at the actual weigh-ins and in the octagon.

His performance against Sakara wasn’t much better. As it stands, Irvin is in Dana White’s good graces and finds himself a lifeline in hopes of turning his career around now that he’s back at 205 lbs.

Igor Pokrajac, 31, (21-7)—two fight losing streak

Needless to say, there’s a lot at stake for both Irvin and Pokrajac, the loser having to find a new fight home. The upside to this bout will be the fact that fans will get to see two guys battle for their respective UFC careers, which should produce some fireworks.

Neither one of these guys wants it to go to decision.

Like Irvin, the 31 year-old Pokraja, a long time training partner of fellow Croatian Mirko Cro-Cop, has dropped his last two fights in the octagon and is looking to bounce back into the winning column.

Steven Steinbeiss, 29, (4-3)—two fight losing streak

Steinbeiss had a rough octagon debut against Ryan Jensen last year, after coming over to the UFC once the WEC shut its doors on the heavier divisions. Before transferring to the UFC’s middleweight division, Steinbeiss suffered a split decision loss to Carmelo Marrero at WEC 36 in 2008.

With two straight losses and now fighting on the under-undercard, Steinbeiss is in a must win situation if he wants a chance to grow into a budding UFC contender.

Some events will have more chopping block candidates than others—in this case there were only three that really stuck out.

All of the main card participants are in no danger of losing their jobs, with the possible exception of Takanori Gomi. Even with a loss against Tyson Griffin, the Japanese Fireball Kid will more than likely get one last chance to prove his relevancy. Even if its on a future preliminary card, it is saving him from this edition’s chopping block of doom!