Quinton "Rampage" Jackson says that he is confident, not cocky. Jon Jones on the other hand is as cocky as they come, and according to Rampage, Jones hasn't done enough in the sport to warrant such cockiness.
As with any Jackson fight, there is no shortage of trash-talking. All of the back-and-forth banter will culminate this Saturday as the UFC returns to pay-per-view in Denver, Colorado for the first time since UFC 1, which was held almost 18 years ago on November 12, 1993. The organization did return to the Mile High City in 1995 for The Ultimate Ultimate.
A lot has happened since that night. There has been changes in the rules and regulations, weight classes have been implemented and on the actual 18th anniversary of UFC 1, fans will be able to see a battle for the UFC Heavyweight Championship on network television in primetime, when Cain Velasquez defends his title against Junior Dos Santos.
The biggest change has been the way today's mixed martial artists train. Back in 1993, there was no such thing as a camp that taught all aspects of the sport. The fighters of yesteryear were disciplined in one area and that was it. Today, we are treated to the new evolution of mixed martial arts each and every time Jones steps into the ring.
With the good always comes the bad and that's what I am here to discuss today. Let's take a look at the fighters on this card who may be in danger of losing their job should they lose on Saturday night.
So sit back and enjoy the pay-per-view Saturday night. Watch as Jones attempts to defend his title for the first time with an arsenal that is athletic, intelligent and devastating. For one minute, if you will, think back to the sacrifices the fighters have made and all of the hard work Dana White and company has put into bringing us the absolute most entertaining show in the world.
Nate Diaz makes his return to the lightweight division against former Pride Lightweight Champion Takanori Gomi. The same Takanori Gomi who his brother Nick defeated via Gogoplata back in February of 2007. The result was of course overturned because Nick tested positive for marijuana.
It's highly unlikely we will get to see the same type of performance from Nate that Nick treated us to that night in Las Vegas, but this should still be an exciting bout none the less. Nate has lost his last two bouts, and we all know that losing a third bout could lead to his departure.
To be fair, Diaz lost to Rory MacDonald at UFC 129 and to a much bigger Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 125. Before that, Diaz had won his first two fights as a welterweight in very impressive fashion. He knocked out Rory Markham at UFC 111 and choked out Marcus Davis at UFC 118.
While Diaz could be in trouble with a third straight loss, it would have to take a lot for Diaz to lose his job. But as we have seen in the past, anything can, and probably will, happen.
Most fans and pundits knew that when Gomi arrived in the UFC, he was a little more than a shell of the fighter who dominated the Japan mixed martial arts scene for the better part of a decade. He had begun to show the fear that he had put in the minds of the Japanese fighters was no longer there in losses to Sergey Golyaev and Satoru Kitaoko while fighting for Sengoku.
He drew a tough first test in perennial contender Kenny Florian in his UFC debut. Florian was quicker to the punch and showed Gomi that the UFC lightweights weren't going to lay down and die. After being jabbed to death and hit with numerous body shots, Florian finally locked on a rear naked choke in the third round to seal a dominant victory.
Up next was the always tough Xtreme Couture product, Tyson Griffin. It took all of 1:04 for Gomi to dispatch Griffin via knockout. But now that we look back, it doesn't seem that it was evidence of a return to form for Gomi rather than just catching Griffin with a good shot and possibly fulling himself and the UFC.
Clay Guida at UFC 125 was handled pretty easily in the first round before Guida locked in a tight guillotine choke in the second round for the win. At 1-2 in the UFC, and now facing back-to-back losses, Gomi needs to defeat Diaz if he expects to get another fight inside the Octagon.
The only saving grace here may be the UFC's desire to hold onto him for their return to Japan early next year. A proud and popular Japanese fighter would certainly add to the interest and help the UFC draw a good crowd. At 32-years-old, and with his best years behind him, the UFC's lightweight division may just be too much for "The Fireball Kid" to handle.
Anytime you hold a sub .500 record in the UFC you have to realize that the clock is always ticking and your days in the organization are numbered. Hunt is coming off his first win in almost five years. His knockout of Chris Tuchscherer at UFC 127 not only earned him the win, but the Knockout of the Night bonus as well.
Now he will face Ben Rothwell who has been out of action since June of last year after suffering a torn ACL in a win over Gilbert Yvel at UFC 115. Even though Rothwell is a tough draw, if Hunt loses here it should be the end of the road for the popular K-1 kickboxer from New Zealand. He had a lot of success in K-1 and even won the 2001 World Grand Prix Championship.
His career as a mixed martial artist, however, hasn't been as bright. He currently holds a record of 6-7 and could well be on his way to his eighth career loss, and seventh out of his last eight fights.
Since signing with the WEC back in April of 2009, Mizugaki has certainly had a rough road. He has faced a who's who of the top lighter weight fighters that Zuffa has to offer. The only problem is that every time he has fought the elite fighters, he has come up short each and every time.
He has yet to string together consecutive wins or losses for that matter. In seven career bouts he is 3-4 with losses to Miguel Torres. To be fair Mizugaki did give Torres everything he could handle and was rewarded a Fight of the Night bonus. After that he defeated Jeff Curran via split decision at WEC 42.
He lost to Scott Jorgensen in another Fight of the Night performance at WEC 45, but bounced back with a win over Rani Yaha at WEC 48. He was unfortunate enough to go up against Faber in his bantamweight debut at WEC 52. He was actually put to sleep due to a rear naked choke and the fact that the ref's view was blocked. It was a scary moment indeed, as Mizugaki lay motionless for a few minutes after the end of the fight.
In his UFC debut he won a split decision against Reuben Duran at UFC Live: Sanchez vs. Kampmann. Last but not least, he lost to former WEC Bantamweight Champion at UFC 132. Now he faces Cole Escovedo and another loss will bring his record to 3-5, which could signal the end of his career with Zuffa.
This former WEC Featherweight Champion made his way back to Zuffa back in May of 2011. Escovedo originally won the title back in October of 2002 and defended it once before losing it to Urijah Faber at WEC 19 back in March of 2006.
He would have one more fight in the WEC before suffering a a serious staph infection in 2007. It would be almost three years before he made his return to action. After beginning his comeback with five straight victories, Escovedo has fallen on hard times and is just 1-3 in his four bouts since. He lost his UFC debut at UFC 130 in a bantamweight bout to Renan Barao via unanimous decision.
If you add his record over the course of his last few fights with the fact that another loss would be his second straight, it's not hard to see that Escovedo may find himself fighting for the smaller organizations that he had fought in before. With Escovedo and Mizugaki both possibly fighting for their jobs, we could be in for a fight full of fireworks.
Te Huna was signed by the UFC so they would have some local talent when they made their initial trip to Australia in February of 2010. There he defeated Igor Pokrajac by third round TKO and earned another fight. When the UFC made their way back to Australia this past February, he was matched up against one of the UFC's top up-and-coming prospects in Alexander Gustafsson. Te Huna lost via first round rear naked choke, running his UFC record to 1-1.
Now he will fight for the first time in the United States as he faces Ricardo Romero. A loss here and it's highly unlikely the UFC will bring him back for another fight. Maybe they will call upon him again when they hold their next card in Australia, and maybe they won't. But if he wants a UFC career full-time, he will need to defeat Romero.
Another fighter with a 1-1 record who is on the fringe. After defeating Seth Petruzelli in his UFC debut at UFC 116, Romero was then matched up against Kyle Kingsbury at UFC 126. It took just 21 seconds for Kingsbury to earn a TKO victory over Romero.
Now he faces Te Huna in what should amount to a loser goes home bout. The facts remain that losing two fights in a row in the stacked UFC Light Heavyweight Division won't get you very far. What makes matters worse is losing to a fighter who is in the same boat that you are.
It wouldn't take much for the UFC to find someone to take Romero's place, so if he wants to keep his spot, he has little choice but win on Saturday night.