15 MMA Fighters on the Hot Seat in the Month of May

Andrew Saunders@SaundersMMACorrespondent IIMay 1, 2013

15 MMA Fighters on the Hot Seat in the Month of May

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    Between the heavyweight title fight coming at UFC 160 as well as title eliminators in multiple weight classes, fight fans will witness some tremendously important battles inside the Octagon during the month of May.

    Some fighters compete this month in hopes of reaching the pinnacle of their career. Others are fighting to save their jobs in an unforgiving UFC landscape that hands out pink slips on a regular basis.

    Regardless of what each fighter has on the line, there are several stars who simply cannot afford to lose. Here is a look at 15 MMA fighters who are on the hot seat in the month of May.

Jussier Formiga

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    Admittedly, the flyweights get to fly under the radar a bit more than members of other divisions. That is the benefit of being part of a weight class that doesn't guarantee main-card placement for the No. 1 contender.

    However, hardcore fight fans know Jussier Formiga as one of the world's top 125-pound fighters from before the UFC added the division. In his promotional debut, Formiga (formerly known as da Silva) was knocked out by John Dodson.

    Anybody can get knocked out and fall a few pegs down the ladder. However, if Formiga comes up short in his UFC on FX 8 bout against Chris Cariaso, the Brazilian will slip into a two-fight losing streak, fall entirely out of the title picture and potentially lose his job.

Luke Rockhold

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    Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold has a tough task ahead of him. In his promotional debut, the middleweight kingpin meets Vitor Belfort in the main event of a Brazilian card: UFC on FX 8.

    Rockhold is essentially guaranteed a title shot should he be victorious against "The Phenom." It's officially time to put up or shut up.

    Will Luke follow in the footsteps of teammate Cain Velasquez and bring a championship back to Team AKA? Or will he come up short like Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck? All roads to gold lead to UFC on FX 8.

Costa Philippou

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    With a 5-0 record in the UFC middleweight division, Costa Philippou has done a great job of climbing the ranks while flying under the radar of many fans. At UFC on FX 8, Philippou gets the biggest test of his career by welcoming former Strikeforce champion Jacare Souza into the Octagon.

    Souza is a 2-to-1 favorite according to oddsmakers, and the Brazilian has home-field advantage for this matchup. Unless Philippou is ready to give up all of the momentum he has worked so hard to achieve, he is in for the fight of his life in May.

KJ Noons

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    Fate has not been kind to KJ Noons ever since the boxer earned a Strikeforce title shot back in 2010. Currently in a nasty 1-4 stretch, many were surprised that Noons was brought into the UFC after his company folded earlier this year.

    The fact that he was blatantly robbed by the judges in a January loss to Ryan Couture may have something to do with it.

    Noons is an exciting fighter to watch, so his presence inside the Octagon is a great thing. However, he is being thrown into the deep end immediately by taking on longtime lightweight standout Donald Cerrone.

    Has anyone ever had a 1-5 stretch and kept their job in the UFC? I'm sure Noons isn't looking to find out if he can be the first.

Nik Lentz

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    Nik Lentz was undefeated in his first seven fights with the UFC, and since dropping down to featherweight, the wrestler has gone 2-0.

    At UFC on FX 8, Lentz takes on Nova Uniao fighter Hacran Dias in a matchup of dark-horse contenders. Dias is a training partner of UFC champions Jose Aldo and Renan Barao, and he has a professional record of 21-1-1.

    A win over Dias would allow Lentz to establish himself as a tremendous threat at 145 pounds. A loss sends him into the middle of the heap in the fastest-growing division in the Octagon.

Mark Hunt

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    Boasting a four-fight winning streak, Mark Hunt could be a UFC title contender after UFC 160. The Super Samoan takes on Junior dos Santos in a heavily-anticipated matchup between two of the most dangerous strikers on the planet.

    In May, Hunt has a chance to make all of his dreams come true. He could also see everything go down in flames. To say that he is in the hot seat is an understatement.

Glover Teixeira

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    What happens when a tremendously hyped prospect gets put into the Octagon with a dangerous fighter who took the fight on short notice? 

    Glover Teixeira was scheduled to meet Ryan Bader at UFC 160, but "Darth" was forced from the contest and replaced by James Te Huna. Teixeira is on the hot seat in May because he is widely expected to win this fight and do so in convincing fashion.

    Anything less will further slow down the momentum of a man who suddenly finds himself waiting in a line of solid title contenders.

TJ Grant

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    After wins over Evan Dunham and Matt Wiman, UFC lightweight TJ Grant earned a major step up in competition. The Zuffa brass gave him something better than that: a title eliminator against Gray Maynard.

    Grant has been flawless since dropping down from welterweight, and his skill set improves with every performance. However, in May, Grant is a fighter with a lot to lose.

Mike Pyle

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    In 2012, Mike Pyle competed inside the Octagon for less than nine minutes, but he was able to pick up a trio of wins, all via knockout, as well as a KO of the Night bonus. In fact, "Quicksand" has six wins in a seven-fight stretch, and he has received a tough booking against Rick Story at UFC 160.

    Pyle is on the hot seat due to his surprising age of 37 years. For a man who wants a title fight before retirement, losing is no longer an option. Should Pyle not have his arm raised in May, he can kiss his title aspirations goodbye.

Gray Maynard

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    "The Bully" has been eager to fight for gold for years now, and two failed bids against Frankie Edgar certainly didn't lessen his cravings. At UFC 160, Maynard looks to shut down the momentum of TJ Grant in a title eliminator..

    Should Maynard come up short in this matchup, he will go from being an elite member of the division to just another top prospect to crumble in the face of opportunity.

Stephen Thompson

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    Stephen Thompson might be the best pure striker currently active in mixed martial arts. However, after being pounded on by tough-as-nails Matt Brown, fight fans are about to find out how "Wonderboy" rebounds from a loss.

    At UFC 160, Thompson competes on the Facebook preliminary card against Nah-Shon Burrell. If the Karate Kid can't get the job done, his UFC record will sit at 1-2, and he will officially be in pink-slip territory.

George Roop

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    There is something about George Roop that is just entertaining. With a kill-or-be-killed mentality, Roop has been on both the giving and receiving end of some of the best knockouts in the lighter weight classes.

    At UFC 160, Roop fights on the Facebook prelims against former WEC champion Brian Bowles. Bowles has incredible power and can turn off the lights at any time in this matchup.

    Roop cannot afford to come up short in May, as a loss would be his third in a four-fight stretch. This is a fighter who has already been released once by the UFC and clawed his way back. There is no way that he wants to go through that process again.

James Te Huna

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    With a UFC record of 5-1, New Zealand's own James Te Huna has done a solid job of separating himself from the pack at light heavyweight. At UFC 160, he gets a chance to step up into the big leagues when he takes on No. 4 contender Glover Teixeira.

    This fight is a major risk for Te Huna, as he enters on short notice, and Teixeira has been regarded as one of the scariest men in the UFC.

    In the month of May, Te Huna will feel the warmth of the spotlight. Let's see what he can do with it.

Junior Dos Santos

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    The last time that fight fans saw Junior dos Santos inside the Octagon, the former champion was bloodied and swollen after a vicious beating at the hands of Cain Velasquez.

    It took away the stigma that Junior is the best boxer in MMA as he was repeatedly drilled during standup exchanges between being taken down over and over again.

    At UFC 160, dos Santos meets another fighter whose striking precedes him when he takes on former K-1 champion Mark Hunt. 

    There is a solid likelihood that dos Santos will get a rubber match against Velasquez should his arm be raised in May. However, a loss gives him the first losing streak of his career and substantially drops his stock as a world-class fighter.

Cain Velasquez

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    Many of you might have expected to see Bigfoot Silva in the final slide of our countdown. After all, the behemoth is stepping into the biggest fight of his career and fighting for a world title in May.

    However, there is very little pressure on Bigfoot, and the world as a whole expects him to lose in the main event of UFC 160.

    Why, you ask? Because he and champion Cain Velasquez have already met, and it certainly wasn't pretty.

    Velasquez beat Silva from pillar to post in one of 2012's bloodiest battles. It was a one-sided beatdown that never saw Silva in the fight for even a single moment. For that reason, there are almost no expectations on him in the rematch.

    That being said, because people don't expect much from Silva, an equally dominant performance is expected out of Velasquez. Anything less will have Internet fans screaming in unison that the champ has "lost a step" before belligerently claiming that the next guy in line is primed to take his belt.

    To be the man, you've got to beat the man. And right now, Velasquez is the man holding the most coveted prize in MMA.


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