Opening Round: Odds Are (UFC 144 Edition)

When it comes to continued employment in the UFC there is no question winning is paramount. Zuffa structures contracts in a way allowing them to terminate a deal following any loss meaning victory is the only sure way a fighter can guarantee he still has a job the morning after having competed the previous evening.

The same set of circumstances hover over Saturday night’s UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson lineup, as they do every event, and without question more than one Mixed Martial Artist is likely making his final appearance inside the Octagon for the foreseeable future if not forever.

Below you will find every fighter scheduled to take to the cage at UFC 144 with realistic percentages relating to the chances of being released based on an in-ring stumble on Friday night (as well as a brief explanation behind the reasoning). Any fighter not listed is one that should be obviously safe so there’s no need to waste anyone’s time with analysis of why:

Tiequan Zhang (20%) – This would be higher if Zhang wasn’t the UFC’s lone Chinese fighter but he gets a little longer of a leash than a regular guy with losses in three of his last four fights
Issei Tamura (90%) – He’s got a mediocre record and is in the rare position of making his debut despite coming off a defeat
Takeya Mizugaki (10%) – Mizugaki has alternated between wins/losses since signing with WEC, going 4-4 under the Zuffa banner, but he’s generally a joy to watch compete and should get another shot based on that alone
Chris Cariaso (15%) – Cariaso hasn’t shown anything special yet, picking up his three Zuffa wins via decision, and is 30 he should be in his prime
Riki Fukuda (5%) – Fukuda is beloved in Japan and a great asset to have in terms of luring in fans from the Far East; he lost his UFC debut by decision to Nick Ring and 0-2 would certainly look bad but shouldn’t be a nail in his UFC career’s coffin
Steve Cantwell (100%) – A rare 100%, Cantwell has lost four straight entering the fight and doesn’t have the popularity or flare for the fantastic to endure another consecutive defeat
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto (70%) – This should be in the 90-100% range but Yamamoto is a legitimate star overseas and hasn’t looked terrible in his losing performances, just average, so he’ll probably get one more chance to prove he doesn’t belong
Vaughan Lee (10%) – Lee has the unenviable task of facing Yamamoto in Japan and lost in his UFC debut via Split Decision, plus he’s British so he can potentially serve as a draw in the UK, so he’ll hold on to his job after the event no matter what
Takanori Gomi (25%) – This number should also be higher based on his recent performances but Gomi is still a draw in Asia and always excites regardless of outcome
Eiji Mitsuoka (1%) – His record isn’t spectacular but he’ll be fighting in the Octagon for the first time this Saturday night and has back-to-back wins entering the bout
Tim Boetsch (1%) – Boetsch is not a star but he is a stud and, as good as he’s looked so far at 185 pounds, he’s bound to get another crack in the infamous eight-sided cage
Yoshihiro Akiyama (5%) – Again, a fighter whose latest outings don’t necessarily merit the company’s confidence, but whose style and popularity are enough to keep him around for another go in 2012
Jake Shields (1%) – Though Shields will be on a three-fight slide if he comes up short at UFC 144 he’s still one of the sport’s best welterweights and other factors should be considered such as one of the losses being to Georges St. Pierre and another to Jake Ellenberger only weeks after Shields’ father died
Mark Hunt (15%) – Even though a loss would put Hunt’s overall record at 7-8 he’s won both of his fights in the UFC and endeared himself to the brass by opting to fulfill his PRIDE contract by competing rather than have the UFC pay it off as they were willing to do

As you can tell there are quite a few guys who are in “must win” situations and a few who aren’t necessarily safe though not teetering on the bring of disaster. Regardless, it should be a fantastic show given the stakes and environment, and one of the events fans will be talking about for the rest of the year assuming all the bouts deliver as advertised.

What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!

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