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 this weekend’s UFC 141 lineup as they do every event with more than one Mixed Martial Artist likely making a final appearance inside the Octagon at the show for the foreseeable future if not forever.
Below you will find almost every fighter scheduled to take to the cage at UFC 141 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). Clearly stars like Brock Lesnar, Alistair Overeem, Donald Cerrone, and Nate Diaz are safe from the chopping block so there’s no need to waste anyone’s time with analysis of why:
Manny Gamburyan (70%) – If Gamburyan loses it will be his third straight defeat and that generally equates to the kiss of death where UFC employment is concerned. However, Gamburyan has a fan-friendly style and hasn’t exactly lost in one-sided fashion other than to Jose Aldo so he could easily hold on to his job with a solid showing on Friday night.
Diego Nunes (5%) – Nunes is one of the featherweight division’s top prospects with a 16-2 record and both losses involving a decision so it would be shocking to see him set free based on a stumble against Gamburyan.
Matt Riddle (90%) – Riddle is fun to watch but the reality is he’d be 5-4 with a defeat including three in a row and the UFC needs to maintain a certain standard of talent, especially in a division as stacked as welterweight.
Luis Ramos (50%) – Coming up short would mark back-to-back losses for the relatively unknown Brazilian though I could see the UFC giving him one more shot at a South American show in 2012.
Jacob Volkmann (1%) – Volkmann is entering UFC 141 on a four-fight winning streak and though none of the performances were particularly memorable it should still be enough to guarantee him a return to the Octagon barring some sort of freak occurrence.
Efrain Escudero (5%) – Escudero was cut the first time based on his attitude/approach more than how he fared inside the ring so as long as he makes weight he should be fine.
Dong Hyun Kim (1%) – Kim’s only loss is to Carlos Condit and he’s a huge star in Asia, a market the UFC definitely wants to tap.
Sean Pierson (10%) – A defeat would drop him to 0-2 in 2011 but he’s had some decent success so I can see him sticking around for one more fight
Anthony Njokuani (45%) – Njokuani is always entertaining but has struggled to find consistency in the cage. A win would only put him at 3-3 in his last six while a loss…well, you can do the math.
Danny Castillo (1%) – Castillo isn’t elite but he’s beaten some tough draws in the last eighteen months including Joe Stevenson, Dustin Poirier, and Shamar Bailey, plus he brings it every single time he sets foot in the ring which is right up the UFC’s ally.
Ross Pearson (1%) – Pearson is making his featherweight debut and could easily be a on two-fight winning streak had the judges scored things more appropriately at UFC 134, plus he’s a TUF winner so that alone should guarantee he has to either turn into a boring fighter or lose a ton before getting cut.
Junior Assuncao (1%) – Winner of his last seven, Assuncao is a game competitor in every outing and is essentially a lock to return no matter what happens this weekend.
Nam Phan (10%) – If Phan was almost anyone else I’d probably add another zero on to his percentage but, despite losing as much as he does, Phan has stepped up on short notice multiple times before and has one of those balls-to-the-wall styles that people like seeing.
Jim Hettes (1%) – He’s currently 9-0 so a loss to Phan won’t hurt him.
Vladimir Matyushenko (35%) – “The Janitor” probably deserves a lower number based on what he’s done over the past few years but being 40 years old makes his leash shorter than most men in his position.
Alexander Gustafsson (1%) – The young Swede is Jon Jones circa 2010 right now and should have no worries where walking papers are concerned.
Jon Fitch (15%) – Would Fitch’s release be shocking? Absolutely. However, bear in mind he’s 33 years old, would be 0-1-1 in his last two fights, has one of the most despised styles in the UFC, and is also the kind of guy who isn’t afraid to speak his mind even if it means calling out his bosses. I also think Zuffa needs to address the welterweight situation in Strikeforce and could be tempted to try and bring Fitch over.
Johny Hendricks (1%) – Hendricks on the cusp of entering his prime and has looked sharp in all of his fights. He may be a wrestler at heart, like Fitch, but he also has knockout power and a willingness to engage.
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