UFC 166 is going down this Saturday in Houston, and we have ourselves a pretty damn good card. It's not as stacked with fighters on winning streaks as the average PPV, but the matchmaking makes the bouts a lot more important than usual. Eight of the ten main card fighters won their last bout. The prelims feature a few different things - touted prospects making their debuts, ranked fighters trying to hold onto their relevance, and highly-paid fighters trying to hold onto their jobs. But without further ado, let's get to the cut list.
Likely to be cut with a loss
George Sotiropoulos - Despite coaching TUF Smashes, George's career is headed downhill. After winning seven in a row to start his UFC career, he has now lost three in a row. He was knocked out in the last two, and looked particularly chinny against Ross Pearson. At 36 years old, he might just not be cut out for the rigors of the UFC anymore, and Noons hits just as hard as Pearson and Dos Anjos before him. My guess is that he would retire if he lost, but I'm not sure. Either way, I think his career is on the line Saturday night.
K.J. Noons - Like Sotiropoulos, he has lost three bouts in a row. He's 1-5 in his last six. He's always exciting and doesn't get finished, but he needs wins. He's also not exactly cheap for a lightweight, making in the 41k/41k range. Only one of those losses came in the UFC, but it's still vitally important that Noons wins this bout or he's probably looking for work somewhere else.
Dustin Pague - I'm not sure how he survived the last round of cuts to be honest. He has lost three in a row and is 1-4 overall in the UFC. A fourth loss in a row is almost a guaranteed dismissal.
Jeremy Larsen - He's 0-2 in the UFC and was knocked out in both of his fights. I can't see any reason why they'd keep him around if he lost a third in a row.
Possibly cut with a loss
Nate Marquardt - Nate The Great comes into this on a two-fight losing streak, the last of which saw him getting stopped in just three minutes. He makes in the neighborhood of 40k/40k, has a lot of miles on him, and was previously released from the UFC for his TRT gaffe in 2011. He's still definitely a solid fighter and they could bring him back for one more if he loses here. But there is a distinct possibility that he gets ushered out with a loss, especially if Lombard finishes him.
Hector Lombard - I don't think Dana White likes to admit failure, and cutting Lombard after four fights would probably attach the "bust" label to him. He has decided to drop to 170 and recently said the cut was pretty tough (despite already being down to 178). With such a huge salary, is he worth keeping around as an undercard fighter if he loses to Nate? I don't think so. But the UFC might feel differently.
Mike Rio - He looked good in his TUF 16 Finale fight, but got submitted by Francisco Trinaldo the next time out. Lightweight is super deep and two losses in a row, especially if he's finished again, will make him a possible target for elimination.
Likely safe regardless of the outcome
Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos - The top two heavyweights in the world aren't going anywhere, and they might even fight each other a couple more times.
Diego Sanchez and Gilbert Melendez - Sanchez needs to make weight this time or he might be facing some hear, but he's still a mainstay on the roster. And Melendez is coming off a bout where he could very well have won the lightweight title with different judges. He's not in any danger.
Gabriel Gonzaga and Shawn Jordan - This is Gonzaga's fourth bout of 2013. Not bad for a big heavyweight. He's 2-1 in those bouts and he's in the company's good books, so a loss won't really hurt him. Jordan has won two in a row and most of his fights have been exciting. He'll stay as well.
Tim Boetsch and C.B. Dollaway - Despite two losses in a row, Boetsch is still on the edge of the top ten at MW and will be given another shot if he loses. Dollaway has won two in a row and he's a late replacement here, so he's safe.
Sarah Kaufman and Jessica Eye - Both women are making their UFC debuts after successful runs elsewhere. They're both top-tier talents and one loss isn't going to threaten their job security, especially considering how thin their division still is.
T.J. Waldburger and Adlan Amagov - Whataburger picked up a sub of the night bonus last time out and he's 4-2 overall. Amagov won his welterweight debut with a solid performance and he's 12-1 in his career. They'll both get another chance if they lose.
Tony Ferguson - A former TUF winner that's been on the sidelines for a while with injuries. He broke his arm in the first round of his loss to Michael Johnson, his only UFC loss to date. A loss to Rio would hurt, but he'll still get another trip to the octagon.
Kyoji Horiguchi - A Japanese prospect and Shooto champ with good power. Based on all that, he'll get at least two tries in the UFC.
Andre Fili - Solid featherweight prospect, well-liked camp (Team Alpha Male), and he's been a finisher thus far in his career. Like Horiguchi, he'll get at least two shots.