It's been a hectic month for the UFC roster. After months of new fighters and nary a cut in sight, the UFC finally let the other shoe drop and started trimming the roster up a bit. Unfortunately for fighters who may have hoped to see a looser reined policy when it came to giving them a chance to win in the UFC, it appears to be back to business as usual with several fighters seeing the fall of the ax after only one or two losses. It continues to be a harsh world for fighters, even in the world's largest promotion.
Signings: Anyhow, enough with the bad news, time for the good news. This was a much slower month than previous, as the UFC has eased off on it's rapid talent acquisition policy. This is more in line with what we would have seen in years previous; a hand full of signings, a handful of cuts, minimal roster growth. One of the first signings of the month came with the TUF China Finale, when Wang Anying secured his UFC contract by besting Albert Cheng. TUF China was followed shortly by the pickup of middleweight Sean Strickland, who bested Bubba McDaniel in a short notice bout, and heavyweight Ruslan Magomedov, who is now set to face fellow newcomer Viktor Pesta in Berlin. Also in Berlin will be German newcomer Nick Hein, who gets to fight on his home turf against Drew Dober. The first half of the month was rounded out with signings of light heavyweight TUF vet Sean O'Connell (set to meet Ryan Jimmo at TUF Nations) and returning UFC vet Peter Sobotta (taking on fellow Pol Pawel Pawlak).
The latter portion of the month saw the UFC bring in another six fighters. Two came through the TUF Nations tournaments: Elias Theodorou clinched his middleweight finale birth and Chad Laprise secured his spot in the welterweight finale, where he will take on Olivier Aubin-Mercier. A last minute featherweight bout was added to UFC on Fox 11 with the signings of Mirsad Bektic and Chas Skelly. And the UFC picked up new lightweight Carlos Diego Ferreira and heavyweight MFC champion Anthony Hamilton. Ferreira is set to fight Colton Smith in San Antonio where Hamilton will also face Oleksiy Oliynyk. Finally, a new addition to the women's bantamweight division rounds out the month of March, with Alexis Dufrense initially signed to face Amanda Nunes. Reports are that Dufrense was injured shortly after signing however, and no new date has been announced.
Cuts: As I said in the header, this was a big month for fighter releases as well. Early March saw the retirement of three fighters; longtime vet Cyrille Diabate decided to make his bout against Ilir Latifi his last, and former TUF winner Mac Danzig called it quits amid the growing threat of traumatic brain injury. Steve Bosse closed the book on his MMA career without ever setting foot in the octagon. Mid-month, the scythe fell on Will Chope after past domestic violence charges were brought to light, and the UFC felt they were best positioned to make an example of the young fighter. Along with him went more seasoned Zuffa talent with Melvin Guillard, Ivan Menjivar, and Cody McKenzie all being shown the door as well.
Over the last two weeks of March, releases started to come in waves. First Mike Rio and Walt Harris were cut, then Shunichi Shimizu, Brian Houston, Junior Hernandez, and Edwin Figueroa, wrapping up with the release of Will Campuzano on March 31.
Changes: There weren't a ton of divisional shifts in the UFC over March, but as always, a few fighters took the opportunity to restart in a new division. Following a less than spectacular middleweight run, former TUF Brazil 1 finalist Daniel Sarafian has made the cut down to welterweight where he will take on Kiichi Kunimoto. Likewise Drew Dober has decided to drop down a division. After losing his welterweight debut against Sean Spencer, Dober has decided to move down to 155, where he'll meet newcomer Nick Hein.
That's everything for the month of March. April has already picked up with it's own set of UFC roster changes, so stay tuned for more news and notes.