I sat down this morning and considered writing an obnoxious holier-than-thou editorial about how the UFC is killing the sport side of their promotion by releasing guys like Jake Shields. I hate it, just like I hated it when they cut Jon Fitch and Yushin Okami. But you know what? I realized I've become almost immune to these sorts of things by now. I can't find the fire to tear apart the promotion for these decisions any more, because they're all too commonplace nowadays.
The oversaturation of lame releases, you could say.
So instead of fighting the illogical system this time, I'm just going to use the template as a predictor. It seems pretty clear that there are a few factors that go into these sorts of releases. One is obviously money. Another is age. A third is recent performance. A fourth is a fighter's "style" - ie. are they a crowd pleaser? And a fifth (which might or might not just be a coincidence - my data pool is kind of small) is losing a UFC title shot in the past.
There is a sixth factor, but it's used as a disqualifier - loyalty. It's pretty obvious that UFC isn't about to cut anyone from TUF 1, even if they fit the mold to a tee here. So don't expect to see the likes of Josh Koscheck here.
Anyway, let's get on with this. Not every qualifier will fit with every guy, but these five meet the most criteria right now.
Nate Marquardt - He'll be 35 in twelve days. It's not really clear what he's making in terms of salary right now. He has lost three in a row, the last two by knockout. He's already been released once by the promotion, but rebounded in Strikeforce by winning their welterweight title. He's back at middleweight now against James Te Huna, but a loss likely means the door. To be honest though, he'd fit in on a regular event cut list just as easily as he would under these circumstances (as do others in this post).
Gray Maynard - He'll be 35 in a month. Right now he's in the 45k/45k salary range. He had his two title shots where he came close, but couldn't get it done and he hasn't been the same fighter since. The horrible fight with Guida was followed up by two TKO losses. He's still ranked and has only lost to top guys, but he's never been very exciting and I can easily see the UFC just giving up on him if he loses his next bout.
Clay Guida - He's 32, and makes in the range as Maynard salary-wise. He's never actually had a title shot, but lost a number one contender's bout to Ben Henderson. Once known as an exciting fighter, his style has gotten more and more cautious of late. He has lost three of four and is 1-1 at featherweight. A bad loss to Tatsuya Kawajiri this weekend might mean the end of The Carpenter in the UFC.
Scott Jorgensen - He's 31, and makes somewhere around 26k/26k a fight. He fought Dominick Cruz for the WEC/UFC 135-pound title in the last WEC bantamweight fight ever. Since his move to the UFC he's 3-5, and just 1-5 in the last six. This includes two flyweight fights. The last one was a controversial loss to be sure, but it won't be overturned. All of his losses are to top guys and he's generally a fairly exciting fighter, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if they decided to release him.
Josh Barnett - He's 36, and made 170k in his last fight, a loss to Travis Browne. Barnett was brought in to make a run at the title and that was derailed by the elbows of Hapa. The fact that he's even back in the UFC shows that he has mended fences with Dana White to a degree, but it's Dana. If Barnett gets finished in his next bout, the promotion will likely dump him. I'm sure Frank Mir and Alistair Overeem would fit in this category as well, but Barnett's the one I see as most likely to get the unceremonious boot out the door.