Not surprisingly, the UFC's latest appearance on network television occasions some big-time heavyweight action. Indeed, the entire top half of the card is staffed with action fighters of all stripes, with noted finishers Nate Diaz, Ben Saunders, and Jamie Varner, plus a newly lethal Rafael Dos Anjos all on the card, as well. Exciting or not, though, some of the UFC on Fox 13 crew find themselves with tenuous holds on their UFC careers...
Likely Cut with a Loss
Garret Whiteley (7-2, 0-2 UFC) - going winless in three low-profile fights seems to pretty clearly add up to a UFC release.
Drew Dober (14-6, 0-2 UFC), Jamie Varner (21-10-1-2NC, 3-5 UFC) - the TKO of Edson Barboza that marked Varner's surprising, thunderous return to the UFC has since given way to an 0-3 slump and landed him in a loser-leaves-town match with Dober. Each of those losses have mitigating factors, (the split-decision loss to Tibau was by all accounts questionable, the KO to Trujillo came at the end of an award-winning fight, and the TKO loss to Krause came as the result of an ankle injury) but a fourth straight loss, especially to someone as low in the rankings as Dober, will probably see Varner cut regardless.
Possibly Cut with a Loss
Ian Entwistle (8-2, 0-1 UFC), David Michaud (9-1, 0-1 UFC) - these days, a third shot following an 0-2 start isn't unheard of, but Entwistle has been matched against a debuting fighter at the bottom of the card, which may signal that a second loss will see him slip out of the UFC entirely. The same could be said for Michaud; if he can't beat the aforementioned Whitely, it's hard to imagine what place he has in the UFC.
Gabriel Gonzaga (16-8, 11-7 UFC), Stefan Struve (25-6, 9-4 UFC) - their place on this list has more to do with health issues and potential retirement than anything else. Gonzaga contemplated a departure from MMA five years ago, and a seventh career knockout loss might push the 35-year-old to revisit the idea. Meanwhile, health issues surrounding the knockout-prone Struve have been the object of some discussion, and depending on how he looks this weekend, those discussions, and the attendant possibility of early retirement, might resurface.
Alistair Overeem (37-14-1NC, 2-3 UFC) - Overeem's UFC career has been disappointing to say the least, and embarrassing if you feel like saying a bit more. Would the UFC keep him around despite going 1-4 in two years? In a sane world, no. However, just last week I had to explain to a friend why CM Punk is getting top billing, so who knows. For the sheer spectacle he represents, and especially if a Lesnar return is really possible, maybe Overeem sticks around.
Likely Safe Regardless of Outcome
Anthony Birchak (11-1-0), Henry Cejudo (6-0-0), Bryan Barberena (9-2-0), Willie Gates (11-4-0) - the night's debuting fighters.
Joe Ellenberger (15-1, 1-0 FC), Joanna Jedrzejczyk (7-0, 1-0), Claudia Gadelha (12-0, 1-0 UFC) - You gotta figure Mike Goldberg is having night-terrors over the prospect of calling Gadelha vs. Jedrzejczyk.
Joe Riggs (40-14-1NC, 4-4 UFC) - people give Riggs (and the decision to bring him back to the UFC) a lot of guff, but the fact is that, for better or worse, Riggs has made the choice to continue fighting, and he's won six bouts in a row. With that in mind, I can only be happy for him that the UFC decided to give Riggs the opportunity to compete in the UFC again before his career really does wind down for good.
Dustin Kimura (11-2, 2-2 UFC), Derek Brunson (12-3, 3-1 UFC), Ed Herman (22-10-NC, 9-6-1NC UFC), Ben Saunders (17-6-2, 5-3 UFC), John Moraga (15-3, 4-2 UFC), Matt Mitrione (8-3, 8-3 UFC) - all of these UFC vets are coming off wins. Ed Herman has the longest continual UFC career of anyone on the card, while Saunders is coming in fresh off scoring the first-ever omoplata in the UFC.
Rafael dos Anjos (11-5 UFC), Nate Diaz (17-9, 12-7 UFC), Stipe Miocic (12-1, 6-1 UFC), Junior dos Santos (16-3, 10-2 UFC) - with his initial, unlikely five-fight run to title contention cut off by Khabib Nurmagomedov, dos Anjos up and decided to fast-track himself this time around by knocking out former champ Benson Henderson. A win, especially via sub or KO, over the rarely finished, hot-and-cold Nate Diaz would further solidify his contender status. Heavyweight, meanwhile, is in dire need of title challengers, and an upset victory from Miocic would likely put him in an opportune position.
Most High-Risk Fight: Varner vs. Dober. Their collective UFC record since 2013 is 0-5. Yikes.
Best Nickname: In how simple and characteristic they are, Joe "Diesel" Riggs and Alistair "The Demolition Man" Overeem are both great, but only "Diesel" has come to life in the form of beautiful turquoise letters.