The latest Fight Night offers up an event with fireworks at the top as well as some mid-card esoteric appeal, with six of the evening's two dozen competitors walking into the arena Sunday with flawless, fledgling UFC careers (two of whom will be matched against each other). However, significant losing streaks also abound, and more than a few could be fighting to hold on to their UFC contracts...
Likely Cut With a Loss
Sean O'Connell (15-6, 0-2 UFC), Sean Soriano (8-2, 0-2 UFC) - hardcore fans have been waiting for Soriano to deliver on his appreciable potential, some of which we glimpsed in his ultimately losing performances against Tatsuya Kawajiri and Chas Skelly. Looking good in defeat can only buy you so much time, though.
Matt Van Buren (6-3, 0-1 UFC) - TUF runners-up have been cut after starting 0-2 before, and Van Buren, who accrued very little in the way of a Q-rating during his time on the overall weak TUF 19, seems like another likely candidate.
Lorenz Larkin (14-4-1NC, 1-4 UFC) - just how many stifling defeats is one willing to sit through, hoping that Larkin will land nail some fabulous knockout blow, before giving up? Four in a row, is my guess.
Possibly Cut With a Loss
Shane Howell (13-8, 0-1 UFC), Joby Sanchez (6-1, 0-1 UFC), Tateki Matsuda (10-6, 0-1 UFC) - that Sanchez is a young finisher who stepped up on short notice to fight the vastly more experienced Wilson Reis would normally warrant even a third shot at UFC victory. However, if he can't even get past Matsuda, who doesn't appear right now to be a very strong competitor, and who doesn't have a particularly strong record even outside the UFC, I think he might, despite his apparent guts, be put back on the regional circuit for more seasoning. Matsuda also stepped in on short notice for his UFC debut but, for the aforementioned reasons, doesn't really feel like a guaranteed keeper.
Likely Safe Regardless of Outcome
Frankie Perez (9-1-0), Ron Stallings (12-6-0, 1NC) - a KO of UFC alum Mike Massenzio, by way of knee to the body, as well as a unanimous decision loss to two-time TUF vet Tim Williams highlight Stallings's record. Perez conducted his career in the East Coast MMA fixture Ring of Combat before making a successful turn in WSOF.
Charles Rosa (9-1, 0-1 UFC) - having stepped in on short notice for a fight with Siver in his UFC debut probably grants Rosa some extra slack.
Patrick Holohan (10-1-1, 1-1 UFC), Sean Spencer (12-3, 3-2 UFC), John Howard (22-10, 6-5 UFC), Uriah Hall (9-4, 2-2 UFC), Gleison Tibau (32-10, 15-8 UFC) - three straight losses is tough to work past, and he's been cut for just such a losing streak before, but the climate has changed a bit since John Howard's first UFC release. Perhaps more importantly, he performs very dependably as a strong mid-level gatekeeper, an important role in the active and tumultuous welterweight division.
Johnny Case (19-4, 1-0 UFC), Chris Wade (8-1, 1-0 UFC), Zhang Lipeng (9-7-1, 2-0 UFC), Cathal Pendred (15-2-1, 2-0 UFC), Norman Parke (20-2-1, 4-0-1 UFC) - I'm always a little surprised at how extensive Parke's record is, by his steadiness as a competitor, and that he's undefeated in the UFC. Maybe it's his being a product of the reputedly flat TUF: Smashes.
Donald Cerrone (25-6-1NC, 13-3 UFC), Benson Henderson (21-4, 9-2 UFC), Dennis Siver (22-9-1NC, 11-6-1NC UFC), Conor McGregor (16-2, 4-0 UFC) - Cerrone takes perhaps the riskiest fight of a UFC career that has been overall handled in a wonderfully risky way. He's composed another win streak, this time one worthy of a title challenger, and he's putting possible contendership on the line, on very short notice, against a former champion who's already beat him twice. It's taken me about six years, but I think I've become a Donald Cerrone fan.
As for the main event, the UFC's plans are constantly being derailed, and they've really put all their eggs in one basket when it comes to McGregor, so karmically, Siver is a lock on Sunday.
Most High-Risk Fight: Lorenz Larkin vs. John Howard. I think that Howard definitely should be kept around, but a third-straight loss combined with his occasionally tedious performances might make render all those reasons moot.
Best Nickname: lots of good stuff coming out of Sunday. Sean "The Real OC" O'Connell for the near-inexplicability of it all; "Gutter" Van Buren, for its spirit of reappropriation; "Frank" Trevino, for using a regular name for a nickname ("Hi, I'm Christopher, but people around here call me 'Chris!' You'll know why soon enough...).
Ultimately, though, the win has to go to Benson "Smooth" Henderson, because it makes him sound cool, and because when you see his frequently-visible upper ass, it turns out that, in fact, it does appear very smooth, and you find yourself thinking "Benson Henderson's butt skin sure does look smooth, someone should give him a nickname based on this terrific observation." And it's for this reason that Benson "Butt Skin" Henderson wins the award for best nickname.
UPDATE: due to injury, Francisco "Frank" Trevino can no longer be considered for Best Nickname. Sincerest apologies.