The UFC brings it once again for their annual, New Years-ish card. At the MGM Grand this Saturday at least one UFC fighter is likely to see his time in the Octagon come to a close, while a handful of others will need commendable performances in defeat if they hope to stay around....
Likely Cut With a Loss
Evan Dunham (14-6, 7-6 UFC) - so it's come to this. The four straight victories with which Dunham kicked off his career seem like a distant memory, and the former lightweight prospect is now staring down the barrel of a fourth straight loss. He's got an entertaining style, but I don't think that'd be enough to spell him past defeat to someone as low in the pecking order as Damm. Speaking of which...
Rodrigo Damm (12-8, 3-3 UFC) - hard to believe that Damm owns a TKO over Jorge Masvidal. Unlike his opponent, Damm doesn't really have the style that would justify keeping him around past a third straight loss, and he seems to be on the decline overall.
Possibly Cut With a Loss
Alexis Dufresne (5-1, 0-1 UFC) - a loss for Dufresne would be her second to an opponent making her UFC debut, but a spirited showing on Saturday could probably keep her in the UFC's yet-thin women's bantamweight division.
Louis Gaudinot (6-3-1NC, 1-2-1NC UFC) - by the numbers Gaudinot's overall UFC record isn't great, his last win was in 2012, and his only other fight this year was turned to a no contest after a positive drug test. That's a lot working against him. On the other hand, he owns a submission win over John Lineker and flyweight needs talent at all levels.
Mats Nilsson (11-3-1, 0-1 UFC) - a two-fight skid isn't what it used to be, but a second straight finish loss to complement his TKO at the hands (and leg) of Luke Barnatt might just about do it for him.
Brad Tavares (12-3, 7-3 UFC), Nate Marquardt (33-13-2, 11-6 UFC) - he's young, fights with consistent focus, and in the context of pure sport, Tavares really shouldn't be at risk of release. That's not the world Tavares competes in, though. He's only ever finished one opponent in the Octagon (the ghost of Phil Baroni four years ago) and he's heading into this weekend with two losses hanging over his head. A third defeat, combined with his in-cage tactics, might be enough to see him out of the UFC. Opponent Marquardt returned to middleweight with a vengeance, putting an armbar to James Te Huna in the first. A loss would put him at 1-3 in his current UFC run, but given that win and his overall style, I don't think a release is all that likely.
Likely Safe Regardless of Outcome
Marion Reneau (4-1-0), Jared Cannonier (7-0-0), Cody Garbrandt (5-0-0) - lightweight Garbrandt has finished all five of his opponents by (T)KO, four of them in the first round. Cannonier and Reneau add some much-needed talent to heavyweight and women's bantamweight, respectively.
Paul Felder (9-0, 1-0 UFC), Kyoji Horiguchi (14-1, 3-0 UFC) - a lot of hopes riding on Horiguchi; the UFC needs break-out stars at flyweight as well as a foothold in the eastern markets, and Horiguchi could embody both those things.
Omari Akhmedov (13-2, 1-1 UFC), Shawn Jordan (16-6, 4-3 UFC), Marcus Brimage (7-3, 4-2 UFC), Danny Castillo (17-7, 7-4 UFC) - mixed results for all these undercard fighters, but nothing that'll keep them from grinding away for at least a bit longer.
Hector Lombard (34-4-1, 3-2 UFC), Josh Burkman (27-10, 5-5 UFC) - with two straight wins over former contenders, Lombard has retrieved some of the shine he had coming into the UFC. He's a hard out for Burkman who returns to the UFC on the strength of three upset victories in WSOF.
Donald Cerrone (25-6, 12-3 UFC), Myles Jury (15-0, 6-0 UFC), Daniel Cormier (15-0, 4-0 UFC), Jon Jones (20-1, 14-1 UFC) - Cerrone once again finds himself on a win streak punctuated by eye-popping finishes. The difference between this one and the one with which he opened up his UFC career is in the calibre of opposition. Victories over contenders Eddie Alvarez and Jim Miller prove finally that Cerrone is more than just a high-frequency action fighter.
Most High-Risk Fight: Dunham vs. Damm. They're a collective 1-5 in their last six.
Best Nickname: Donald "Surrone." Former WEC champ Jamie Varner's persistent, Italian-American-style pronunciation of Donald Cerrone's last name is great and he should've gotten a performance of the night bonus every time he insisted on saying it that way.