The good news is that you get exposure on free cable TV, and it's a little easier to stand out from the crowd without the pay-per-view megastars soaking up all the attention. The bad news is, if you're on one of these to begin with, chances are it's because the UFC doubts there are enough people willing to pay to see you fight.
Obviously, everyone wants to go home with a win bonus and a smile on his face on Monday morning, but some fighters need a victory worse than others on Sunday night. Let's sort through the undercard and see who they are, and what their chances look like this weekend.
Cheick Kongo (15-6-2, 8-4-1 UFC)
Who he's fighting: Pat Barry
Why he's in danger: Honestly, when I looked up Kongo's career record in the UFC I was surprised that it was -- at least on paper -- this good. Twice as many wins as losses? That's not bad. Then you look at who he's beaten (aside from that one big win over Cro Cop) and you see names likes Dan Evensen, Mostapha Al-Turk, Christian Wellisch, and Gilbert Aldana. In fact, of Kongo's eight victims, only one is still in the UFC (again, Cro Cop, and just barely). The rest of those guys are long gone, and a few have stopped fighting altogether. Suddenly that record doesn't look so impressive. Still, the UFC likes him, and it's not like he's been on a horrible losing skid, though in his last fight he fought to a mediocre draw with Travis Browne, and he was lucky to get that. The last time he looked good in a fight was against Antoni Hardonk in 2009. If he can't beat Barry, you have to wonder how long he can realistically hang around the bottom of the division before dropping out the bottom.
Odds of getting cut: 4-1. Maybe it's his impressive physique, or maybe it's just because he's avoided the dreaded three-fight losing streak. Whatever it is, the UFC seems content to keep giving him work. Unless he looks absolutely horrible against Barry, expect that trend to continue at least a little while longer.
Matt Brown (11-10, 4-4 UFC)
Who he's fighting: John Howard
Why he's in danger: Brown is currently in the throes of the aforementioned three-fight skid that usually spells doom for a UFC contract. It's a little surprising that he wasn't cut after his loss to Brian Foster in November, but hey, apparently the UFC believes in fourth chances, at least for some guys. When he broke into the big leagues Brown seemed like a hard-nosed fighter with lots of potential. A few losses here and there can be written off as a consequence of the steep learning curve, but Brown is 30 years old and has more than five years as a pro. The time to develop gradually is over. Now it's time to get busy winning some fights, or else seek your destiny elsewhere.
Odds of getting cut: even. Howard is the betting favorite, and for good reason. Brown just hasn't shown many bright spots lately, and he's had plenty of opportunities. If he loses on Sunday -- and if he's not related to someone important in the UFC front office -- he's getting cut.
John Howard (14-6, 4-2)
Who he's fighting: Matt Brown
Why he's in danger: Howard started off his UFC tenure with four straight wins, then followed it with two straight losses, which will always place you firmly on the chopping block. Let that be a lesson to the kids out there: try and sprinkle your losses in among your wins rather than clumping them all together like that. It just looks bad. 4-2 in the Octagon is actually pretty respectable, and the two losses came against Jake Ellenberger and Thiago Alves, so it's not as if he's getting beaten by chumps. Still, you can only lose so many in a row. The problem with fighting a guy like Brown, who is hovering over the unemployment abyss already, is that if you beat him, well, he was on his way out anyway. If you don't, then you might just swap spots with him. Howard has proved his toughness in two grueling battles recently. Now he needs to prove that he can still beat the guys he's supposed to.
Odds of getting cut: 5-1. Howard should win this fight, and even if he doesn't the UFC might give him one more chance just because, hey, Matt Brown got to lose three in a row. Why not Howard?
Tyson Griffin (14-5, 7-5 UFC)
Who he's fighting: Manvel Gamburyan
Why he's in danger: In the face of three consecutive defeats, Griffin has chosen the ever-popular weight class jump as a cure for what ails him. He hasn't fought at featherweight since 2005, but now that he doesn't have to take a pay cut to do it in the WEC, why not give it a shot? His current losing streak is deceptive, however, since most people agreed that he deserved to win the decision over Nik Lentz at UFC 123. The UFC couldn't exactly kick him to the curb off a questionable split decision loss like that, so of course it had to let him try to drop a few pounds and begin anew. Will it make a difference? Quite possibly. He's always been a tad undersized for a guy who relies on wrestling and top control as much as he does. Maybe this is the rare situation where a drop in weight really is the answer. Or maybe not. We'll find out soon enough.
Odds of getting cut: 3-1. I like Griffin's chances in this fight, and even if he loses he might be able to blame it on the weight cut. That excuse only works once, however.
Joe Stevenson (31-13, 8-7 UFC)
Who he's fighting: Javier Vazquez
Why he's in danger: As lovable a guy as "Daddy" is -- and he is -- his career has taken a troubling turn lately. It's not just the three straight losses. It's that a) Mac Danzig knocked him out with a punch that didn't appear to have too much behind it, and b) he followed that up by losing to former WEC also-ran Danny Castillo. It is at about this point that you start to look at the 44 fights Stevenson has packed into an 11-year career and you wonder if the wear and tear is catching up with him. He, too, is trying the old drop-to-featherweight trick. He's also fighting another relatively undistinguished WEC transfer, so he really needs to win in order to show the UFC that he's still competitive. The UFC has already demonstrated its willingness to cut past TUF winners. If Stevenson keeps dropping fights to lesser-known opponents, his number will come up next.
Odds of getting cut: 2-1. If he doesn't win, wave goodbye to Joe "Daddy." As much as we all hate to see bad things happen to good people, win percentage means more than good citizenship in the UFC. That's just the way it is.
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