We all know that professional pugilism isn't the line of work you go into if you really crave job security, but some of this weekend's competitors are on much shakier ground than others, and it might take only one more loss to send them plummeting into the void of unemployment.
Who are they, and what are their chances to revive their careers with a win at UFC 136? For answers, we turn to The Cut List.
Leonard Garcia (15-7-1, 2-3 UFC)
Who he's facing: Nam Phan
Why he's in danger: Garcia's 2-3 record in the Octagon is a little misleading for a couple of reasons. He went 1-2 in his first UFC run, which precipitated a drop to featherweight and a full-time move to the WEC. He came back after the merger and won a highly suspect decision over Nam Phan last December, then got twister'd by Chan Sung Jung in March. In a more just world, Garcia would be 0-2 in his latest stay with the UFC, and there's a good chance that this is how he's viewed by the people who matter. The good news is, Garcia is unquestionably one of those fighters who, in Dana White's words, brings it. And boy does he bring it. No defense. No fancy technical stuff. Just straight-up bringing it. As a matter of fact, so much space in his brain is devoted to bringing it that there simply isn't any space for thoughts of self-preservation. That makes Garcia the exact kind of fighter who can keep his job with a losing record in the UFC, but it also makes him predictable. Opponents who can keep their wits about them and resist the urge to brawl with him should be able to take great advantage of his incessant need to bring it, which might result in Garcia bringing it right on out of the UFC if he's not careful.
Chances of getting cut: Decent. Phan should win this, but Garcia could still get another shot afterward with the right kind of showing. His brawlability quotient is simply too high, and the UFC has too few name brand featherweights to go and get rid of one people know and like.
Nam Phan (16-9, 0-2 UFC)
Who he's facing: Leonard Garcia
Why he's in danger: Just like Garcia, Phan's record is also skewed by some questionable judging. If he'd have gotten that decision in his UFC debut, he'd be sitting at 1-1 after his not-at-all questionable decision loss to Mike Brown in August. But as it is, he's winless in the UFC, at least on paper, and you know what typically happens after you lose three in a row. Again, the edge in this fight likely goes to Phan, but in a way it might be more interesting to see what would happen if he were to lose. Would the UFC give him a mulligan on that first loss to Garcia, with the understanding that it was complete nonsense from the judges? Or would a second, more legitimate loss to Garcia make all that irrelevant anyway? Hard to say, but I'm sure he'd rather not find out.
Chances of getting cut: Unlikely. I think he beats Garcia more clearly and obviously the second time around, thus securing his status for at least a few more months. That is, if he can resist the siren's song of a bonus-worthy street fight. We know Garcia's game.
Eric Schafer (12-5-2, 3-4 UFC)
Who he's facing: Aaron Simpson
Why he's in danger: If Schafer's name sounds familiar, that's because he's been around -- in a manner of speaking -- for a good little while. This will be his third stint with the UFC in five years, and let's just say that the UFC isn't known for handing out fourth chances, so he'd better make this one count. Schafer went 1-2 in his first Octagon installment and 2-2 in the second, but all his losses came against tough opponents like Michael Bisping, Stephan Bonnar, Ryan Bader, and Jason Brilz. If you're going to get beat, those aren't bad guys to get beat by, but then you turn around and look at his three UFC wins. Rob MacDonald, Houston Alexander, Antonio Mendes -- none of them remained in the UFC for long after losing to Schafer, and that's not a good sign. Now Schafer has dropped to middleweight and, like virtually every fighter who moves weight classes, seems convinced that it has changed everything for him. We'll see if he's right, but I wouldn't get my hopes up.
Chances of getting cut: Very good. I sure wouldn't want to fight a grinder like Simpson if my career was on the line. Schafer lacks the wrestling prowess of a Mark Munoz and the punching power of a Chris Leben, so I don't see how he stops the "A-Train" here. I think he gets outwrestled and roughed up, and then I think the UFC gives him his participant ribbon and sends him home.
Steve Cantwell (7-4, 1-3 UFC)
Who he's facing: Mike Massenzio
Why he's in danger: Honestly, I'm a little surprised he hasn't already been cut. He entered the UFC with a full head of steam as WEC light heavyweight champ, and then he enthusiastically bent Razak Al-Hassan's arm out of shape in his Octagon debut. After that, however, he lost three in a row. Now he's dropping to middleweight, which he should have done a long time ago, but it's mildly amazing that the UFC let him hit a three-fight losing streak before either suggesting that he drop down or go win a few in the minors. As it stands, Cantwell's claim to fame is that he won one of three fights against Brian Stann (and, sure, also the Al-Hassan arm snap thing), so if he wants to stick around at all after Saturday, he absolutely, positively needs to win.
Chances of getting cut: Good. Massenzio is a beatable opponent for Cantwell, but by no means an easy one. If he wins, he stays. If he loses, he's gone for sure. Dan Hardy might get to lose four straight, but Cantwell is no Dan Hardy.
Mike Massenzio (12-5, 1-3 UFC)
Who he's facing: Steve Cantwell
Why he's in danger: Massenzio got cut after going 1-2 his first time around, but earned himself some points with the UFC when he took a fight out of his weight class on extremely short notice at UFC 131. Even though that resulted in an ugly decision loss to Krzysztof Soszynski, it represented him stepping up and doing the UFC a solid just to get back in there. Now, as is customary, he gets a fight back in his own weight class and with adequate time to prepare. That's the UFC's version of repaying a favor, and if Massenzio can't capitalize on it he'll find himself all out of brownie points.
Chances of getting cut: Good/Very good. I give Cantwell the slight edge, but it's very slight. Whoever loses this one is probably also going to lose his job, and let's just say Massenzio is not the favorite.