That mix of desperation and nationalism often makes for memorable fights, but it also means that there are a few fighters on the UFC 138 lineup who are facing must-win scenarios.
Who are they, and what are their chances of staying on the UFC's good side this Saturday night? For answers, we turn to the Cut List.
Thiago Alves (18-8, 10-5 UFC)
Who he's facing: Papy Abedi
Why he's in danger: Alves is another UFC welterweight who was on a tear until getting beat by Georges St-Pierre, after which he immediately fell on hard times. Including the loss to GSP at UFC 100, he's lost three of his last four. His only recent win came against John Howard, who's no longer with the organization. Alves seems to have finally conquered his weight issues, thanks to nutritionist Mike Dolce, but his last few performances in the cage have been fairly mediocre. Now he faces Octagon newcomer Abedi, who, while talented, seems like exactly the kind of fighter Alves should throttle. He'll stand and trade, probably won't shoot for a single takedown unless it's out of desperation, and he's relatively inexperienced, particularly at this level of MMA. So Alves should smash him, right? Probably, yeah. But if he slips up and manages to lose this fight (don't act like it can't happen), "The Pitbull" slides even further down ladder -- maybe even all the way off of it.
Chances of getting cut: Very unlikely. You know how Dana White is always saying that he likes guys who "bring it"? That's Alves. And here the UFC has found him an opponent who will stand and at least attempt to bring it right back. All Alves has to do is not screw it up.
Eddie Faaloloto (2-2, 0-1 UFC)
Who he's facing: Terry Etim
Why he's in danger: Faaloloto is winless under the Zuffa banner, having dropped back-to-back fights to Anthony Njokuani in the WEC and then Michael Johnson in the UFC. Now he has to fight in a Brit in Britain, and if he doesn't see this as a fight for his job then he hasn't been paying attention to the way the UFC does things. On paper, it seems like the plan is to give Etim a relatively easy opponent so he can impress his countrymen with a dominant win after an injury layoff. If that is indeed what happens, Faaloloto will almost certainly find himself off the roster. With as many good lightweights as there are in the UFC right now -- not to mention all the talented, experienced 155ers who are still trying to get a look -- there'd be no reason to keep a guy who's a 2-3 fighter with no wins in the Octagon.
Chances of getting cut: Very good. Etim's a heavy favorite to win the fight, and with good reason. If Faaloloto can't pull out a minor miracle, he's out of here.
Anthony Perosh (11-6, 1-3 UFC)
Who he's facing: Cyrille Diabate
Why he's in danger: Perosh can't say that the UFC didn't give him a chance. After an 0-2 bid back in 2006, the Aussie got back on the books by stepping up to fight Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic on short notice in Sydney. That didn't go well, but he rebounded with his first UFC win thanks to a submission over Tom Blackledge, and against Diabate he even gets to fight someone his own age. But then, that's kind of the problem. If Perosh can't win this one (and oddsmakers don't like his chances), what use does the UFC have for a 39-year-old light heavyweight who's 1-4 in his career inside the Octagon? Perosh is a strong grappler, but guys like that don't often fall under White's "bring it" umbrella. You know who does? Lanky kickboxers like Diabate, who will likely eat Perosh up if the fight stays standing. Perosh has value for the UFC in Australia, but he's not much of a draw elsewhere. In fact, this will only be his third pro fight away from his home country. The other two were both in Las Vegas for the UFC, and he lost them both.
Chances of getting cut: Very good. If Perosh can't get Diabate down early and submit him, he's in a lot of trouble. And sure, maybe Randy Couture could compete at the UFC level well into his 40s, but Perosh is no Couture.
Michihiro Omigawa (12-10-1, 0-4 UFC)
Who he's facing: Jason Young
Why he's in danger: Omigawa's winless streak in the Octagon is comprised of two different stints with the UFC, but the current stay isn't going much better than the previous one. The 35-year-old featherweight has dropped back-to-back decisions against Chad Mendes and Darren Elkins, though the latter seemed to be a case of judging incompetence. Still, if he can't pick up a win soon he'll start to look like yet another failed Japanese import who got to the UFC too late in his career to make an impact. He could still turn things around, of course, but it's got to start here. Oddsmakers have him as a roughly 3-1 favorite over his British opponent, who is himself on somewhat shaky ground with an 0-1 start in the UFC. If Omigawa is going to finally get a win in the UFC, he might never get a better chance than this. He might never get another chance, period, if he doesn't make the most of this opportunity. It's now or never, and this is not a good time for a Japanese fighter to try and make a living back home.
Chances of getting cut: Moderate. If he loses he's almost guaranteed to find himself out of a job, but this is a very winnable fight for Omigawa. The UFC would no doubt love to see him stick around long enough to help out with its Japanese invasion in 2012.