The UFC is still in the business of rewarding winners and jettisoning losers. As we've seen lately, there is a place for guys who put on a good show even in defeat. It's just still unclear what that place is. The UFC might need guys to fill out these FX and FUEL TV fight cards, but it's not as if there's a shortage of MMA fighters who want a shot in the big leagues. When in doubt, it's best to win and keep your neck off the chopping block.
So who needs a victory in a bad, bad way on Friday night's UFC on FX card, and what are their chances of getting it? For answers, we turn to the Cut List.
Pat Barry (6-4, 3-4 UFC)
Who he's facing: Christian Morecraft
Why he's in danger: First off, let me say that I like Barry. I like him as a person, and I enjoy watching him fight. This is his eighth fight in the UFC, and he's yet to have a boring or even mediocre one. That said, Pat Barry needs to win. He's lost two straight, and three of his last four. This trend simply cannot continue much longer. The tough part is, it's not like he's getting outclassed. He had Cheick Kongo all but knocked out before that one slipped away, and he seemed to be well on his way to beating Cro Cop before he broke almost every bone that he needed for that fight. I know every fighter has to deal with his share of bad luck now and then, but the way Barry's career has been going I'm started to suspect he hit a gypsy with his car or built his gym on top of an Indian burial ground. The good news is, he's well liked by fans and has the guns-a-blazing style that the UFC loves. It seems like just about everybody wants him to be successful, and how could you not? Just read this, this, and this, and then try and tell me he's not the most down-to-earth, self-aware fighter in the UFC. But if you're going to stay in the UFC, you have to win some fights. Eventually even the nice guys run out of second chances.
Outlook: Cautiously optimistic. He should beat Morecraft, who has a size but not a skill advantage over him. Even if he doesn't, I predict at least one more go-round for Barry. He's too much fun to have around for the UFC to cast him out before it absolutely has to.
Jorge Rivera (18-9, 7-7 UFC)
Who he's facing: Eric Schafer
Why he's in danger: Rivera had the best run of his UFC career in 2009/10, beating a trio of guys who have since left the organization to seek their fortunes elsewhere. His current two-fight skid began with the TKO loss to Michael Bisping, which you could argue was a very raw deal in many respects, then continued with a split decision loss to Constantinos Philippou. That rough stretch has dropped him from co-main event territory to the prelim portion of a Friday night fight card. Where's the next stop if he can't halt his fall there? The 39-year-old Rivera would probably rather not find out.
Outlook: Hopeful, but fading fast. It's Rivera's age more than his record that gives one pause. He'll be 40 next month, and his is not a fighting style that tends to age well. Maybe he can beat Schafer, but even then, how much time is left on the clock? Rivera's a good dude and a tough fighter, but no one gets to do this forever.
Eric Schafer (12-6-2, 3-5 UFC)
Who he's facing: Jorge Rivera
Why he's in danger: If you're like me, you reacted to the news of this pairing by shouting out loud, 'Hold up, Eric Schafer's still in the UFC?!' Then, when the grouchy librarian came over to tell you that you had to either be quiet or leave, you used your remaining seven minutes of internet time to research Schafer's recent career stats in search of an answer. Turns out he's been victorious just three times in his eight trips inside the Octagon, and all three of those opponents were booted from the UFC immediately after losing to him. Granted, Houston Alexander was later brought back for a fight with Kimbo Slice, but that doesn't change the fact that, thus far in his MMA career, Schafer has been the guy who helps the UFC decide if you should be fired or not. Don't get me wrong, there's a place for that. But what happens when that guy loses? Better yet, what happens when that guy hasn't won a fight in the UFC in three years, and the last person he beat in the Octagon then went on to lose five of his next seven in the smaller shows? The last time Schafer lost two in a row, he got cut. Then he won one fight outside the UFC before coming back to lose to Aaron Simpson at the start of his current stay. If he can't beat Rivera, that's another two-fight skid for Schafer. He's been around this sport long enough to know what that would mean for his career.
Outlook: Grim. Look, this is a winnable, though by no means easy fight for him. What it definitely isn't is a losable fight. Not if he wants to stick around.
Daniel Roberts (12-3, 3-3 UFC)
Who he's facing: Charlie Brenneman
Why he's in danger: Roberts got off to a rough start in the UFC with a brutal KO loss to John Howard, but then he rebounded with three straight victories -- two by submission. That led to a step up in competition, which in turn led to some hard times for Mr. Roberts. After losing back-to-back decisions to Claude Patrick and Rich Attonito, he now finds himself just one loss away from the dreaded three-fight skid. The worst part is, not many people expect him to win this one. Brenneman is a 3-1 favorite according to most oddsmakers, and the bout itself is stuck in the middle of the FUEL TV prelims. With his 3-3 mark in the organization, this bout feels like a fork in the road for Roberts, who has some genuine talent. You just wonder if he's good enough to stay at this level. You also wonder how many chances the UFC will give him to prove it.
Outlook: Slightly pessimistic. Brenneman is a tough draw for a guy in Roberts' shoes, but that's life in the UFC. As long as he's upright and conscious, he's got a chance to pull off the upset and turn this thing around. If he doesn't, he might be headed straight off a cliff.