The UFC returns to Demetrious Johnson's stomping grounds of Seattle Washington with several intriguing fights on the main card. Demetrious Johnson takes on hard hitting John Moraga for the flyweight title, Rory MacDonald takes on Jake Ellenberger in a contenders bout that got personal, and sluggers Robbie Lawler and Bobby Voelker will duke it out.
On the undercard, there are several fighters who are fighting for their employment. With fighters voicing their complaints for better fighter pay, clearly any opportunity for a paycheck is a fantastic thing. Let's look at the people who need wins big time. (We'll go from the bottom of the card up).
Fighter Who Needs a Win: John Albert
John Albert is a scrapper, and has the fighters mentality that UFC brass loves. He's an exciting fighter with an active ground game, big brother style standup, and he's explosive. The downside for him is, he's lost three fights in a row, and four of his last five, and he's been finished in each of those losses. In his opponent Yaotzin Meza, he's fighting an opponent in a similar position (more on that in a minute), but if doesn't shore up his submission defense, he's going to be in the unemployment line.
Odds of Winning: Not bad. Albert is at his best when he pushes forward. When he's the aggressor, a'la his bout with Dustin Pague, he can be a killer. But if he tires, or takes a round off, he's going to lose.
Fighter Who Needs a Win: Yaotzin Meza
Yaotzin Meza was one lucky dude. He came into the UFC on a loss, and on short notice, doing them a solid against dangerous featherweight contender Chad Mendes. The result was expected, with Mendes knocking Meza out cold. Of course the UFC was going to help him out with a second opportunity, so here he is in a new weight class. However, he's got two losses in a row, and if he drops a fight to bottom dweller John Albert, his days in the UFC are done.
Odds of Winning: Like his opponent, not too bad. If Meza is on his game, this should be a winnable fight for him.
Fighter Who Needs a Win: Aaron Riley
Aaron Riley is the UFC's lightweight gatekeeper. If they see a fighter with potential, they put him up against Riley. They did it with Robbie Lawler back in the day, and most recently have done it with Ross Pearson and Tony Ferguson. He's been pretty dependable for warm up fights, but he hasn't won a fight since 2010. If Riley wants to stick around, he'll need to beat wrestler extraordinaire Justin Salas.
Odds of Winning: Good. Salas, while a tough dude and good wrestler, lacks the elite experience and world class competition that Riley has fought. One thing to be observed here is the veteran's reflexes. Have they grown too shopworn? If so, it might be a long (or very short) night for Riley.
Fighter Who Needs a Win: Ed Herman
Since Ed Herman made his comeback in 2011, he's looked back to form. That may not necessarily be the praise it seems. Herman has been a solid middler, but never been able to beat the top middleweights in the world. It showed in his last fights with Jake Shields and Ronaldo Souza (granted the Shields fight was turned into a No Contest). But if Herman wants to keep his job, he's going to need a win over Strikeforce import Trevor Smith.
Odds of Winning: Very good. Herman is a submission fighter who likes to stand and bang. Smith showed in his last fight, he's capable of being outgrappled, and that's something Herman should look to take advantage of.
Fighter Who Needs a Win: Daron Cruickshank
Daron Cruickshank started off his UFC tenure solid: a decision win over TUF castmate Chris Tickle, and then a terrific head kick knockout of Henry Martinez. However, he looked flat against fellow striker John Makdessi, and another loss to veteran Yves Edwards (who is on the downslope of his career), and the UFC could send the TUF alumn packing.
Odds of Winning: Evenish. Edwards is a wiley veteran with plenty of skills and tricks to keep the fight interesting. If Cruickshank keeps the fight in his wheelhouse, that being striking, he should be able to keep Edwards on the outside en route to a dominant victory.
Fighter Who Needs a Win: Melvin Guillard
The last fighter I'll put on this list is Melvin Guillard. The Young Assassin has one once in the last two years, and that was over Fabricio Camoes. If Guillard can't right ship, the UFC will have to cut the longtime TUF veteran. He's lost four of his last five, and if he can't beat TUF winner Mac Danzig, then he'll surely be on the unemployed side of life.
Odds of Winning: Eh. Two years ago, I would have said very strong. But Guillard is not the person he was two year ago. He hasn't shown off his knockout power, or his bravado in quite sometime. Danzig looked better in his last two fights and that little career upswing is enough to beat Guillard in the midst of his slide.