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The Cut List: Who Desperately Needs a Win at UFC 130?

UFC 130 kicks off a busy summer in the world of MMA, but with so many fighters now under the Zuffa umbrella it's no time to get complacent. Just about every undercard has its share of fighters who need a win just to stay viable in the big leagues, and Saturday night's event is no exception.

Let's check out who might be looking at a win-or-go-home scenario at UFC 130, and who merely needs to lose with a little flair.

Kendall Grove (12-8-1 overall, 7-5 UFC)
Who he's fighting: Tim Boetsch
Why he's in danger: It doesn't seem like it, but Grove has been a UFC mainstay for nearly five years now. Kind of surprising, right? Or maybe it's just surprising that a guy could hang around in the middle of the pack for that long, making no significant moves up or down, and yet still hanging on to his job. Grove has a talent for survival in that way. He loses two in a row, then wins two in a row. Then he loses again. Then wins. Then loses. get it. The UFC overlords have shown that they'll only put up with that pattern for so long, with occasional exceptions made for fan favorites or aging legends. Grove is neither, really, and he's coming off an unimpressive showing in a decision loss to Demian Maia. If he loses this he'll be 2-4 in his last six fights. And the two wins? Both came against fighters who are no longer with the UFC. If Grove doesn't want to join them, he'd better pull out a victory.
Odds of getting cut: 2-1. Boetsch is a difficult opponent for him. Grove's stand-up is sharp enough and he's got that gangly jiu-jitsu game off the bottom that gives some people trouble, but he can be outwrestled, which is Boetsch's specialty. If he loses a snoozer of a decision, somebody better pass Grove the want ads.

Tim Boetsch (12-4 overall, 3-3 UFC)
Who he's fighting: Kendall Grove
Why he's in danger: Boetsch has already been cut from the UFC once, and without ever losing two in a row. He went 2-2 in his first stint, taking one step forward and one step back until the UFC sent him down to the minors to beat up on scrubs. Now he's back, but already up to his old tricks with a 1-1 record this time around. In his last fight he fell victim to Phil Davis' "Mr. Wonderful" kimura, which is the MMA equivalent of getting posterized by a monster dunk in the NBA. Boetsch's problem isn't just his record – it's his style. He favors the wrestler's grind, which doesn't make you many friends in the UFC offices. If they can't count on you to at least put on a show in defeat, your contract finds its way to the shredder a lot quicker. Now a middleweight, Boetsch needs to get back to the 'Hulk smash!' style he displayed in his UFC debut. If he can overpower and straight-up bully Grove, he stands a good chance of winning the fight and keeping his job.
Odds of getting cut: 3-1. Boetsch has only been submitted once in his career, and that was a freakish incident to begin with. If Grove has to fight from the bottom against this guy he's going to have a long night. I'm not saying it'll be fun to watch, but I think Boetsch wins. If he doesn't want to go back to the bush leagues, he'd better.

Rafaello Oliveira (14-3 overall, 1-2 UFC)
Who he's fighting: Gleison Tibau
Why he's in danger: Oliveira has also been cut once already, and he wouldn't be back this soon if Bart Palaszewski hadn't pulled out with an injury in the weeks before this fight. The UFC appreciates a fighter willing to step up on short notice and do the organization a solid, so as long as Oliveira can turn in a halfway decent effort he can at least make a case for continued employment. Then again, the flip side of taking a short notice fight like this is that you might be signing yourself up for one seriously bad showing if you aren't adequately prepared. When you end the fight bloodied and beaten, people tend to remember that image and forget how eager you were to jump in there and scrap.
Odds of being cut: Even. Would cutting a guy who stepped up on short notice for you be a real cold-hearted move? Sure. Has the UFC shown an absolute willingness to make such cold-hearted moves in the past? You bet.

Cole Escovedo (17-6 overall, 0-0 UFC)
Who he's fighting: Renan Barao
Why he's in danger: Escovedo has been in the game for almost ten years now, and it's hard not to wonder if he didn't spend the best of those years as the pre-Zuffa era WEC featherweight champ. There wasn't a lot of fame or money in that particular title back in those days, and he's spent the years since then bouncing around from one promotion to the next without ever putting serious roots down. He got knocked out in the IFL, won one fight in the Strikeforce Challengers series, and had mixed results with Dream. Getting his foot in the door with the UFC is a very big deal, but he shouldn't expect much patience from the bosses now that he's there. The fact is, Escovedo is pushing 30 and it's now-or-never time. He's got talent, but the UFC isn't likely to see him as investment worth sitting on for too long. He needs to show that he's got the goods to last at this level, and he needs to do it in a hurry.
Odds of getting cut: 2-1. This is a winnable fight, but by no means an easy one. The UFC is going to be looking for Escovedo to show that he's not just some guy who beats the also-rans and loses to the rest. If he's smart, he'll see this somewhat late notice bout on the bottom of the card for what it is: a tryout. If he's not ready to make the most of it now, after the career he's had, then he never will be.

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