The UFC is back for the third straight Saturday for their next big event on the FOX network from the HP Pavillion in San Jose, California. Benson Henderson defends the UFC Lightweight Championship against the last Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez in the night’s main event, and Frank Mir and Daniel Cormier finally meet in a long-anticipated heavyweight bout.
This is a stacked card with a lot of fighters coming in riding a lot of success. Only seven of the 24 fighters featured on the card are coming in off of a loss, and three of those (Mir, Nate Diaz and Josh Thomson) are coming in with losses in title fights. There are a lot of battles going on to determine ranking positions, but there are four fighters who need a win to avoid going on two-fight losing streaks and setting themselves up for potentially being cut. Here is this week’s The Cut List- UFC On FOX 7 edition.
Anthony Njokuani (15-7 1 NC, 2-3 UFC)
Who he’s fighting: Roger Bowling
Why he’s on the list: Njokuani has been fighting under the Zuffa banner since 2009, starting with the WEC promotion. His first fight in the WEC was no easy one- he suffered a submission loss to Benson Henderson, the now UFC Lightweight Champion. Njokuani has had mixed success in the four years since then, which included a move over from the WEC to the UFC when Zuffa merged the two promotions. He has fought five times in the UFC, but he has been unable to string together a win streak as he has rotated wins-and-losses in his five UFC fights, going 2-3 in the promotion. He is coming off a loss to Rafael Dos Anjos in his last fight at UFC On FUEL TV 4 in July, and he is coming off surgery to repair a broken hand in that fight. Another loss would knock his record to 2-4 in the UFC, a dangerous record to have in a stacked lightweight division.
Chances of being cut with loss: 85%. Njokuani is a slight favorite against Bowling, who will be making his UFC debut in this fight. Bowling needs a win just as badly as Njokuani (see below), and that makes for an interesting dynamic in this fight. This is a true WEC vs. Strikeforce bout come to life as both made the transition to the UFC following their respective promotions’ demise. A win would be a huge leap forward for either fighter.
Roger Bowling (11-3, 0-0 UFC)
Who he’s fighting: Anthony Njokuani
Why he’s on the list: Bowling is making his UFC debut as he makes the transition from the Strikeforce promotion over to battling inside the Octagon. Bowling had been competing as a welterweight during his tenure in Strikeforce, but he makes the move down to 155 pounds to make his UFC debut. Bowling started his career off with good success as he won his first eight professional fights. It has been a struggle since then as he has won just three of his last six fights. His final fight in Strikeforce was a tough one as he dropped a unanimous decision to Tarec Saffiedine in August. Saffiedine, though, went on to gain a title shot at the Strikeforce Welterweight Championship, a fight he won. Bowling is looking to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time in his career as he makes a fresh start to his career.
Chances of being cut with loss: 90%. Bowling makes the move to a very crowded division and needs an immediate win if he is looking to remain on the UFC roster. The Strikeforce fighters are not neccessarily safe as it was proven that they can be one-and-done in the UFC after Caros Fodor was cut after just one fight following his loss at UFC 157. Bowling needs an impressive performance and a win to likely keep his slot on the roster.
Clifford Starks (8-1, 1-1 UFC)
Who he’s fighting: Yoel Romero
Why he’s on the list: Starks started his professional MMA career off with eight straight wins, including a unanimous decision win over Dustin Jacoby at UFC 137 in October 2011, a fight that he took on less than two weeks’ notice. Starks next fight was the first loss of his career as he was submitted by Ed Herman at UFC 143 in February 2012. Starks has been out of action since that fight, meaning he will be coming in off a 14-month layoff. With him having split his two UFC fights, he’s likely on the endangered species list, so he will need to notch a win in this fight if he is going to have a future fight in the Octagon going forward.
Chances of being cut with loss: 75%. He has a tough fight with Romero, who is the favorite in the fight. Romero has a lot of potential, but he has yet to fully live up to it. Romero has actually been out of action longer than Starks has, plus he is making his middleweight debut, but Romero has more upside than Starks has. They have a chance to make an early impression as they’re the first fight of the evening, and a win will help both guys stay in the UFC.
Yoel Romero (4-1, 0-0 UFC)
Who he’s fighting: Clifford Starks
Why he’s on the list: Romero is a decorated Olympian as he won a silver medal in freestyle wrestling at the 2000 Summer Olympics, where he represented Cuba. He made the transition over to MMA in 2009 with a ton of hype due to his wrestling background, and he made the most of it by rattling off four straight wins by knockout to start his career. That earned him a chance to fight in the Strikeforce promotion, and he was matched with Rafael Cavalcante in his first fight, being thrown straight into tough competition. Romero started off strong but faded quickly, suffering his first loss when Cavalcante knocked him out in the second round. Romero has been out of action since that fight, which took place in September 2011, and he makes the move over to the UFC and drops down to the middleweight division looking to secure the fifth win of his short career.
Chances of being cut with loss: 75%. Romero has a huge background that the UFC would love to promote by having another Olympic medalist on its’ roster. Romero needs to prove that he belongs in the MMA game as he has beaten up easier competition, but had trouble when the competition level stepped up. The competition level doesn’t get any better than the UFC, and this will be his opportunity to show at 35-years-old whether he will be able to compete or not.