It is UFC Fight Week in Las Vegas, the biggest UFC week of the year. Pool parties, special events with special guest UFC fighters, free concerts, and a UFC Fan Expo featuring more UFC fighters than ever leads to the big event of the summer, UFC 162, which features the return of arguably the greatest fighter in the history of the sport. UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva will defend the title against a man many are picking to score the upset and be his toughest challenge to date, Chris Weidman.
Competing on the biggest card of the summer is a highlight for many UFC fighters, and this fight card will be no exception. It may not be big on headline names, but there are many potentially exciting fights that will deliver for fans. There are also several fighters on the card who could be fighting for their jobs on Saturday night when they step inside the Octagon. It’s Fight Week, and that brings us another edition of The Cut List as we look ahead to UFC 162.
Charles Oliveira (16-3 1 NC, 4-3 1 NC UFC)
Who he’s fighting: Frankie Edgar
Why he’s on the list: Oliveira got off to a hot start in his professional career with twelve straight wins that made him one of the hottest prospects in the sport. Oliveira made his UFC debut on the heels of that win streak in August 2010, becoming one of the youngest fighters to compete inside the Octagon when he debuted at the age of 20. Oliveria scored two submission wins in his first two UFC bouts, taking wins over Darren Elkins and Efrain Escudero in the span of six weeks to move his overall record to 14-0. As he moved up the rankings, it was inevitable that Oliveira would move on to face stiffer competition. He has since only won two of his last six fights, but his three losses were all to top ten ranked fighters- Jim Miller, Donald Cerrone and Cub Swanson. Oliveira has gone 2-1 since moving down to the featherweight division, and he’s looking to get back into the win column and avoid back-to-back losses. He doesn’t have an easy task in front of him in facing one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Chances of being cut with loss: 25%. Oliveira has tons of talent and has been taking very tough fights. This coming Saturday’s fight against Edgar will be the toughest test of his career as Edgar looks to get back on track after three straight losses. Edgar is in no danger of being cut with a loss, and with the level of competition that Oliveira has faced, he is likely in no danger as well. He still has tons of potential but has been disappointing in his losses. This is a huge opportunity for Oliveira and he has every chance to show he can compete for a title.
Andrew Craig (8-1, 2-1 UFC)
Who he’s fighting: Chris Leben
Why he’s on the list: Craig is another young and talented prospect who will be making his fourth appearance in the Octagon, and it will be the biggest fight of his career come Saturday when he takes on one of the stars from the original season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’. Craig built up a solid six-fight win streak to start his career and was invited to the UFC as an injury replacement in March 2012. He took on Kyle Noke in his UFC debut at UFC On FX 2, and after dropping the first round, Craig dominated the final two rounds to take home a unanimous decision. The same pattern followed in his second UFC bout against Rafael Natal at UFC On FUEL TV 4 in July 2012 as Natal had Craig in trouble. Craig, though, showed toughness and scored a comeback victory as he knocked Natal out with a head kick. After eight straight wins, Craig dropped his first fight in January, losing by unanimous decision to Ronny Markes at UFC On FX 7. Craig will get a chance to rebound from his first loss, but in facing Chris Leben, a guy Craig called out, he will be fighting a man with twice as many UFC fights as Craig has had professional fights.
Chances of being cut with loss: 60%. Craig is a talent and he is fighting stiff competition. A loss to Leben would not be a bad loss as Leben is well respected by fans and fighters and is seen as a somebody. Two straight losses would not be good for Craig, though, and he can’t afford a loss as much as Leben can. Even with a loss, Craig should get another shot in the UFC against someone in a similar position, but with the huge roster, especially at 185 pounds, nothing is guaranteed, except a win getting you another shot. Craig needs that win.
Dave Herman (21-5, 1-3 UFC)
Who he’s fighting: Gabriel Gonzaga
Why he’s on the list: Herman is quite the character, to say the very least. He started his career with a 20-2 record to receive an invite to compete in the UFC. Herman had a successful debut, scoring a second-round TKO victory over John-Olav Einemo in the ‘Fight Of The Night’ at UFC 131 in June 2011. It was around that time that Herman stated “jiu-jitsu doesn’t work”, and that quote has followed him around since then. He hasn’t tasted victory since that win over Einemo, though, having dropped three straight fights, which puts him in a must-win situation. Herman’s losing streak started against Stefan Struve at UFC On FUEL TV 1 in February 2012 as Struve scored a second-round TKO win. Herman then took a fight on short notice against Roy Nelson at UFC 146 in May 2012, and Nelson won the fight by knockout in just 51 seconds. Herman got another chance and took yet another short notice fight, this time against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 153 in October. Nogueira won by submission, the first submission loss that Herman has suffered. Herman has been battling issues outside the Octagon as he is coming off a suspension after testing positive for marijuana, but he is being given one last shot in the UFC.
Chances of being cut with loss: 100%. It is plain and simple for Herman- he has to win if he is going to have an immediate future in the UFC’s heavyweight division. With three straight losses and two failed drug tests for marijuana, he is lucky to be getting another fight in the UFC. Taking fights on short notice likely helped, and he gets an opponent taking this fight on short notice in Gonzaga, who is looking to bounce back from a loss in July. Two big heavyweights in need of a win, and Herman will need to prove his famous quote to be true again if he is going to remain on the UFC’s roster. It is a must-win.
Rafaello Oliveira (15-5, 2-4 UFC)
Who he’s fighting: Edson Barboza
Why he’s on the list: Oliveira is in his second stint on the UFC roster, and he has had three fights in both stints, so this will mark the longer stint of the two. He is 1-2 in both three-fight runs, and most times a fighter could be cut following going 1-2. Oliveira was released after his first 1-2 run in the UFC. He had a win over John Gunderson sandwiched between his debut loss to Nik Lentz and a loss to Andre Winner. A four-fight win streak led to Oliveira being resigned by the UFC to be an injury replacement, and he returned at UFC 130 in May 2011 against Gleison Tibau. Tibau won by submission, and a knockout loss to Yves Edwards followed in October 2011, which was the first time Oliveira had suffered back-to-back losses in his career. Oliveira, though, was given another opportunity to compete in the Octagon. Injuries have limited him to just one fight since October 2011, which was a decision win over Yoislandy Izquierdo at UFC 148 last July. It will be one year since his last fight, and he is taking a tough fight against Edson Barboza, and he is doing so on just over one month’s notice.
Chances of being cut with loss: 75%. A loss would be three losses in four fights in this UFC stint, and that would in all likelihood signal a UFC release. The only thing that could help Oliveira in a loss would be that he is taking a super tough fight as an injury replacement, doing a favor for the UFC. A win would guarantee a return trip to the Octagon, but Barboza is a five-to-one favorite. Barboza has been upset before, and he can be vulnerable, but Barboza is on a mission to become a title contender. It could be a tough night for Oliveira.
Brian Melancon (6-2, 0-0 UFC)
Who he’s fighting: Seth Baczynski
Why he’s on the list: Melancon is moving over from the Strikeforce promotion, and he will be stepping foot inside a cage for the first time in almost two years. Melancon had considered retirement if he didn’t get the chance to compete for the UFC, but he will get that opportunity as he fights Baczynski in a Facebook preliminary bout. Melancon was 1-1 in his two bouts in Strikeforce. He lost his Strikeforce debut to Isaac Vallie-Flagg in June 2011, but he bounced back to score his lone Strikeforce win over Felipe Portela in September 2011, which was his last fight. He was scheduled to fight in May 2012 against Yuri Villefort, but an injury forced him out of that bout, and he has been working on a career outside of fighting in the event a call from the UFC never came. However, that call came, and he will get to make his debut on July 4th weekend.
Chances of being cut with loss: 90%. Unfortunately for Melancon, he likely needs to get a win if he is going to remain on the UFC roster. There have been several Strikeforce fighters who got a fight in the UFC, lost, and were released from the promotion. Melancon likely falls in that category. Baczynski is in need of a win as well to ensure he’ll remain on the roster, so with two guys in must-win situations, it could lead to an exciting fight. Baczynski, though, has that UFC experience, and he is the favorite in the fight.