The UFC returns on Saturday for their traditional Memorial Day Weekend pay-per-view event from Las Vegas, Nevada with UFC 160. The event will be headlined by a UFC Heavyweight Championship bout as Cain Velasquez defends the title against Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva. Plus, former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos meets Mark Hunt, who has his visa issues fixed, in the co-main event, and Gray Maynard and T.J. Grant fight to determine who will be the next challenger for UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson.
This is a nicely put together card by the UFC as quite a few fights will shape the future when it comes to the title picture on top of some potentially exciting fights. There are some fighters who will be fighting for a lot at UFC 160, and we will highlight four particular fighters who are looking for a win in the worst way as they look to secure their futures in the UFC. We present you with The Cut List for UFC 160.
K.J. Noons (11-6, 0-0 UFC)
Who he’s fighting: Donald Cerrone
Why he’s on the list: Noons will be making his UFC debut against Cerrone in the opening bout of the main card of UFC 160 as he transitions over from the Strikeforce promotion. Noons had a lot of success to start his MMA career, winning the now-defunct EliteXC Lightweight Championship and going 10-2 to earn a shot at Nick Diaz and the Strikeforce Welterweight Championship in October 2010. Noons lost that fight and has since lost three of four, scoring just one win since an August 2010 knockout win over Jorge Gurgel. Noons has lost his last two fights, dropping decisions to Josh Thomson and Ryan Couture, though the loss to Couture was highly controversial and could have gone either way. Despite just a 1-4 mark over his last five fights, Noons gets the chance to make a long-awaited UFC debut after having dabbled professionally in both boxing and kickboxing along with his MMA career.
Chances of being cut with loss: 85%. Noons tends to have very good and exciting fights and he is very tough to finish. Cerrone is a very quality opponent for a fighter making his UFC debut, especially considering Cerrone’s two UFC losses, to Nate Diaz and Anthony Pettis, have led to those fighters eventually getting a title shot. Noons scoring a win would be impressive and put him on track to move up the lightweight ladder, but a loss would hurt a lot, and a 1-5 mark would put Noons dangerously close to the cutting line.
Stephen Thompson (6-1, 1-1 UFC)
Who he’s fighting: Nah-Shon Burrell
Why he’s on the list: Thompson came into the UFC with a lot of hype following a perfect 5-0 record to start his MMA career, along with a perfect 20-0 record as a professional kickboxer. Nicknamed “Wonderboy”, Thompson made his UFC debut at UFC 143 in February 2012 against Dan Stittgen. Thompson lived up to the hype and finished Stittgen in the first round with a head kick that earned him “Knockout Of The Night” honors. Thompson took a big step up in competition for his next fight when he took on Matt Brown at UFC 145 in April 2012. Brown handed Thompson his first career loss, taking home a unanimous decision, and Thompson returns to the Octagon for the first time since that fight following a knee injury that kept him from returning at UFC 154 in November. Thompson was slated to meet Amir Sadollah in this bout, but Sadollah pulled out due to injury, and Burrell steps in to fight Thompson.
Chances of being cut with loss: 50%. Thompson is still developing as a fighter, and injuries have kept him from showing the improvements that he has made by keeping him out of action for over a year. Burrell was impressive in his UFC debut and has lost just once over his last eight fights. This is a big test for Thompson as a win gets him back on track, but a loss will put him in much need of a win in his next bout. Win or lose, I think we will see him in the UFC again, but a win would guarantee it.
Brian Bowles (10-2, 2-1 UFC)
Who he’s fighting: George Roop
Why he’s on the list: It is very rare to find a former champion on this list. It is almost as rare to find a former champion fighting on the Facebook prelims of a UFC card. Bowles has been out of the spotlight for a long time, and as he makes his return and fights for the first time since November 2011, and he finds himself flying under the radar as he makes his comeback from time away from the sport. Bowles lost his last bout to Urijah Faber at UFC 139 as Faber submitted him in the second round with a guillotine choke. Bowles has won his first two UFC bouts prior to the loss to Faber. Bowles is the former WEC Bantamweight Champion, winning the title when he knocked out Miguel Torres. Bowles never successfully defended it, losing to Dominick Cruz in his first title defense, but after 18 months away, Bowles is looking to start a new path towards contending for the UFC Bantamweight Championship, and he does so by finding himself fighting in the second bout on the card.
Chances of being cut with loss: 30%. Bowles is just 2-2 over his last four fights, but those losses were to Cruz and Faber and they represent the only two losses of his career. Bowles fights George Roop, who may never be a top contender, but Roop gives his all and is a hard fight for anyone. Bowles needs to shake off the ring rust and the injuries and show why he is a former champion. A win gets him back in the spotlight, but a loss will potentially send a message that the sport has maybe passed him by.
Jeremy Stephens (20-9, 7-8 UFC)
Who he’s fighting: Estevan Payan
Why he’s on the list: Stephens has been around the UFC for a long time having debuted at UFC 71 in May 2007. This will be the 16th appearance in the Octagon for Stephens, and for the first time in his UFC career, Stephens finds himself fighting in the opening bout of a card when he makes his debut at 145 pounds. Stephens has fought his entire UFC tenure as a lightweight, but following three straight losses, Stephens will make the move down to featherweight as he looks to get back into the win column and save his spot on the UFC roster at the same time. Stephens was last seen at UFC On FOX 5 in December where he suffered the first knockout loss of his career to Yves Edwards. Stephens had been through some legal issues prior to that fight as he and Edwards were set to meet in October, but Stephens was arrested on the day of the fight and spent some time in jail causing the cancellation of the October bout. He took the December fight on short notice, and now looks to continue his UFC career with a fresh start in a fresh division.
Chances of being cut with loss: 100%. Four straight losses in the UFC generally means you will find yourself cut from the roster. There have been exceptions made, and Stephens tends to have exciting fights with exciting finishes, so if there is an exception to be made, Stephens would tend to fall under that category. However, with his recent legal issues, and the drop to a new division, he knows he needs a win as a loss to Payan likely means he will be released. Stephens is the favorite in the fight, and he needs to fight with no pressure being in the opening bout of the card and make a quick and early statement that he belongs in the UFC.
Tags: Brian Bowles, Jeremy Stephens, KJ Noons, Mixed Martial Arts, Stephen Thompson, The Cut List, UFC, UFC 160