The Octagon returns to the state of Texas on Saturday night and stops in Houston for the third time. The last time the UFC was in Houston, for UFC 136 in October 2011, it was the end of the trilogy between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. It is time for the end of another trilogy as UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos meet for the third time, but perhaps not for the final time, on Saturday night at the Toyota Center on pay-per-view for UFC 166.
The UFC brings a stacked card to Houston with a lot of fighters with recognizable names, and there will be a lot on the line in fights. Title contention status is on the line in a few fights, and the rankings will be shaken up at UFC 166. There are also a slew of fighters who are in much need of a win, and some of them have been around the UFC for a long period of time, and some are recognizable names. Today, we will take a look at five particular fighters that are in need of a win as we bring you The Cut List for UFC 166: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos 3.
Tim Boetsch (16-6, 7-5 UFC)
His opponent: C.B. Dollaway
How he got here: Boestch faces being cut for the second time by the UFC as he enters UFC 166 on a two-fight losing streak after being in title contention in the middleweight division. Boestch went 3-3 over his first six UFC fights as a light heavyweight, and following a submission loss to Phil Davis in November 2010, he announced he’d be making the move down to 185 pounds. It was a successful transition as Boestch won his first four fights at middleweight. He scored back-to-back unanimous decision wins, defeating Kendall Grove at UFC 130 and Nick Ring at UFC 135, to get himself established in the division. Next came a fight against a former title challenger as he took on Yushin Okami at UFC 144 in February 2012. After losing the first two rounds, Boetsch made a comeback in the final round and knocked out Okami with a flurry 54 seconds into the last round. He then derailed the hype train of Hector Lombard by beating Lombard in his debut at UFC 149 in June 2012. The four-fight win streak was then snapped by Costa Philippou at UFC 155 in December, and that was followed with a loss to Mark Munoz at UFC 162 in July. Originally scheduled to fight Luke Rockhold, Boetsch will now take on C.B. Dollaway in the featured prelim bout of UFC 166.
Outlook: Not ideal. There is a decent chance that Boestch could be cut if he suffers his third straight loss on Saturday night. He should have the edge on Dollaway as Boetsch has had a full training camp and Dollaway has not. It is a style change in opponents, but if Boestch is unable to defeat Dollaway, it may be the end of the road for Boestch and the second time he is cut from the UFC roster. He surely could use a big win.
Hector Lombard (32-4-1 1 NC, 1-2 UFC)
His opponent: Nate Marquardt
How he got here: Lombard came into the UFC last year with a lot of hype that he had created by racking up a 25-fight unbeaten streak and winning championships in all of the various organizations he fought in, including being the reigning Bellator Middleweight Champion at the time of his UFC signing. He was expected to be in title contention quickly, but things have yet to go his way as he has lost two of his three bouts inside the Octagon. He was set to main event in his UFC debut against Brian Stann, but Stann was forced out due to injury and Lombard had his debut pushed up to fight Tim Boetsch at UFC 149 in June 2012. It was a weird performance from Lombard as he didn’t show the same explosiveness that he had prior to joining the UFC, and it ended up being a split decision loss, his first loss since 2006. Lombard showed his explosiveness in his next bout when he scored a first-round knockout win over Rousimar Palhares in December. He followed that with a decision loss in March that saw him controlled by Yushin Okami for the majority of the first two rounds, which was enough to get Okami the win. Lombard announced after that bout that he was intending to move down to the welterweight division, and he debuts at 170 pounds against Nate Marquardt on Saturday night.
Outlook: Needs a win. Lombard definitely needs a win if he is going to remain on the UFC roster. While he is a big name to have on the roster, he is also an expensive name, and if he loses on Saturday to Marquardt, it’d drop him to 1-3, and he’d be an expensive 1-3 fighter. He needs to beat Marquardt on Saturday night, and an impressive performance could establish him as a title contender quickly in a new division.
George Sotiropoulos (14-5, 7-3 UFC)
His opponent: K.J. Noons
How he got here: There was a time in Sotiropoulos’ career when he was 14-2 and on the fast track to a title shot in the UFC. He started his career with a 7-2 record that got him on season six of “The Ultimate Fighter”. While he didn’t advance to the finals, he still got a roster spot on the UFC, and he rattled off seven straight wins to start his UFC career and put him in title contention. While he was finishing off the lower-end fighters of the lightweight division at the beginning of his UFC career, it was decision wins over Joe Stevenson and Kurt Pellegrino, and a submission win over Joe Lauzon that showed he could contend for a title. However, it hasn’t been good since then as he has lost three straight fights. He lost his first UFC bout to Dennis Siver at UFC 127 in February 2011, and that was followed with his first stoppage loss in the UFC as he was knocked out by Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 132 in July 2011. He was out of action for over a year before returning in December to fight Ross Pearson, the man he coached against on TUF: The Smashes. It was another defeat for Sotiropoulos as Pearson took home the knockout win. Sotiropoulos finds himself in a must-win situation as he takes on K.J. Noons at UFC 166.
Outlook: Win or be cut. That is pretty simple for Sotiropoulos. A fourth straight loss will signal the end of his UFC career as the lightweight division is very stacked right now. His opponent, Noons, also finds himself in a must-win situation as his recent record is unfulfilling. It will be a battle between a grappler and a striker, and the winner will keep his spot on the roster. The loser will go home.
Jeremy Larsen (8-4 1 NC, 0-2 UFC)
His opponent: Andre Fili
How he got here: Larsen competed on season 15 of “The Ultimate Fighter” as a member of Dominick Cruz’ team though he had limited success during his stint in the house. He won a decision to get into the house, but he was one of the last two fighters picked, and he lost to eventual winner Michael Chiesa in the first round of the tournament. Despite this, he got a chance to appear on The Ultimate Fighter 15 Finale card to take on Joe Proctor. It was a short night for Larsen as he suffered a knockout loss in less than two minutes. He took almost a year off before returning at UFC On FX 8 in May when he took on Lucas Martins. It was another knockout loss for Larsen, who fell in the third round, moving his record in the Octagon to 0-2. Luckily for him, he remained on the roster and secured a third fight, and he will also be moving down a weight class to fight. He was originally scheduled to meet Matt Grice, but Grice was forced out following a horrific car accident. He was then set to meet Charles Oliveira, but Oliveira was forced out due to injury. He now fights short-notice replacement Andre Fili.
Outlook: Must-win situation. With a loss, Larsen will fall to 0-3 in the UFC and will almost assuredly be cut. To make matters worse, a loss would be coming to a short-notice replacement, and that wouldn’t help much either. He has to win. Fili will be a tough fight for him as Fili comes from the Team Alpha Male camp and is one of the bright young prospects they have. Larsen will have his hands full.
Dustin Pague (11-8, 1-4 UFC)
His opponent: Kyoji Horiguchi
How he got here: Pague has fought inside the Octagon five times now, but he has just one win to show for it, and he finds himself in a must-win situation as he takes on newcomer Kyoji Horiguchi in the opening bout of UFC 166. Pague was on season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter, and was one of the most visible castmembers. While not advancing to the finals, he still fought at The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale but suffered a quick knockout loss to John Albert. He fought a second time in June 2012, this time scoring a submission win over Jared Papazian, his lone UFC triumph. He took his next two fights on short notice and dropped decisions to Ken Stone in June 2012, and to Chico Camus in August 2012. Despite two straight losses, he still remained on the UFC roster due to his willingness to take short-notice opportunities. He last fought in June at UFC 161, but that was a third straight loss as he dropped a decision to Yves Jabouin. However, there was some doubt as to whether he actually lost that fight as it was a back-and-forth battle that could have gone either way. Despite three straight losses, he gets one more opportunity in a fight that he has to win.
Outlook: Must-win situation. Pague has to win, plain and simple. There aren’t many fighters that stick around with four straight losses, especially ones that are relegated to the Facebook prelims in every bout. He is a solid fighter to have around, and one not afraid to take fights on short notice. However, a loss will spell the end of his UFC career. He must win.
Tags: Dustin Pague, George Sotiropoulos, Hector Lombard, Jeremy Larsen, Mixed Martial Arts, The Cut List, Tim Boetsch, UFC, UFC 166