Perhaps the biggest pay-per-view event of the year comes this weekend as the UFC celebrates its’ 20th anniversary with their biggest pay-per-view draw fighting in Las Vegas for the first time in over four years. UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre defends the title once again, but perhaps he gets the toughest test for sure to date as he meets top contender and knockout artist Johny Hendricks in the main event of UFC 167 on Saturday night at the MGM Grand.
The UFC brings a stacked card with a lot of big names as Rashad Evans, Chael Sonnen, Josh Koscheck, Donald Cerrone, Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald are on the card, plus it will be the UFC debut of Sergio Pettis, younger brother of UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis. While there are several names coming into this card off of a loss, some of them are safe with another loss. However, we will be highlighting just three fighters on the card who may not be safe with a loss. Here is The Cut List for UFC 167: St. Pierre vs. Hendricks.
Rick Story (15-7, 8-5 UFC)
His opponent: Brian Ebersole
Background: Story has been on this list before when he was set to fight at UFC 158. He defeated Quinn Mulhern at that event, but then fought two months later at UFC 160 and lost a close fight to Mike Pyle. He finds himself back on the list once again as he heads into a UFC 167 bout with Brian Ebersole. Story has the distinction of being the only man to defeat Johny Hendricks in his career, and Story actually went to Montreal to train with Georges St. Pierre as he prepares to meet Hendricks in the main event of UFC 167. Story looked well on his way to eventually meeting St. Pierre as the win over Hendricks and a subsequent win over Thiago Alves in May 2011 gave Story a six-fight win streak. Instead, Story took a short notice fight following his win over Alves, fighting just a month later, and his win streak was ended by Charlie Brenneman. That started a string where Story went 2-4 over the stretch of six fights, though his other three losses came to Martin Kampmann, Demian Maia and Mike Pyle, all of whom are ranked highly in the UFC’s welterweight division. Story needs to get back into the win column if he ever wants a chance to get back into title contention.
Outlook: Positive. I don’t think Story will be cut with a loss to Ebersole, but it is always possible with the roster size being the way it is, he could be. You never know with the decisions that come when it comes to trimming down the roster size. Of Story’s last four losses, two have come on short notice situations, including his last one against Pyle. That may be enough to help him, but a solid win over Ebersole would guarantee his roster spot.
Edwin Figueroa (9-3, 2-3 UFC)
His opponent: Erik Perez
Background: Figueroa will be fighting for the sixth time inside the Octagon as he enters his UFC 167 bout with Erik Perez on a two-fight losing streak. Both losses came in his two UFC appearances this year. He suffered a knockout loss to Francisco Rivera at UFC 156 in February, and then he dropped a decision to Roland Delorme at UFC 161 in June. That ended a two-fight win streak that Figueroa had put together, though he could easily have been on a three-fight losing skid following the loss to Delorme. Figueroa’s last win came in February 2012 at UFC 143. He scored a decision over Alex Caceres, though it was not without a little bit of controversy. Caceres was deducted two points during the course of the fight for repeated groin strikes, and had those two points not been deducted, it would have been a win for Caceres and not Figueroa. Figueroa was also involved in a memorable war with Michael McDonald in his UFC debut, a bout won by McDonald. A loss would move Figueroa to 2-4 in the UFC and it would be hard to see him sticking around with that.
Outlook: Likely cut with a loss. Figueroa no doubt needs a win on Saturday night to remain on the UFC roster. He has a tough fight against Perez, and one that may be very tough to win. Perez had a ton of hype surrounding him, but it came to a bit of a halt for him as he lost to Takeya Mizugaki in his last bout. Perez won’t be cut with another loss, but Figueroa could very well be. This is a must-win for him.
Cody Donovan (8-3, 1-1 UFC)
His opponent: Gian Villante
Background: Donovan finds himself as the third and final entry on this small edition of The Cut List as he fights for the third time inside the confines of the Octagon in the opening bout of the UFC’s 20th Anniversary fight card. He will be taking on Gian Villante, who replaced Donovan’s original opponent for the bout, Robert Drysdale, after he was taken out of the bout by the Nevada State Athletic Commission due to a licensing issue. Donovan started his MMA career out with a 7-2 record that got him on the radar of the UFC. An injury to Eddie Mendez led to Donovan making his UFC debut on nine days’ notice against Nick Penner in December 2012. Donovan had a successful debut as he defeated Penner by knockout, plus they took home the bonus for “Fight Of The Night”. His second UFC bout came eight months later, and it ended up not as good as his debut as he was on the receiving end of a knockout loss, this time to Ovince St. Preux. Donovan looks for his ninth win overall, and eighth by finish, when he faces Villante, who also comes into this fight off of a loss to St. Preux.
Outlook: Can’t afford a loss. Donovan could certainly be cut with a loss. Not only would he fall to 1-2 in the UFC with a loss, but it would be to a fighter taking a fight on short notice. Donovan has what it takes to be on the roster, but he needs the wins to back it up. Villante is on better ground with taking the short notice opportunity, but he could use a win just as badly as Donovan. This is a pivotal fight for both.
Tags: edwin figueroa, Mixed Martial Arts, Rick Story, The Cut List, UFC, UFC 167