Who Is In the Biggest ‘Must-Win’ Situation at UFC 146?


Jason
Most fighters will tell you that every fight is a ‘must-win’ situation.

Nobody likes to lose and for as much as every fighter says they learn from a loss, the sting of defeat runs deep for any competitor that steps foot inside the Octagon.

As UFC 146 fast approaches, there are several fighters on this card that could be in a must win situation, and not all of them are in danger of losing their jobs.

Let’s take a look at the fighters with the most to gain and the most to lose at UFC 146: Dos Santos vs. Mir.

FRANK MIR

The top of the list at UFC 146 is none other that main event competitor and two-time UFC champion Frank Mir.

As previously stated, Mir is in zero danger of losing his job should he not come out on top of his fight at UFC 146, but what he may be the most dangerous situation for the Las Vegas area fighter is the prospect of not getting another title shot should he be defeated.

Mir has twice captured the UFC heavyweight title, and has loomed around the top of the division longer than any big man in the sport’s history. Mir has spent more than a decade breaking bones atop the UFC’s heavyweight division, but at 33-years of age and 10 years wear and tear on his body, it’s hard to say if he loses that Frank Mir will ever get another shot like this again.

When he calls it a career, Mir is a shoe-in to become a UFC Hall of Famer, there’s no doubt about that, but with the heavyweight division thriving like never before and new talent that just arrived from Strikeforce, there’s no telling how hard or easy it would be for him to get another shot should he lose on Saturday night.

If Mir is defeated soundly by Junior Dos Santos, this may be the last run at a UFC heavyweight title for the veteran submission specialist, but a win could vault him into the category of the greatest heavyweight in UFC history.

CAIN VELASQUEZ

Former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez gets back in action for the first time since losing the belt to current title holder Junior Dos Santos. Over just a short period of time, Velasquez shot like a rocket to the top of the heavyweight division with big wins over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Brock Lesnar.

Unfortunately, injuries robbed Velasquez of a quick turn around into another title fight after capturing the belt, and when he returned a year later Junior Dos Santos was waiting for him, and the results did not go his way.

A quick first round TKO loss was the first time Cain Velasquez tasted defeat since his college wrestling days, and while every fighter deals with defeat at some point, it’s how you bounce back that determines the future.

Velasquez was a prohibitive favorite when he was scheduled to face Frank Mir, and he may be an even bigger favorite as he steps in against former Strikeforce fighter Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva. The giant Brazilian is certainly no walk over, but coming off a rough outing against Velasquez’s teammate Daniel Cormier in his last fight, most seem to be placing Silva as a heavy underdog.

That’s where the pressure ratchets up on Cain Velasquez.

A win puts him right back in the thick of the contender’s race of the heavyweight division, but a loss drops him dramatically further down the ladder. Two losses in a row is never easy to bounce back from, and considering how many people seem to be picking Velasquez to steam roll Silva, the defeat would be that much more devastating.

ROY NELSON

There is no way anybody can question the heart of Roy Nelson.

The former Ultimate Fighter winner has gone toe-to-toe with some of the best heavyweights in the UFC, and while he doesn’t always come out on top, Nelson is always in the fight.

The problem however is no matter how much heart you have, the only way to guarantee employment in the UFC is with wins. Nelson has lost 3 out of his last 4 fights, but you have to take a look at whom those losses are against before passing judgment on a substandard record.

Nelson has dropped fights to current champion Junior Dos Santos, current top contender Frank Mir, and most recently lost to top ten fighter Fabricio Werdum. Now there is absolutely no shame in losing to any of those fighters, but Nelson has been on the short end of some rather unflattering comments from UFC President Dana White in the past.

“Who knows what Roy Nelson could really achieve if he applied himself,” White said about Nelson back in March.

To stay afloat in the UFC’s heavyweight division, Nelson needs to win against Dave Herman on Saturday to not only assure himself of a job, but also show White and anybody else who’s watching that ‘Big Country’ is just as dangerous as ever. There’s no doubt that Herman is a tough opponent, but on paper Nelson is just a much more complete fighter, and thus a win should be expected. Anything less just isn’t acceptable for Nelson at UFC 146.

EDSON BARBOZA JR.

Now you might be thinking to yourself how is a 10-0 fighter coming off the ‘Knockout of the Year’ in a ‘must-win’ situation? Well with success comes expectation and that’s what Edson Barboza has a lot of coming into UFC 146, more now than ever after getting late replacement Jamie Varner as an opponent.

Barboza is a fast rising star who could be a legitimate title contender over the next 12-months if he keeps developing at the rate he has thus far in his UFC career. A brutal Muay Thai fighter with kicks from hell, Barboza has finished one fight with leg kicks and another with the first ever spinning heel kick knockout in UFC history.

But a loss to Varner brings that all crashing down around him.

Originally, Barboza was scheduled to face Evan Dunham, who was himself racing towards the top of the lightweight division just a few fights ago. Now facing a late replacement in Jamie Varner, Barboza is favored to win this fight by astronomical margins.

Simply put, there is no room for defeat if Edson Barboza wants to continue to climb the lightweight ladder. He does have a tough test ahead because when he’s on his game, Jamie Varner is a very solid wrestler with underrated boxing skills, and of course he’s a former WEC lightweight champion who until late in the fight was beating current champion Benson Henderson back in 2010.

Varner has had his share of ups and downs since then, but he’s still a dangerous fighter that can be lethal when an opponent gives him an opening. Barboza needs to put Varner away, and do it impressively to not only keep his undefeated streak alive, but to continue building the hype around one of the best young stars MMA has going right now.

JASON ‘MAYHEM’ MILLER

If this was a numbered list of who needs a win the most to save their job at UFC 146, Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller would be near the top if not sitting squarely at No. 1.

The former outspoken host of MTV’s Bully Beatdown had an abysmal performance last December when he faced fellow Ultimate Fighter coach Michael Bisping in the TUF season 14 finale show. Following an early takedown that seem to bring the fight into his world, Miller faded faster than Los del Rio did after people got sick of doing the Macarena.

His performance was so bad it had UFC President Dana White contemplating releasing Miller from the promotion all together. Instead, Miller got another shot, but was placed on the FX prelims instead of a headline slot like his last fight.

Since that time, Miller hasn’t stayed quiet about his feelings towards his opponent C.B. Dollaway saying things like ‘he doesn’t deserve to be in the same cage’ and if he doesn’t beat him at UFC 146, he will retire.

Well, despite Miller already having his back against the wall heading into his fight, he’s somehow managed to put even more pressure on himself with those statements. If Miller loses to Dollaway will he really retire?

Nobody should bet the house on that happening, but if he doesn’t win, it would almost seem certain that Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller’s second run in the UFC could come to crashing and dramatic halt after only two fights.

C.B. DOLLAWAY

Dealing with all the tough talk of his opponent heading into UFC 146, former Ultimate Fighter runner up C.B. Dollaway still has to face the fact that he’s stepping into this fight on a two-fight losing streak and a third could bring his UFC career to an end.

Coming off of hip surgery, Dollaway has had his moments in both of his last two fights, almost putting Jared Hamman away before being finished in the second round, and in his previous fight he was able to take down former NCAA champion Mark Munoz before a critical mistake caused him to lose by KO in the first round.

While three losses in a row doesn’t carry the stigma in the UFC it once did, Dollaway has to know if he goes down to Miller at UFC 146, he may not return without picking up some wins in another organization first.

DAN HARDY

If Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller wasn’t at the top of the list when it comes to the UFC cut line, then Dan Hardy would take the top spot for sure.

The former UFC title contender has fallen on tough times of late losing four fights in a row, and despite being a favorite of UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta, he has to know five in a row spells certain doom. Much like Roy Nelson, the fighters that Hardy has lost to have all been at or near the top of the division over the last few years.

Georges St-Pierre, Carlos Condit, Anthony Johnson and Chris Lytle are the fighters that have beaten Hardy of late, but what matters when looking at the record is four losses in a row.

A rejuvenated Hardy has promised results after taking several months off to reflect and to retool his training, but anything less than a win over Duane ‘Bang’ Ludwig at UFC 146 will almost certainly end his night with a pink slip.

Follow @DamonMartin on Twitter or e-mail Damon Martin.
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