Despite being dominated by T.J. Dillashaw in May, Renan Barao will have a chance to reclaim the bantamweight championship at UFC 177 on Saturday.
With Dominick Cruz on the comeback trail, it is a rematch that could determine which fighter defends the 135-pound belt against the former champion looking to reclaim his crown. Being two of the very best bantamweights in the world, Dillashaw and Barao both have long UFC careers ahead of them regardless of the outcome this weekend.
However, many UFC 177 competitors aren't in such good positions. A handful could be battling to simply remain with the world's top MMA promotion. Here are the individuals who are sitting on hot seats heading into Saturday's event in Sacramento, California.
Considering she's been matched up with an opponent who is 2-0 inside the Octagon, Shayna Baszler probably isn't going to be cut with a loss to Bethe Correia. However, she still has to fight like she's in jeopardy following an unsuccessful appearance on The Ultimate Fighter 18.
Usually, TUF contestants who don't reach the finals have to win in their UFC debuts to maintain a spot on the promotion's roster. One of the more popular fighters in the women's bantamweight class, Baszler might be exempt from that rule, though.
Just noticed this: You can see a sad Shayna Baszler wandering around in the GIF of Correia taunting the 4 horsewomen http://t.co/D3t7QCNvfB— CagePotato.com (@cagepotatomma) May 7, 2014
More than a matchup designed to test Baszler's ability to compete at the highest level, this is a fight booked because Correia intelligently started a rivalry with The Four Horsewomen, a group led by champion Ronda Rousey. Should Baszler lose to the Brazilian, it seems likely she'll get one additional opportunity to win inside the Octagon.
Had Yancy Medeiros not failed a drug test due to marijuana being in his system, he wouldn't be on a losing streak right now. However, that victory over Yves Edwards was overturned, and the Hawaiian has now officially lost two in a row.
Opposite an accomplished opponent, Medeiros might still have some room for error on Saturday. Instead, he's matched up with a UFC newcomer, Damon Jackson, who replaced an injured Justin Edwards on the UFC 177 fight card.
The UFC has signed @legacyfighting featherweight champion Damon Jackson to fill in on 9 days' notice against Yancy Medeiros at UFC 177.
— Patrick Wyman (@Patrick_Wyman) August 22, 2014
At 27 years old, Medeiros could have a bright UFC future ahead of him. However, it could depend on a win over Jackson this weekend.
Ending his Strikeforce career with a win over Robbie Lawler, Lorenz Larkin looked like a fighter who could be a force in the UFC middleweight division. Instead, The Monsoon has lost in three of his first four UFC appearances.
With back-to-back losses to Brad Tavares and Costas Philippou, Larkin is now in a perilous position. It would have seemed Larkin should have taken a big step down in competition, but he's matched up with Derek Brunson, who has the wrestling to hand Larkin a third consecutive loss.
Considering the tough stylistic matchup he's drawn, Larkin might be forgiven for another loss in this situation. However, he'll need to show the UFC brass something in order to stick around should he come up short again.
Ruan Potts and Anthony Hamilton
After losing in their UFC debuts, Ruan Potts and Anthony Hamilton both need victories on Saturday.
Facing Soa Palelei in May, Potts had a rough introduction to the heavyweight division. Meanwhile, Hamilton met fellow UFC newcomer Oleksiy Oliynyk and was submitted in the opening round.
A 0-2 record to start a UFC career almost always results in a fighter being released. An exception could be made in the shallow heavyweight division, but the loser of this matchup will need to give the UFC a reason to keep him.
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