At 34 years old, and with a 1-3 mark in the infamous eight-sided cage, there’s no doubt Mitchell’s back is against the wall. He’s slick on the ground but leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to having a polished skill-set. If he loses to Yan Cabral, who certainly has the ground game to contend with Mitchell’s, the California native will almost certainly be looking at a pink-slip on Sunday morning. The flyweight division needs depth but it will be hard to justify Santos’ spot on the roster if he comes up short in a third straight showdown. While opponent Chris Cariaso is in a similar position, he can at least defer to some success in the UFC/WEC when it comes to avoiding the axe. However, Santos hasn’t won in the Octagon yet, relying on regional success to secure a shot on the sport’s biggest stage. If Santos can put together a Fight of the Night contender with Cariaso, he could get one more crack. Otherwise, expect him to be fighting back in Brazil come 2014 but not as a member of the UFC. After back-to-back losses and a recent suspension for PED use, Palhares can’t afford to come up short against Mike Pierce. Factor in the fight will also mark his 170 pound debut, and expectations are even higher for the stocky submission-specialist so he’ll be under an even MORE intense microscope than might be the case if he was still competing as an undersized middleweight. Moving to welterweight was his way of earning another link on his leash but it’s still a short one in general. The only man to beat Jon Jones (insert face palm), Hamill put together a plodding decision win over Roger Hollett last September. It was his first bout in a year after announcing his retirement and could very well serve as his final instance of success in the Octagon with Thiago Silva on the horizon. Hamill is 37 years old, so his days are numbered to begin with, and there has been plenty of talk about his dwindling passion for preparation; that Hamill fights because he has to, not because he wants to. The only way Hamill doesn’t get cut if he loses to Silva is if he beats his employers to the punch and decides to hang his gloves up for good. Silva bought himself a little faith by blasting Rafael Cavalcante into orbit earlier this year. However, the fantastic finish of “Feijao” doesn’t erase the quartet of clashes leading up to the effort. After two wins, Silva failed drug tests (steroids, marijuana) and he saw each result changed to a “No Contest”, while he was beaten convincingly in his other two tilts. Though the stumbles came against excellent opposition, it’s foolish to think he’s endeared himself to the point he can afford a 1-3 mark in four official fights on top of getting popped twice for banned substances.
Stakes are already high entering any fight, especially when it comes to action inside the Octagon. In addition to a solid chunk of cash being up for grabs, there are other factors to consider as well in terms of the need to avoid injury and the impact a performance might have when it comes to continued employment in the organization. When it comes to the latter, there are definitely more than a few fighters set for
who are in a precarious position where victory may very well be the only way to avoid release. (Photos by USA Today Sports Images) UFC Fight Night 29