UFC 160 could be the most pivotal pay-per-view thus far in 2013. The card is littered with a number of bouts that hold title implications, including a heavyweight tilt between Junior dos Santos and Mark Hunt and a lightweight battle between T.J. Grant and Gray Maynard.

Maynard and dos Santos find themselves in similar situations at UFC 160. The two men undoubtedly share the distinction of having the most to lose coming into the show.

Just a few months ago, dos Santos was viewed as an unstoppable force, capable of mass destruction with his soul-stealing punching power. While dos Santos’ strengths are still on par with the top fighters in the division, his stock has plummeted following his loss to Cain Velasquez at UFC 155. Dos Santos came into their rematch on the heels of dominating performances against Frank Mir and Velasquez. The win over Velasquez came on just a single punch in only 64 seconds and resulted in a championship reign for the Brazilian.

However, Velasquez absolutely destroyed dos Santos over the course of five rounds in the rematch. Dos Santos saw not only his undefeated record go out the door, but his aura of invincibility eroded as well.

Now, dos Santos finds himself in a must-win situation against Hunt at UFC 160. While there’s shame in losing to Velasquez, there will be cause for concern if dos Santos loses to Hunt at UFC 160. It would be two losses in a row for the former champion, and it would knock dos Santos out of the title picture. With more depth being added to the division, dos Santos can ill afford to drop two fights in a row. That’s especially true when the second guy is Hunt, who despite the current hot streak he’s enjoying still sports a 9-7 record in MMA.

Dos Santos’ need for a win will only become more crucial if Velasquez defends his title against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in UFC 160’s main event. If dos Santos hopes to ever get a rematch against Velasquez, he will need to not only win, but win impressively. Against one of the most durable fighters in MMA history, that’s easier said than done.

Looking impressive is something lightweight title challenger Gray “The Bully” Maynard will need to do as well.

Maynard took part in one of the best rivalries in UFC history with his instant classics against Frankie Edgar for the UFC lightweight title. Yet, in their second meeting and first title bout, Maynard failed to win despite one of the most dominant rounds in MMA history. Then he was TKO’d in the rubber match.

Maynard also looked awful against Clay Guida in his most recent fight. Although most of the blame goes to Guida for that dismal fight, Maynard still looked like the same fighter who sought to load up on one knockout punch rather than stringing together combinations.

Maynard needs an impressive victory to truly validate his status as a credible title challenger. Benson Henderson is the current champion and also owns two victories over Edgar—the same Edgar who defeated Maynard. Also working against Maynard is the fact that his opponent, Grant, is a relative unknown to most MMA fans. Although Grant has strung together four straight victories, he doesn’t find his name coming up in the discussions of many MMA fans. If Maynard were to lose to a relative unknown, no matter how credible that fighter’s record may be, he would see his stock fall quite a bit.

Maynard is undoubtedly one of the most talented fighters at 155 pounds, but he has a history of looking unimpressive despite the unanimous decision victories. His grinding, top-control wrestling game will win him a lot of fights, but it’s not going to win him any fans, especially the casual ones. Maynard is the favorite to win against Grant, and anything less than a dominant showing will keep him in the same place he’s been stuck. He’ll be considered to be a good fighter, but not good enough to take the title.

With a shot at gold within reach, dos Santos and Maynard cannot afford anything shy of their best performances come Saturday night.

Photo: Junior dos Santos (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.