As the UFC has evolved, it has become a common business practice for fighters to be released after losing three consecutive fights. Of course, there have been exceptions ranging from Tito Ortiz to Leonard Garcia. If the UFC sees a value in keeping a fighter around, it seems to allow them a little bit of leeway to try to figure things out. It makes sense from a business perspective, but the inconsistency in who gets cut and who stays creates such an uneasy feeling among fighters that they generally alter their fighting styles in a way to where their skill set barely resembles the one that got them to the UFC in the first place.

Take, for example, Brendan Schaub. Schaub, who fights Matt Mitrione at UFC 165 on Saturday night, made a name for himself on The Ultimate Fighter 10 by displaying tremendous strength and knockout ability. Following his time on the reality show, he went on to win four straight fights, including notable victories over Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. After his signature win over Cro Cop, Schaub’s susceptible chin caught up with him and he suffered consecutive knockout losses to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Ben Rothwell. The buzz around the MMA community was that Schaub was one loss away from looking for another organization to fight for.

UFC 157 featured a fight between Schaub and another guy who likes to stand and trade, Lavar Johnson. Knowing his UFC career was on the line, Schaub went with a completely different game plan than his previous fights and took Johnson down at every possible opportunity. UFC President Dana White has said time and time again that he doesn’t care much for guys who get into the Octagon and just look for a grappling match. That’s exactly what Schaub did, however, and he won the fight. His UFC career continues because of that win. Should Schaub have entered into a slugfest with Johnson and lost, it would have been more exciting for the fans, but it would also have most likely led to Schaub’s release. Which route are the fighters supposed to take?

Although White doesn’t endorse a 15-minute fight on the ground, there must be praise given to somebody who identifies a weakness in his opponent and attacks that weakness to secure a win. Jon Fitch was one of the best at doing this, but he was cut without any consecutive losing streak to speak of. In fact, Fitch’s UFC record when he was cut was 14-3-1, with those three losses coming against Georges St-Pierre, Johny Hendricks and Demian Maia, certainly not three guys who anybody would be expected to walk over.

What is the expectation of a fighter on the hot seat? When somebody does what Schaub did and just lays on his opponent for the duration of a fight to save their job, there is a bit of a rolling of the eyes from the UFC brass. If Schaub puts on the same type of lay-and-pray performance against Mitrione, I don’t expect him to get cut, but I do believe it’ll set White off and he’ll have some choice words for Schaub and anybody else who believes they can just smother their opponent for a decision victory.

True, a win is a win, and grappling is as much a part of MMA as throwing punches. There is a huge difference, however, between smothering somebody and using your ground skills to advance your position towards a submission. If there are two things that piss off White, it’s laying on your opponent and holding them against the cage. If you were Schaub, what would you do against Mitrione on Saturday night? “Meathead” isn’t somebody who is known for being able to stop a takedown. If I’m in Schaub’s camp, I’m setting up the game plan to mirror what was done to Lavar Johnson. If that’s how the fight goes, then UFC matchmakers will have to throw a more balanced fighter at Schaub to reduce the chance of him fighting in a way that they feel is boring to the fans.

That goes for other UFC fighters in the same situation. UFC matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby will have to avoid pitting one-dimensional fighters against those on the bubble to avoid a Schaub/Johnson type of fight. Granted, Silva and Shelby do a tremendous job with their matchmaking, but it’s just another avenue they are going to have to explore as we see more and more fighters playing it safe.

While it can be boring, we can’t fault somebody for doing what it takes to win a fight. That holds especially true to those who are on the brink of being booted from the UFC. These men and women have families, just like you and I. They are stepping into the Octagon unlike you and I, and if their best chance of winning is holding onto an opponent until the ref stands them up, then how can we fault them? Is it not the job of the other MMA fighter to be able to avoid being put in their back?

Photo: Brendan Schaub (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Joe Chacon
Staff Writer

Joe Chacon is a Southern California writer that has also spent time as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, as well as a Staff Writer for Operation Sports. Joe has a passion for the sport of MMA, as well as most other sports.