Significance is a subjective term, especially when it comes to fighting. Every bout is significant to a fighter, and arguably even more so to those few fighters who have a chance to compete inside the UFC. But the ability to measure the past in comparison with the present and project potential outcomes in the future will inevitably rank some fights and fighters as being more significant than others, while also changing what our expectation of significance is.

Two fighters who were once champions in their own right in the not-so-distant past and ranked in the top 10 as middleweights will find themselves standing on opposite sides of the cage on Oct. 19 at UFC 166. Nate Marquardt and Hector Lombard, both well-known and respected fighters, could very well be competing in the most significant fight of their careers. Significant not because of title shots, rankings or future stardom, but significant for reasons much closer to earth.

Marquardt, the former two-division (Strikeforce welterweight and Pancrase middleweight) champion and UFC middleweight title challenger, will not only be competing on the preliminary card on Fox Sport 1 instead of the main card of the pay-per-view, but is not even in the marquee bout on the free televised portion of the event. Despite being a longtime perennial contender in the middleweight division and former Strikeforce champion, he has seen his success and stock decrease in his most recent two outings. While he undoubtedly has earned his way back into the good graces of UFC President Dana White since he was cut in January of 2012, he is likely aware he could find himself cut again if he doesn’t perform come fight night. Considering free agency didn’t work out very well the last time, one can only assume the pressure is increased exponentially.

Meanwhile, Lombard, the former Bellator middleweight champion, has found himself in a similar position, but in some ways he has been fighting for his job in the UFC since day one. Aside from his devastating knockout over recently exiled leg-lock expert Rousimar Palhares, he has failed overall to live up to the hype with which he entered the Octagon, coming up short in split decision losses to Tim Boetsch and Yushin Okami. It is possible the pressure he finds himself in now is nothing new, but his lack of  consistency and tenure with the UFC is an issue his opponent Marquardt does not have.

It could be argued that this bout’s placement on the card is not indicative of where these fighters stand in the the eyes of their employer, but is more so a complement to the depth of the card as a whole. This could also prove to be the most entertaining and shocking fight of the evening. Regardless of those rationales, there is not one scenario imaginable where either of these men could find themselves taking the spots of Robbie Lawler or Matt Brown at No. 9 and 10 respectively in the Official UFC Rankings, win or lose.

Whatever the benefits and accolades of the outcome are, it is undoubtable that both of these fighters will have more important things motivating them to perform, as there is no job security in the fight game and your window of opportunity for success and, more importantly, an income is very short compared to your life as a whole. Marquardt found success, if but for a moment, as a welterweight and Lombard will look to do the same for the first time in the same division. But even with a win, will that success continue, or will the winner find himself in the same position six months from now against the likes of Mike Pierce or Erick Silva?

Fans and commentators are easily drawn into weighing significance by comparison to other fights and fighters in the division, and this in turn is their measure for determining if a fight is even worth watching. However, if the significance of this fight in the division does not matter to either competitor, and the thought of seeing two former champions and headliners battling for their livelihoods on free cable television is not reason enough to watch, then those people should probably reevaluate why they began watching this sport in the first place, or at the very least reevaluate their definition of significant.

Photo: Nate Marquardt (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)