Almost every single time they step into the cage, a fighter faces a crossroads of his career.

A win and you’re headed down the right path. A loss and the trail can take a disastrous turn.

That said, though, UFC Fight Night 81 seems to have a disproportionately large number of fighters who face serious crossroad situations. In three cases, fighters who are facing each will sort out the direction they’ll both take, and in another bout, a single fighter faces an uncertain journey.

Tim Boetsch vs. Ed Herman

Boetsch has lost two in a row and three of his last four which puts him in grave danger that one more loss fatally affects his career. “The Barbarian” has fought an established list of characters, most notably in his last bout and that’s the biggest concern. While has Boetsch as a heavy favorite, it’s hard to forget that he was wiped out by aging hero Dan Henderson only 28 seconds into their matchup at Fight Night 68. Losing to Henderson is no sin in the grand scheme of things but at this point in their respective careers, it’s a serious setback for Boetsch. Herman is in a similar boat, having dropped three of his last five including a knockout loss to Derek Brunson at UFC 183. Both Boetsch and Herman have already been relegated to the status of Fight Night prelims. A loss leaves them very little room to further fall.

Matt Mitrione vs. Travis Browne

It might be a bit of stretch to say that either one of these guys would get outright released if they come up short. If they aren’t pink-slipped, then the biggest question for these big men becomes what do you do with them? The UFC rarely has to be focused on budget, but these are two high-priced fighters and a loss would really force them into becoming a well-paid gatekeeper for the division. Mitrione might already be considered a gatekeeper. He’s won three of his last four but all his wins have come against low-end opponents while he’s lost to Ben Rothwell, Brendan Schaub, and Roy Nelson. There would also be a public relations nightmare to cut Browne, who has been revealed as Ronda Rousey’s significant other. Browne had a memorable one-round war against Andrei Arlovski and is in a slightly better spot since he’s beaten Schaub, Josh Barnett, and Alistair Overeem.

Anthony Pettis vs. Eddie Alvarez

Arguably, Alvarez shouldn’t have got the nod over Gilbert Melendez but he took a split-decision verdict anyway. The issue for Alvarez is that he really isn’t a UFC guy as he’s spent the vast majority of his time in Bellator, therefore, there’s little in the way of loyalty. A loss to Pettis undoubtedly would put Alvarez’s Zuffa contract in peril. Pettis is nowhere close to a risking release, but what becomes of the former champ should he fall to Alvarez? That kind of loss would put him way down the pecking order and he’d be looking at a hard climb back up in a stacked division.

Daron Cruickshank

The lone single on this list is in by far the most in danger of getting the boot if he comes up short against Paul Felder. Cruickshank can certainly cut a highlight reel as evidenced during wins over Henry Martinez, Mike Rio, and Erik Koch. But he’s proven to be very one-dimensional as well and has shown no signs of improvement in his ground game while submitting to both Beneil Dariush and James Krause. There are a lot of things to like about Cruickshank but a defeat here would indicate that it might be time to refresh his game plan at a lower level.

About The Author

Scott Zerr
Staff Writer

Scott joins The MMA Corner having spent the last 14 years in mixed martial arts as Director of Media & Fighter Relations for the Maximum Fighting Championship. He will provide The MMA Corner with insight on breaking news in the sport, plus an insider's perspective on business developments, matchmaking, fighter signings, and much more. In addition to his longtime work in MMA, Scott was a sports reporter before moving into media relations and marketing. After growing up and working in Edmonton, Alberta, Scott has since moved to Bakersfield, California to be with his wife Christina (an avid fight fan, thank goodness) and kids.