When the UFC made headlines by releasing a massive amount of fighters earlier this year, including successful Octagon veterans like Jon Fitch and Jacob Volkmann, company president Dana White made it clear that more blood was going to be spilled over the course of 2013. From there, the UFC started cutting fighters far more frequently than it had in the past. With the addition of several Strikeforce fighters in the last year, the promotion no longer has the roster space to hold on to fighters after multiple losses or poor performances, and the margin of error has become even smaller for fighters on the verge of being cut.

A few years ago, a fighter was able to lose a few fights and hold on to their job as long as they remained exciting. Dan Hardy and Matt Brown overcame rough stretches in their Octagon careers to come back from the brink of getting released to earning huge victories, and both fighters are in the middle of a career resurgence because the promotion gave them a chance to regain their stride. Brown in particular has become a dark-horse contender in the welterweight division in the midst of his five-fight winning streak, in which he has scored wins over the likes of Mike Swick and Jordan Mein. But prior to his current streak, Brown was a middling 5-5 inside the Octagon and had suffered a terrible 2010 where he was submitted in three straight fights. It wouldn’t have been surprising to see the promotion cut “The Immortal” after an unimpressive 1-4 streak, but Brown was given one last opportunity and made it count.

Due to the influx of fighters on the UFC roster, it’s almost impossible for the promotion to give guys the leeway that the promotion showed Brown, and the UFC has been getting a bit more comfortable releasing fighters as of late. Even if you look past the release of Fitch, which still seems questionable even following the former welterweight contender’s loss at a World Series of Fighting event a few weeks ago, the promotion has let several fighters go that had fans scratching their heads. Popular fighters like Paul Sass, Terry Etim and Che Mills have all been given the axe over the last year, and the most recent group of UFC cuts features another fighter that may have deserved another opportunity inside the Octagon.

The most recent group of UFC cuts consisted of Karlos Vemola, Roger Hollett, Leandro Silva, Nah-Shon Burrell, Eddie Mendez and Anthony Smith, but of all of these fighters, only Burrell should be surprised he was let go by the organization. Vemola and Hollett had both been unimpressive in their UFC careers, and Silva, Mendez and Smith all made their Octagon debuts at UFC on Fuel 10 earlier this month and all were unable to produce any offense in the respective bouts. The latter three fighters probably deserved another chance to showcase their skills, but all of them were soundly defeated in their only UFC bout.

On the other hand, Burrell was a solid 1-1 inside the Octagon and his loss to Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson at UFC 160 came in a decent outing against a fighter that was once touted as a top prospect at 170 pounds. To make matters worse, Burrell took the fight against Thompson on short notice when “Wonderboy’s” original opponent, Amir Sadollah, went down with an injury. Sure, Burrell’s fight wasn’t exactly a “Fight of the Night” candidate, but considering that “The Rock N Rolla” took a tough bout on short notice, it seems like the UFC jumped the gun on Burrell’s release. At just 23 years old, Burrell still has a lot of time to grow as a mixed martial artist.

No cut the UFC has made in the past year has been indefensible, but the day may come soon where the UFC makes a cut that comes back to bite them, and it will happen because the promotion is too quick to release younger fighters. Top contenders like Alexander Gustafsson, Johny Hendricks and Jake Ellenberger all suffered losses early in their careers, but they were given the chance to bounce back and they all went on to reach the top tiers of the sport.

It’s understandable that the UFC can’t let fighters hang around on its roster like it used to, but it would be nice if the promotion gave some of these younger fighters a bit more time in the Octagon to develop. Everyone from Dana White to Joe Rogan has spoken numerous times about how “Octagon jitters” can affect a fighter’s debut in the UFC, and it seems a bit unfair to not allow fighters to try to improve as long as they’re somewhat competitive in their debut.

No matter how well the UFC does in scouting its fighters, if it keeps releasing guys after just a single loss inside the Octagon, eventually one of the smaller promotions will steal a future champion from the UFC roster. Sure, Dana White will brush the fighter off by saying he couldn’t cut it in the UFC, but the argument isn’t going to hold as much weight if the fighter was released after a single loss early in their career.

For fighters like Burrell, who had minimal success in the Octagon before getting the axe, or even Mendez, who barely got a chance to showcase his skills before being let go, the opportunity is now there for them to make the UFC regret the day they let them go. The easier road may be to go on a winning streak and try to earn their way back inside the Octagon, but even in their return they’ll likely be viewed as a mid-tier fighter. If they take the less popular road and join a Bellator tournament or rise through the ranks in the World Series of Fighting, they can not only increase their stock as fighters, but they can also help future newcomers UFC fighters avoid their same fate.

Michael Chandler and Ben Askren have risen to the top of the sport (and rankings) without the benefit of the UFC hype machine, and eventually other fighters are going to follow in their footsteps. At the rate the UFC is releasing fighters, it’s only a matter of time before the UFC lets a future champion or title contender walk away. If I’m Bellator or WSOF, I can’t wait for the day the UFC finally makes that mistake.

Photo: Nah-Shon Burrell (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.