Achieving success in any professional sport can be a difficult task. Mixed martial arts is certainly no exception. Having the courage and desire to want to be locked in a cage and engage in hand-to-hand combat with another human being is a difficult concept for many people to grasp. However, watching those who have the desire to do so can be fascinating. This is especially true when a fighter is able to achieve a level of excellence that propels them stardom. While some fighters are able to shine when the lights are brightest, others find themselves folding under the pressure.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship or UFC as it's often referred to by MMA fans is widely considered the premier organization in the world of mixed martial arts. For many fighters, simply making it to the UFC is rightfully considered a major accomplishment. While becoming a part of the UFC roster is a difficult task, maintaining your spot among MMA's elite can even more daunting. Generally speaking, losing three consecutive fights will often mark the end of a fighters UFC run. However, there have been exceptions to this rule.Moreover, there have also been instances of fighters being let go for reasons other than their in-cage performances. With that in mind, let us take a look at some big name fighters who may be on the hot seat heading into 2017. This list features many former title holders, as well as title challengers, there are more than a few name that may surprise you.
15 Jon Jones
It's quite possible that Jon Jones is the greatest mixed martial artist on the planet right now. He's beaten some of the biggest names in the history of the UFC, with relative ease. In fact, he is the only man to have defeated current UFC light-heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier. While his credentials as a fighter are beyond question, it's his actions outside of the cage that should be cause for concern. On April 27, 2015, Jones was involved in a hit and run incident that resulted in a lengthy suspension from the UFC. This came only a few months after Jones admitted to cocaine use, an action which resulted in a $25,000 fine. He also received another fine for his infamous pre-fight scrap with rival Daniel Cormier at a press conference. Jones is currently serving another suspension for taking a banned substance. As good as Jones is, you have to wonder how many more mishaps the UFC will allow before cutting ties.
14 Johny Hendricks
When Georges St-Pierre announced he was taking time off from fighting. Hendricks looked poised to become the next big thing in the UFC welterweight division. He would go on to capture the vacant welterweight title in a fight against Robbie Lawler. However, Hendricks was unable to defend his championship when he fought Lawler for the 2nd time. The former Divison I wrestler has had difficulty with weight cuts and has failed to make weight for his fights on multiple occasions. He's currently riding a 3 fight losing streak and doesn't look like the same fighter that took Georges St-Pierre to the limit back in 2013. Another loss in the octagon could mark the end of the former champions run in the UFC.
13 B.J. Penn
The Hawaiian native has already secured his spot among the all-time greats in the sport. The Prodigy has held UFC titles in two different weight classes and holds victories over legends like Matt Hughes and Renzo Gracie. Unfortunately, his recent return from retirement resulted in a one-sided beating at the hands of rising star Yair Rodriguez. This loss was the 4th in a row for the UFC Hall of Famer. In fact, Penn hasn't won a fight in the octagon since November of 2010. Penn remains a fan favorite who is known for his never say die attitude. However, his last three fights were all one-sided losses, two of which resulted in TKO's. Penn is a warrior and he may wish to continue his career in the sport that made him a legend. However, it could come to a point where the UFC will need to step in and protect Penn from himself.
12 Anthony Pettis
The former WEC and UFC lightweight champion, once one of the most feared competitors in his division, has fallen on hard times recently. After three consecutive losses at lightweight, Pettis decided to try his luck at featherweight. The fighter known as Showtime got the win in his debut at featherweight. However, he failed to make weight for his next matchup against Max Halloway. By missing weight, Pettis cost himself a chance at the interim title. Despite being overweight and losing a shot at the title, Pettis still went on to fight Halloway and lost the bout via unanimous decision. Pettis has now lost 4 of his last 5 fights. He is still just 30 years of age and has time to get things turned around. However, a couple more losses could have UFC brass discussing his future with the company.
11 Andrei Arlovski
The former UFC heavyweight champion now has an impressive 40 professional MMA fights under his belt. The massive Russian has wins over heavyweight greats such as Frank Mir, Tim Sylvia, and Fabricio Werdum. He will no doubt one day be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. However, it appears father time may have caught up with the Arlovski, who has been finished in his last 4 fights. His most recent fight resulting in a devastating first round TKO loss to Francis Ngannou. However, we've seen Arlovski regain his form after extended losing streaks in the past. At 38 years of age does the pit bull still have another run in him or have we already seen the best he has to offer? Time will tell.
10 CM Punk
CM Punk will no doubt go down as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of his era. However, his career as a mixed martial artist got off to a bit of a rough start. Despite months of hype Punk was easily defeated by up and coming prospect, Mickey Gall. Punk looked out of place against the much younger and more experienced Gall. Just two years shy of his 40th birthday, the former WWE champion is attempting to start his career at an age when many begin to consider retirement. There are rumors that he will be given another opportunity to prove himself in the octagon. However, another one-sided loss would likely diminish any interest fans have in seeing Punk continue in the UFC.
9 Sage Northcutt
The 2o years old from Katy Texas clearly has shown some potential during his UFC tenure. His combination of boyish good looks and a chiseled physique make him one of the company's most marketable young fighters. However, some of his recent fights, like the last one with Mickey Gall, for example, have exposed some serious holes in his ground game. It may lead some to wonder if Northcutt, who has lost 2 of his last 3, may have been called up to the big show a little too early. If the young prospect loses another fight or two, the UFC may decide he needs more time to develop outside the organization. If this scenario does play out, it's still very likely we'll see the karate specialist back in the UFC sooner rather than later.
8 Bec Rawlings
Rawlings was first introduced to a national television audience during her stint on the Ultimate Fighter reality show. The Australian native can be easily identified by her often outlandish hair style, tattooed physique, and facial piercings. Rawlings was on the receiving end of highlight reel knockout kick at the hands of Paige Van Zant. She was unable to make weight prior to her next scheduled bout with Tecia Torres, a fight she would go to lose via unanimous decision, her second loss in a row. Durning the bout with Torres, Rawling's gave the crowd (who was booing what they perceived as a lack of action )the middle finger. An act which caused the telecast to be briefly interrupted, in an attempt to censor the gesture. This action probably wasn't appreciated by the UFC executives. If Rawling goes on to suffer her 3rd consecutive loss, don't be surprised if she gets the ax.
7 Hector Lombard
The former Bellator standout hasn't been able to put it all together since debuting in the UFC back in 2012. He would serve a one-year suspension, which was accompanied by a hefty fine, for testing positive for anabolic steroids. This changed what would have been his 3rd consecutive win in the UFC, against Josh Burkman, to a no contest. When he returned from his suspension in 2016, he lost via TKO to Neil Magny, before being knocked out by an ageing Dan Henderson in the following bout. The 39-year-old now finds himself scheduled to face the previously listed Johnny Hendrix, in what could be considered a loser leaves town type of match. Even if the former judo champion is able to get past Hendrix, you still have to wonder how many fights the 39-year-old Lombard has left in the UFC.
6 Valerie Létourneau
The Canadian Flyweight is probably best known for going the distance with current UFC champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Letourneau, like many others on the list, finds herself in the unenviable position of having lost three consecutive fights. She can be given a pass for losing to the champion Jedrzejzyk, and to a lesser extent for her loss against Flyweight standout Joanne Calderwood.However, it's her most recent defeat at the hands of the virtually unknown and unranked newcomer Viviane Pereira that really stands out. To make matters worse the loss took place in Letourneau's hometown of Toronto. Losing in your hometown to a UFC rookie must have been tough. To say the former title contenders next fight is a "must win", would be an understatement.
5 Travis Browne
Travis Browne has primarily been in the headlines recently defending his girlfriend Rhonda Rousey and their coach Edmond Tarverdyan, following Rousey's defeat at the hands of Amanda Nunes. However, Browne hasn't had a great deal of success recently either under Tarverdyan. The native of Oahu, Hawaii has lost 3 of his last 4 fights, with his only win in that span, coming aginst Matt Mitrione, being somewhat controversial due to an eye poke. In Browne's defense, he has faced two of the top heavyweights in Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum. However, in an organization as competitive as the UFC suffering consecutive losses is never a good thing, regardless of the opponents. Is it time for Browne and Rousey to ditch Tarverdyan for a fresh start in 2017?
4 Jake Ellenberger
The former NCAA wrestler started out wreaking havoc on the UFC welterweight division. After losing his debut, a split decision loss against Carlos Condit, Ellenberger would go on to win 6 straight fights. He was widely viewed by MMA enthusiasts as a future title contender. Sadly, after his winning streak was broken by Martin Kampmann in 2012, Ellenberger was never able to recapture the momentum. He was able to pull off consecutive victories over Jay Hieron and Nate Marquart, following the Kampmann loss. However, he would go on to lose 6 of his next 8 fights, including his most recent loss, last December to Jorge Masvidal. Instead of fighting for the welterweight title, Ellenberger finds himself fighting for his job.
3 Ross Pearson
A winner of The Ultimate Fighter reality series, Pearson has been a part of the UFC roster since 2oo9. He would eventually go on to coach a season the Ultimate Fighter in 2012. Though the rugged Englishmen has never been in serious title contention, he can usually be relied upon to have a pretty entertaining fight. That being said, it's starting to look like all those years in the octagon may have finally caught up with the brawler from Sunderland. His split decision loss to Stevie Ray in November of 2016, would be his 4th loss of the calendar year. The streak marks Pearson's worst stretch since turning pro back in 2004. He desperately needs a win this year, in order to get back on the right track.
2 Takanori Gomi
Longtime MMA fans will likely remember Gomi from his days fighting in the Japanese based MMA organization known as Pride. The Fireball Kid started fighting professionally all the way back in 1998. He was able to win his first 14 fights as a pro. He also went 13-1-1 during his time with Pride in the mid-2000's. Truthfully, Gomi probably doesn't get enough credit for being one of the all-time great lightweight fighters in his prime. This is probably largely due to his recent struggles in the UFC where he's compiled a lackluster record that consists of 4 wins and 7 loses. If he suffers another setback in his next UFC bout that would make it four consecutive losses in a row for the Pride legend.However, it would be great to see the 38-year-old veteran pick up a win and retire on his own terms.
1 Ronda Rousey
Prior to her loss to Holly Holm back in November of 2015, the thought of Rousey attaining her goal of retiring undefeated didn't seem so far-fetched. She was dominating every woman she faced finishing many of them in the early portion of the very first round. However, after Holly Holm's kick heard round the world, Rousey's fortune's changed a bit. She would go on to lose a second consecutive fight to current champion Amanda Nunes. Nunes scored a TKO victory over Rousey just 48 seconds into the first round. Despite the loss, the former Olympic bronze medalist still reportedly took home 3 million dollars. Rousey has hinted at retirement; however, if Ronda were to suffer a third consecutive loss this year, would she still garner enough interest from fans to warrant the UFC paying such a hefty price tag to get her in the Octagon? It will be an interesting story to follow as the year unfolds.