1 fighter on the chopping block at UFC 301

Who stands the biggest risk of being released with a loss at UFC 301 on Saturday, May 4.
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After the massive spectacle that was UFC 300, the UFC returns to PPV for UFC 301. In the main event of what can be generously called an elevated Fight Night card, Alexandre Pantoja defends his flyweight title against Australian dark horse Steve Erceg. Meanwhile, former featherweight champion and Hall of Famer Jose Also returns to the Octagon after 21 months away against Jonathan Martinez, who has been hot as of late with six straight wins.

The entire card carries an "us against the world" theme, with every fight pitting a Brazilian against a foreigner before a crowd that has been known at various points to be very rowdy. One such foreigner in particular needs to overcome this psychological factor and deliver a monstrous performance to save his job.

Ihor Potieria is one of UFC 301's biggest underdogs. He is someone who has had a rather middling career in the Octagon. Coming to the UFC after a finish at Dana White's Contender Series, he did not have the best UFC debuts. Against Nicolae Negumereanu at UFC 277, he suffered a second-round TKO defeat.

His next fight can be considered a sort of career highlight, as he sent former light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua to retirement with a first-round TKO at UFC 283 in hostile territory. But any notions that Potieria would use this as a springboard to bigger things ahead were immediately dashed in his next two fights - TKO losses to Carlos Ulberg and Rodolfo Bellato.

After the second of those defeats, Potieria attempted to drop to middleweight, taking on the debuting Robert Bryczek at UFC Vegas 86. He missed weight by 1.5 pounds over the maximum, but took a unanimous decision win anyway.

Michel Pereira represents Ihor Potieria's biggest test yet

This Saturday, Potieria faces the most formidable opponent of his career: Michel Pereira, once again in enemy territory. Rua may have been a former champion, but he was past his prime when they met. Pereira, however, is just entering his prime.

This, by the way, is not Pereira's first time fighting at middleweight. He fought there twice in 2018, finishing Hae-jun Yang only to be finished himself by future UFC signee Dusko Todorovic.

But when he entered the UFC in 2019, he committed to welterweight and immediately impressed, knocking our Danny Roberts with a flying knee. He would not be so lucky the next two times around, missing weight and dropping a decision to Tristan Connelly, then being disqualified for kneeing a downed Diego Sanchez.

But since then it has been mostly smooth sailing. Pereira is entering the event on a seven win-streak, including the last two at 185 - a move he had to make for the rest of his career after he missed weight by three pounds before his fight against Stephen Thompson at UFC 291, which was cancelled after Thompson refused to do it at catchweight.

UFC 301 marks Pereira's first fight in Brazil in almost six years. Since 2018, he has been traveling the world, competing in Japan, South Korea, Serbia, the United States, and Canada. Against Potieria, he will look to successfully reconnect with his compatriots by delivering another highlight-reel performance.

Potieria, meanwhile, will want nothing more than to spoil that. He also knows that another devastating loss, especially at his new weight class and on a very prominent spot, may spell the end of him as a UFC fighter; so expect him to give it his all and prove that he belongs.


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