It's inevitable that the sport of MMA will lose high profiled fighters to injuries, old age, depleted skills, or a combination of all three each year. However, 2010 could mark the final year for some of our most beloved MMA fighters. Most of these fighters listed below have already fallen off, whereas some are only a loss away from losing the little bit of drawing power they still have. So below we list those fighters that we'll need to enjoy watching in 2010, because this could very well be the final year in which we get to see them compete.
-Randy Couture: The ageless one continues to defy logic by competing very well against guys that he's old enough to be their father. However, at 46 years old and now fighting in a division that's full of guys that can turn off the lights quicker than a infant under anesthesia. He'll be facing Mark Coleman at UFC 109 in early February. A fight in which many think should easily win, thus prolonging his career just a little. However, when it comes time to face the big dawgs of the division. We've seen him dropped with shots lately that he would have eaten like cotton candy just a couple of years ago. A devastating loss like the ones he suffered against Chuck Liddell could very well lower the curtains on a fabulous career.
Check out the rest after the jump.
-Wanderlei Silva: The Ax Murderer has fallen on hard times as of late as he's 1-5 in his last 6 while being knocked out in 3 of those bouts dating back to 2006. He only fought once in 2009 losing a close decision to borderline top ten LHW Rich Franklin. The UFC looks to revive his career with a move down to the middleweight division where he'll face Michael Bisping at UFC 110. Silva had trouble making the 195 catch weight bout against Franklin from what I'm told, and I wonder how this cut down to 185 will go. It could really affect his performance against someone that throws punches/kicks at a high work rate like Bisping. Silva's cardio problems have reared their head at times, and could be a factor in this fight as well. It's almost a must win fight, in that if Silva can't beat Bisping he really has no shot at competing for the UFC middleweight crown.
-Chuck Liddell: Truth be told, Liddell's KO loss at the hands of Shogun Rua should have been his last fight. However, his contract(1 fight left) and his persistence to fight one more time have won and he'll extend his career by coaching opposite long time nemesis Tito Ortiz on TUF 11. They'll fight after the show in a fight that's winnable for Liddell and it would be a good note to leave on. A loss to Ortiz would definitely bring the curtains down on a great career.
-Matt Hughes: We detailed Hughes fall from grace a little bit here. Hughes will face Renzo Gracie at UFC 112, and it's clear to him and well as everyone else that he'll never hold the title again. He's often said that he didn't want to be a stepping stone for any up and coming fighters, and that's about all he would be to most of the strong prospects coming along nowadays. A loss to Gracie would definitely sound the alarms for retirement, but Hughes should be able to win that one via decision to prolong things a fight or two.
-Mirko Cro Cop: I was writing about the signs of his downfall way back here and here. Cro Cop's UFC record is (2-3) and he's coming off a crushing loss to rising contender Junior dos Santos. Mirko will be facing Ben Rothwell at UFC 110 in a fight that is a must win situation. A loss against Rothwell, a fighter that just got destroyed by rising contender Cain Velasquez would all but put the nails in the proverbial coffin. Mirko has 2 fights remaining on his contract if I'm not mistaken, but a loss probably would prevent that third fight from taking place unless he lost a close decision or something along those lines.
-Tito Ortiz: While I don't expect Tito to retire this year, I do expect it to be his last year of being recognizable on a fight card. In fact, that time has already come to pass with his performance against Forrest Griffin at UFC 106. I really think Ortiz is shot, there's no way he can re-gain the attributes he had prior to the back injury, not to mention that he hasn't evolved with the sport in regards to his skills. If by some miracle he can beat Liddell later this year, that would prolong things just a bit. However, a third consecutive KO loss to a 40 year old Chuck Liddell would be his career death sentence.
-Sean Sherk: The muscle shark was riding high back in 2007 until he tested failed his UFC 73 drug test in California. I still think Sherk took a tainted supplement(although he should be held accountable for that as well). However, he had to serve that suspension then come back to face BJ Penn at UFC 84, losing his UFC lightweight title. He's been struggling every since that fight with injuries, along with getting soundly beaten by UFC contender Frankie Edgar. Sherk was scheduled to face Clay Guida at the UFC on Versus event, but that fight has been scrapped now. He's attempted to display more of his striking ability, but that's been met with mixed results. If he fails to incorporate his wrestling into gameplans, he'll probably end up on the short end of the stick more times than not against the UFC lightweights of today.
-Rich Franklin: We reported that "Ace" would be undergoing surgery for a sports hernia and will be returning to action in about 2 months or so. Just long enough for people to forget about him since he hasn't fought since losing to middleweight Vitor Belfort at UFC 103 via KO. Franklin's in a tough spot in that he can fight at two different weights but can't win the title in either division. At 35 years old and a master's degree to fall back on, 2010 could be the final year for Franklin if he can't find success in the cage. Not to mention that he's smaller than most of the top fighters in the UFC light heavyweight division. Another devastating KO loss at the hands of a fridge contender could push him on out of the door.