Marketability is a big deal in the fight game, more than something as abstract as immediate ramifications. Dan Hardy is a marketable fighter, and Chris Lytle is an exciting one. Put them together and you have a main event on a non-PPV card, even if one guy is on the cusp of being made redundant and the other is happily contemplating retirement.
Obviously, the fixed notion is for a lively fight, and Lytle and Hardy need only live up to billing. There’s very real pressure on Hardy to win and keep his job, but the overall pressure from a matchmaking standpoint is to simply deliver.
Meanwhile, the co-main event on this weekend’s UFC Live on Versus card in Milwaukee -- Ben Henderson versus Jim Miller -- has all the competitive ingredients with raised stakes, yet with guys who have grown very familiar with spotlight neglect. Miller has never been a main event prizefighter, yet should he win his eighth straight bout he’s all but guaranteed a lightweight title shot against the Frankie Edgar/Gray Maynard winner. This seems main event worthy -- particularly if Miller is closing in on becoming the face of the 155-pound division.
As for Henderson, who brings electricity more often than he does? He headlined cards back in the WEC days, but, in retrospect, that promotion seems like it was strictly for smaller weight fetishists. The thing that’s come to light since the promotion was absorbed by the UFC is that many of the people who shelled out for UFC PPV’s over the last few years didn’t bother to tune in and watch the WEC fights for free. That’s why a potentially explosive fight between Joseph Benavidez and Eddie Wineland has been sentenced to the Facebook prelims.
This weekend’s fight card is centered on what we know rather than what we should know, just like about every fight card put together since Pierce Egan’s day.
Which brings things back around to Miller, who is about as anonymous of a contender as you can be. Why is that?
He thinks it’s because his name is Jim Miller, with no nickname to resonate with fans (though Jim is short for James). His mustache is coming into Rollie Fingers fruition, which gives him a pie-maker’s look, so it’s not an image issue. It’s hard to pin it on his style; he has finished four of his last six opponents in a variety of different ways. He beat Kamal Shalorus via strikes at UFC 128, and before that submitted a submission ace in upstart Charles Oliveira at UFC 124, locking in only the eighth kneebar in UFC history. So, it’s not a Jon Fitch thing. When he was stuck on the prelims at UFC 100, he covered the canvas with Mac Danzig’s blood, to the point that anybody who tuned in strictly for the PPV wondered what crazy piece of theater they missed beforehand. (The Danzig fight subsequently became one of the most downloaded on UFC.com after the fact).
What it all boils down to, then, is a marketing push. And, so far at least, Miller hasn’t had it. If he gets by Henderson this weekend, he will win a free PR campaign as an additional gift. In the meantime, he and his seven straight wins will have to play second fiddle to the “Outlaw” Dan Hardy and his three straight defeats. The game can be funny like that.