Last weekend's UFC 133 was just the first of three events the promotion is scheduled to host in the month of August. The end of this month will see long-reigning middleweight champion Anderson Silva attempt to extend his own record with a ninth consecutive successful title defense, but before then, Versus hosts an event that could determine the next lightweight No. 1 contender.
Though his name won't be on the marquee for Sunday night's show, co-main event fighter Jim Miller could win his eighth straight fight by defeating Ben Henderson. It's a high-pressure situation. Earlier this year, fellow lightweight George Sotiropoulos had a seven-fight win streak snapped, effectively knocking him out of contention.
Henderson is a dangerous opponent with an endless gas tank, excellent wrestling and improving striking. He's won six of his seven combined UFC & WEC fights. He also has a little extra motivation in the form of a previous Miller quote. When WEC was merged into the UFC in late 2010, Miller said he expected WEC lightweights to be weeded out of the company fairly quickly. At the time, Henderson was the company's lightweight champion, and he took the quote to heart.
Asked recently if the quote was providing some motivation for him, Henderson tipped his hand a little.
"I don't necessarily take it personally but I definitely remember the quote," he said. "I remember watching that interview where Jim said that. It's definitely in the back of my mind. It's nothing personal, I understand. It's his personal opinion and everyone's entitled to their opinions. But yes, you could definitely say I remember that."
Will Miller become No. 1 contender or head to the back of the pack? And who wins the mini UFC vs. WEC war? Those are just a few of many story lines to examine in our UFC Live 5 event primer.
Chris Lytle (30-18-5) vs. Dan Hardy (23-9, 1 no contest)
Bradley Center, Milwaukee - August 14, 9 pm (Versus)
Lytle and Hardy may be featured in Sunday's main event, but there is a very good chance that one of them will be seeing his last time in the octagon. Despite his reputation as an exciting fighter -- a reputation that got him this main event fight -- Hardy has lost three in a row and desperately needs a win to stay employed.
Lytle has a little more job security. He had a four-fight win streak snapped when he lost to Brian Ebersole in February, but just one week from his 37th birthday, he has entertained the idea of retirement, and he has also voiced some political aspirations in his home state of Indiana. Given his ongoing profession as a full-time firefighter, a loss may spur him to walk away and chase those other pursuits.
In modern UFC history, no fighter has ever won as many as eight straight fights and been skipped over for a title shot. That's partially because win streaks of that length are fairly rare. In company history, only six fighters can boast a stretch of eight straight wins. If Miller wins, he'd be the seventh.
Jon Fitch and Gray Maynard both needed eight straight wins before getting their opportunities at the titles in their respective divisions. Maynard actually had a nine-fight unbeaten streak, including a no contest against Rob Emerson in his first official UFC fight. Interestingly, neither man won the title when he got his chance. Fitch suffered a decision loss at the hands of Georges St-Pierre while Maynard fought to a draw with Frankie Edgar and is currently preparing for the October rematch.
Twenty-one-year-old Charles Oliveira has continually impressed UFC management with his aggressive style and flashes of brilliance. His last bout against Nik Lentz was overturned from a win to a no contest due to an illegal knee that preceded the finish. But from a matchmaking perspective, Oliveira was treated as though he won the fight and booked into a fight with Donald Cerrone, a winner of four straight. It's a proper step to gauge his continued progression.
The Striking Truth
Given that Duane Ludwig has lost three of his last five fights and Amir Sadollah is still just three years into his MMA career, there isn't a whole lot at stake for these two, but given their physical standup styles, it should be fun while it lasts.
Third Time's a Charm?
Jason Reinhardt has fought 20 times out of the UFC. He's won all 20 fights. In the UFC, he's fought twice, and lost twice. And he's been routed, too, losing the two fights in a combined time of 2:12. He faces Edwin Figueroa on Sunday in what is likely a last opportunity to win for the 41-year-old.
Welcome, Mr. Perfect
Jim Hettes makes his UFC debut in a Sunday prelim against recent Ultimate Fighter competitor Alex Caceres. So far in his young career, the 24-year-old Hettes is 8-0 with all eight of his wins coming by way of submission. It appears he doesn't have a single go-to move either. The count of his finishing moves is three rear naked chokes, two triangles, an armbar, a heel hook and a guillotine.
Biding His Time
By nearly all accounts, Joseph Benavidez is a top-five world ranked bantamweight, yet you won't see his fight with Eddie Wineland on the main card on Sunday. Why? Because Benavidez has already fought current champion Dominick Cruz twice -- and lost twice. Because of that, the UFC would have a tough time promoting a third fight between them. So until and unless Cruz loses the belt, Benavidez is stuck in a sort of purgatory. Aside from changing weight classes, he has only two options: winning and waiting.
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