Going into his fight with relative UFC neophyte Charles Oliveira, Jim Miller held an Octagon record of 7-1 with the only loss coming via a Gray Maynard decision special. His only other career loss came at the hands of Frankie Edgar. He was on a five fight win streak over decent competition coming into the fight. All of that, and yet he was a betting underdog to the guy that beat Efrain Escudero. Mark Bocek’s resume may be slightly less impressive, but its not too shabby at all. 8-3 with two of those losses coming from Miller and Edgar on Bocek’s octagon debut. He got picked apart by Danzig back when we still thought Danzig was going to go on a rampage. He hasn’t beaten great names, but I’ve always been impressed by his ground work. Before his loss to Miller he’d landed four straight rear naked chokes. And somehow Dustin Hazelett was a huge betting favorite going into the fight.
These aren’t just the two most slept on lightweights, these are the two most slept on fighters in the UFC. They just can’t get no respect.
Jim Miller’s critics are already arguing that he doesn’t deserve a title shot until he beats some top ten competition. I don’t disagree with that argument. Wins over Tibau and Duane Ludwig aren’t going to get you to the big stage. But its kind of hard for Miller to beat some top ten competition when Joe Silva seems to absolutely refuse to give Miller a fight worth his time. What kind of top ten fighter on a five fight win streak gets matched up against a 21 year old prospect making his PPV debut?
This same card showcased a co-main event fight between a middling heavyweight in Stefan Struve against Sean McCorkle who’s best win is against a half dead Mark Hunt. And that basically sums up the lightweight division. With the exception of welterweight, lightweight is the most talent rich division in the world. Most fights at 155 without Gray Mayanrd are exciting technical battles. And yet, they have less stars than any other division.
For too long the UFC has piggy backed the entire division on Kenny Florian and Bj Penn. Sure Diego came in and made a little bit of noise for a while, but his run at lightweight turned out to be a non-starter. Now Bj and Kenny have both lost to superior fighters without any name recognition, and the whole division is reeling because of it. The next title fight has a champion defending his belt against an undefeated challenger in a rematch of the champion’s only loss, and it has been constantly derided by fans. Never has the lightweight division been deeper, and yet the paper thin heavyweight division continues to sell pay per views like they were Justin Bieber dolls.
And its going to stay like this as long as surging fighters like Jim Miller and George Sotiropoulis keep fighting prospects when they should be getting showcased.