Would Jim Miller (left) be worthy of a title shot if he beats Kamal Shalorus at UFC 128? Photo via UFC.com
Bloody Elbow's Matt Bishop sat down late Friday night to answer four burning questions for tonight's UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones, one for each big fight on the main card. UFC 128 will be live from Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. and begins with Facebook prelims at 8 p.m. ET.
This is a real interesting case. A win here gives Miller his seventh straight victory and puts him at 9-1 in the UFC, one of the most impressive starts to a UFC career in history. The thing is, he has a lot of very nice wins, but doesn't have that one big win that would propel a fighter to a title shot. This fight, no disrespect to Shalorus, doesn't make a lot of sense for Miller. If he wins, he's still in the exact same spot he was. If he loses, he would tumble. I don't see any scenario where Miller earns a title shot off this fight unless Gray Maynard gets hurt and Miller steps in to face Frankie Edgar in May. If Miller wins here, he needs to be pushed into a title eliminator in his next bout or we'll be entering Jon Fitch territory. The lightweight division is clogged up, no doubt, but Miller deserves a chance to fight for the title.
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There's no doubt Cro Cop is in the twilight of his career. Injuries and age have slowed the 2006 PRIDE Openweight Grand Prix Champion and his last performance, a third-round knockout loss to Frank Mir at UFC 119, was one of the worst main event performances in the history of the company. If that Cro Cop comes out to fight Schaub, he will lose and he will get hurt because Schaub isn't likely to dance around with Cro Cop like Mir did. Now, the late eye injury could've had played a factor in that performance, but Cro Cop was getting lit up by the much faster Pat Barry at UFC 115 before Barry's body basically broke. In that fight, though, Cro Cop did show he still had some life left in him. He pulled out an axe kick (a personal favorite of mine) and was able to come back and win the fight. If he comes out and gets routed by Schaub, it has to be the end, though. If he's able to be competitive with the much younger, more athletic Schaub, then he could probably continue on. If the UFC wants to keep paying him, I assume he'll continue to go, but that right there is the $64,000 question.
The UFC would have to be completely off its rocker to not offer Faber the coaching gig along with a bantamweight title shot if he beats Wineland. It makes all the sense in the world. Almost too much sense, really. With bantamweights and featherweights expected for "TUF 14" in the fall, Faber and Cruz should be shoo-ins as coaches. Faber, though, should be tested by Wineland, who brings in heavy hands but will struggle if Faber puts him on his back. There's so much on the line for Faber here. This is the chance he and many fans have been waiting for. He's in the UFC, ready to be marketed to a much bigger audience, and this is the fight that can lead him to a lot of money. If he takes it to Wineland, he'll deserve to coach on the show and get a title shot.
A lot of people have been asking this question and it certainly is a valid one. This is a huge step up for someone as young as Jones. He's been the focal point of the promotion for this event, even getting his own hype special. I can't remember the last time we saw the hype of a fight, from both the promoters themselves and the media, focused so heavily on one fighter. It's truly been something to watch. From a fighting perspective, Jones won't be able to skate through this on his athleticism alone. If the pressure gets to him, he's going to be in trouble. I think there's a real chance of that happening. We've seen some slight signs of it (the whole deal with the Rashad Evans questions and the way he looked following the pre-fight press conference to name two). He's got good coaching and that'll help, but is Jones that extraordinary of a person to be able to handle it all? This is a ton of pressure. If he can handle this, he can handle anything. Time will tell on this one. In a fight full of storylines, this is a big one.