Winning is everything.
UFC Fight Night 45: "Cerrone vs. Miller" takes place this Wednesday night (July 16, 2014) from inside Revel Resort & Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., with a card headlined by two Lightweight tussles.
Donald Cerrone battles Jersey's own Jim Miller in the main event, as both combatants will look for recognition in the title picture heading into their battle.
With the majority of this card's excitement focused on these two bouts, let's look into the near future and map out what a victory might mean for these four competitors.
"Cowboy" always finds himself on the cusp of getting a UFC title shot, but runs into a problem when his chance comes. It could be a lack of focus, or his inability to showcase his skills against the division's top 10, since he steamrolls past almost everyone else while collecting a surplus of post-fight bonuses.
If Cerrone can defeat Miller in the latter's home state, it awards Cerrone with his fourth straight victory. And based on his marketability combined with the brass' admiration for him, he would certainly be included in a title eliminator bout conversation immediately afterward.
It seems as if the former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) lightweight title challenger is bound to compete in a UFC championship bout, although he can't quite get there. This isn't to say beating Miller immediately gives him immunity, yet he'll definitely get his wish to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov next with the winner fighting the victor of Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez.
It could all be wishful thinking since this scenario will take time to materialize, and Benson Henderson -- who "Cowboy lost to twice -- is always around, too, but if the Denver star wins his fourth consecutive battle and post-fight bonus on Wednesday, he's got to be more than just "in the mix."
As mentioned in our "Five Burning Questions," Miller hasn't won the big one (you can say the same for his adversary, too). He's a gifted fighter who entertains every time he steps foot inside the cage, giving his opponents a run for their money during 15 minutes of competition.
Although, the New Jersey-based scrapper hasn't won his title eliminator bouts, or his fights against some of the top 5 lightweights out there. Those are the wars one needs to overcome to get ultimate recognition and rewards, which lead to championship bouts in no time.
Miller has what it takes to get there, and beating someone like Cerrone would push him further in that direction. It doesn't mean a win would grant him lightweight supremacy, or that he would be known as the world's best lightweight, but he'll have a chance to get back into number one contender bouts if he can overcome "Cowboy." It may say more about Cerrone just because of his ability to go on good runs, yet Miller isn't all that different in that regard.
Having only suffered four losses in his UFC career, the AMA Fight Club member can find himself alongside top contenders if he wins, but he'll still have work to do. Beating Cerrone isn't exactly the big one, but it's pretty damn close to it. With the amount of pressure Miller will have on his shoulders competing in front of his friends and family, a victory for him lets him zoom past most in the pecking order with conviction for his fourth victory in five contests.
Ever since then, the Brazilian hasn't been all that reassuring. He got by Danny Castillo by the skin of his teeth after defeating two under matched opponents, and let an impressive showing slip by him against "Cowboy" in his last fight.
We all know Barboza could defeat the lower level of lightweight talent, yet he struggles against the upper echelon of the weight class. It's tough to say if the Brazilian will ever hold a title in UFC because of his recent setbacks, however, you can't give up on him quite just yet.
His 13-2 record is impressive, and there's still time for the Rio de Janeiro slugger to truly impress against a crop of dangerous foes moving forward. Outclassing Dunham in a one-sided performance would be the way to go on Wednesday night, so that he can get back into the top 10 and challenge someone difficult afterwards.
It's more about impressing that just getting the job done.
The Oregon-born combatant has been under contract by UFC for five years now, and he's 32 years old. Dunham was touted as the division's next big thing a couple of years back, but after amassing a promotional record of 7-5, most pundits have given up on him.
He's still capable of competing against the best, but difficult opposition and a few cheeky decisions have put a dent in his rise after winning four straight fights to commence his Zuffa tenure.
That said, the Xtreme Couture product has to beat someone tough like Barboza for us to believe he can still find success against the best. He's lost to Cerrone, Rafael dos Anjos, T.J. Grant, and Melvin Guillard in his last four defeats, and although those dudes are as solid as they come, he needs to score a victory against someone notable to keep his lightweight status intact.
He's always been a crowd pleaser, and he's one of the grittiest lightweights out there, but losing to the Brazilian all but confirms he'd be in the lower level of the pack for the better part of his future.
That just about does it.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 45 fight card on fight night, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" match online, which is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1 under card action at 7 p.m. ET and the the FOX Sports 1 main card at 9 p.m. ET.