For all the talk about the stacked undercard and Chris Lytle's pending retirement, the real focus of tonight's UFC Live show is Dan Hardy.
The Brit isn't the best fighter -- or even on the top tier of fighters -- in the UFC. But he's immensely popular (especially in the U.K.), and fought Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight crown in the very recent past.
But if Hardy loses to Lytle in tonight's main event, he's surely going to be cut from the promotion. That can't be a fun situation for "The Outlaw."
"It's unusual territory for me," Hardy said on a prefight conference call. "I've never been in this situation before. I had two back to back losses a while back in my career, and that was a very difficult situation to be in. But at this level, that's just the way it goes sometimes. You get in there and you give everything you've got every time, and the outcome a lot of the time is out of your hands because it's just such an unpredictable sport. And the level that we're fighting at is so high that anything can happen at any minute."
Hardy, obviously, has motivation. But his opponent, Lytle, won't be lacking any, either. The 36-year-old has announced that tonight's fight will be the last of his career, win or lose.
Where does that leave the bout? Full of brawling stand-up, if Hardy has his way, or a more technical affair, if Lytle takes the initiative. The red-haired Brit has the more raw talent of the two -- but his deficiencies on the ground far outweigh any of Lytle's weaknesses. When this looked to be just another fight for the Indiana fireman, we figured Hardy would snag a decision. No more: Lytle's going out on a high note ... and Hardy's not.
The pick: Chris Lytle, decision
Jim Miller vs. Ben Henderson
If not for Hardy's immense popularity, this would be the easy headliner. A lightweight title eliminator, the bout pits Miller's seven-fight winning streak against Henderson's ridiculous skillset.
Injuries to top contenders and the WEC merger have slowed Miller's road to a title shot since starting his impressive streak at UFC 100. He says he doesn't mind too much.
"You know, I want the tough road," he said. "I want to fight all the best guys. And if I feel like I can be the UFC champ, then whoever they're going to stick in my way on the way up to that point I should be able to beat."
With Henderson across the ring tonight, that's not going to be easy. "Bendo" has the wrestling, striking and BJJ skills to frustrate any opponent. He's a former WEC lightweight champ, and his guillotine choke is absolutely frightening. Miller, meanwhile, attacks with his own quiver of submissions.
Whatever happens, it'll be good.
The pick: Jim Miller, sub
On the air
Eight Facebook prelims are scheduled to start around 5:45 p.m. The main card starts at 9 p.m. on Versus.