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Are the main and co-main event of this weekend's UFC on FOX 3 lightweight and welterweight title eliminators? The answer is 'yes', but only if you're lucky enough to be named Nate Diaz or Johny Hendricks.
UFC President Dana White spoke to the media Wednesday via conference call and confirmed title opportunities were technically on the line, but the chances of Miller or Koscheck earning those shots seemed remote.
"We're in one of those situations that we were in before with [Phil] Davis and [Rashad] Evans," said White, referencing the predicament affecting the aforementioned light heavyweights heading into UFC on FOX 2. "Should Diaz win, Diaz is definitely getting a title shot. Should Miller win, Miller's probably going to be a fight or two away."
White didn't explain the calculation behind his decision. However, there is a meritorious and availability case to be made for Diaz. He's 2-0 since returning to lightweight, beating Takanori Gomi by armbar at UFC 135 and throttling Donald Cerrone en route to a unanimous decision at UFC 141.
Miller, by contrast, had a superb run in the lightweight division from UFC 100 to UFC 128, but fell short against now champion Ben Henderson at UFC on Versus 5. The AMA Fight Club-trained fighter rebounded nicely against Melvin Guillard at UFC on FX 1, but his bout with Diaz only marks only his second fight since losing to Henderson.
According to the USA TODAY/MMA Nation Rankings, Miller is ranked 5th at lightweight while Diaz checks in at 7th. There are other lightweights ahead of both Miller and Diaz, but they're all tied up in other bouts or have more recent career losses. Henderson is set to rematch Frankie Edgar at UFC 150 and Clay Guida will face off against Gray Maynard at UFC on FX 4. Guida is ranked higher than Diaz, but he and Maynard are also both coming off of losses.
As for Johny Hendricks and Josh Koscheck, White said their predicament mirrored Miller vs. Diaz. Should Hendricks win, he'd receive a title shot. Koscheck, on the other hand, would likely be required to fight and win one or two additional times.
Hendricks and Koscheck are ranked 5th and 6th, respectively, in the welterweight division. The only two fighters ahead of both are Jake Ellenberger and Nick Diaz. Ellenberger is scheduled to face Martin Kampmann at the TUF: Live Finale while Diaz is currently unable to fight until his suspension is lifted or expires in Nevada.
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