Whether or not you've been paying attention, Dennis Bermudez has won six straight fights. His most recent victory, a one-sided mauling of Jimy Hettes, finally inched Bermudez's name into the UFC's official top-15, but only barely. He used to reside at No. 11, though on Monday the man with the division's best non-title winning streak got bumped down to No. 12, another casualty of the rise of the Irish.
The good thing, at least, is that Bermudez almost instantly has a chance to remind folks he exists within the UFC's suddenly crowded sphere of 145-pound contenders, as he's scheduled to challenge Clay Guida this Saturday on the main card of UFC on FOX 12. Guida is Bermudez's first top-10 opponent, a long overdue challenge, though on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, Bermudez didn't sound overly enthusiastic about his thus far slow road to the title.
"We were shooting for someone a little more, I don't know, someone more in their prime, if you will," Bermudez said. "I think Clay Guida's best days (are behind him).
"I think Clay Guida in his prime, which I think already passed, would beat Clay Guida now, if that makes sense."
Guida is currently ranked No. 7 on the UFC's featherweight roster, although a majority of that standing is based on his past accomplishments at lightweight rather than any recent performances or credentials at his new weight class.
From late-2011 to the end of 2013, "The Carpenter" dropped three of his four contests, and even his win over Hatsu Hioki was not without controversy. Guida finally righted his ship with a throwback outing against Tatsuya Kawajiri this April, and the bout earned the 32-year-old his first post-fight bonus since a 2011 loss to pre-championship Benson Henderson. Still, Bermudez wasn't particularly impressed with what he saw.
"[Guida] did what he had to do to win," he flatly said. "In my opinion, I didn't think it was a ‘Fight of the Night' performance, but he did what he had to do to win.
"I mean, Clay Guida, he's a good fighter," Bermudez added, looking on the bright side. "That's why I'm pretty hyped about this. I really get to test myself and see where I'm at. The biggest aspect of this fight is that, in the MMA world, Clay Guida is famous, if you will. Everybody knows Clay Guida, people who don't even know MMA. Whereas, on the other side of the spectrum, me, nobody really knows who I am. People who really follow MMA hard or really watch my fights know who I am, but not as many people as Clay Guida. So for me, beating Clay Guida is like, hey, I'm Dennis Bermudez, I'm here. Keep an eye on me now. I'm shooting for the title."
Despite all of Bermudez's recent successes, Saturday night presents his first opportunity to shine on the bright lights of a major stage. If he wins, especially in an exciting or dominant fashion, it's likely that he'll finally get the marquee opponent he's been waiting for.
While it may be frustrating at times, Bermudez still believes that his slow climb at least carries a few advantages that the fast track can't replicate, and that, similar to the way UFC on FOX 12's headliner Matt Brown methodically evolved his game, a steady run can strengthen a fighter's mental fortitude in ways that immediate gratification often foregoes. So while Conor McGregor continues to shoot up the ranks cutting promos and proclaiming his destiny, the 27-year-old TUF product is going to keep allowing his work in the cage speak for itself.
"I think it's kind of funny and interesting," Bermudez said of the Irishman. "The dude's definitely a character, and my hat slightly goes off to him for that. I've been in the UFC for seven fights now, and he's got like four times as many people who like him and stuff like that. I don't know, his marketing group, or him and the way he markets himself is pretty crazy. They're outspoken, you know? And I don't know, I'm not that type of guy. I can't duplicate that, and nor do I want to.
"All that is fine, because at the end of the day, when I am the champion, people will be like, wow, he really took the long path. Maybe that will be worth more value than having three fights and then being the champion? Being there for, wow, what, seven, eight fights? And then being the champion. That might even be a cooler tale possibly.
"I don't know," Bermudez finished. "I just know that if I keep winning, good things are going to happen and my time is going to come. My destiny will be fulfilled."