Here's the thing about UFC 169, happening Saturday night in New Jersey: There are a lot of guys on the card that people don't really care about.
It's unfortunate, because they're all wildly talented martial artists, and many of them are surely delightful people when not locked in a cage to do harm to another man.
But it is, nonetheless, a reality that not many of them resonate with an audience.
Names like Abel Trujillo, Alan Patrick and Kevin Lee don't exactly draw eyes worldwide. Ricardo Lamas, title contender and sharer of a marquee with Jose Aldo this weekend, doesn't exactly have people beating down the door to see him in action either.
Two guys people do care about on the UFC 169 card?
Frank Mir and Alistair Overeem.
And oddly enough, they're the two guys who may be fighting for their jobs this weekend.
Since the fight was initially announced for UFC 167, the talk has been all about it serving as a "loser leaves town" bout, and that maintained momentum with the move to Super Bowl weekend.
Truthfully, that's idiotic. In a sport where quality heavyweights are almost unavailable, talk of cutting one for a modest losing streak is insane.
Mir has been an absolute soldier for the UFC, fighting anyone it asks under any circumstances for a decade. His recent slide has been to two former UFC champions (one, Junior dos Santos, was holding the title when he beat Mir) and a former Strikeforce heavyweight champion. Before that, he'd won seven of nine fights and held the heavyweight title himself.
Overeem, issues outside the cage notwithstanding, hasn't done anything in the cage to warrant a release. He annihilated Brock Lesnar in his UFC debut before substance issues derailed a title shot in 2012. His return engagement was one that had him up two rounds on Bigfoot Silva before his own nonchalance opened the door for a Silva comeback. In similar fashion, he nearly stopped Travis Browne in August before the Hawaiian's second wind propelled him to a memorable KO.
Are these the traits of men that the UFC can truly do without? Exciting fighters who tell tales in the cage that go beyond the "L" side of Joe Silva's ledger?
It makes one wonder if the cost of doing business with a pair of heavyweights in their mid-30s becomes part of the influence. Much like the promotion did with Jon Fitch and Yushin Okami, the potential to size up the payouts to both men and cut them loose on a slide is a great way to free up some cash.
After all, you can fill half a card with unknown flyweights for the cost of one Mir or Overeem, and don't think for a minute that doesn't appeal to a UFC that's almost up to more events than there are weeks on the calendar in 2014.
The bottom line here is that there is precedent for keeping around well-known, entertaining performers. Men like Dan Hardy and Stephan Bonnar went years between wins and stayed employed on the grounds of fan friendliness, and so too should Mir and Overeem.
Mir owns more highlight-reel submissions than any heavyweight in history, maybe any fighter in history, and the kill-or-be-killed stylings of Overeem are nothing if not high-octane entertainment.
Those are guys that Dana White can afford to write cheques for. Hopefully he realizes as much before one hand is raised in New Jersey come Saturday night, and another is given a pink slip.
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