|Jim Miller (top) gets set to unload on Charles Oliveira at UFC 124 in Montreal last December. Miller won by submission less than two minutes into the first round. (JOEL LEMAY/QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO)
It’s easily the most crowded weight class in the UFC.
With the injection of World Extreme Cagefighting lightweights less than a year ago and the months-old purchase of Strikeforce opening the door for even more 155-pounders to cross over, there is no tougher ladder to climb in mixed-martial arts.
Jim Miller knows this full well.
Riding a seven-fight win streak, the New Jersey native is under no illusion a win on Sunday over Ben Henderson at UFC on Versus 5 in Milwaukee will get him a shot at the belt.
“I don’t know a win would guarantee me a title shot,” says the 20-2 scrapper.
“There’s just so much going on and to get frustrated by it would be silly and add too much stress. I just have to relax and take things as they come, try to fight the best and beat them.”
With Frankie Edgar defending his UFC lightweight belt against Gray Maynard in October, the natural next contender for the winner of that fight is far from obvious.
Clay Guida’s name has been bandied about, while the winner of the Miller/Henderson showdown would also have to be considered.
WEC transplant Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is likely in the mix and Melvin Guillard has looked impressive on his five-win tear.
Dennis Siver has also put on a show in his last four fights.
Should the UFC decide to swing the gates open to its Strikeforce cousins, lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez would be a strong contender and Josh Thomson and Gesias Cavalcante would be top prospects as well.
“If they bring over Melendez from Strikeforce, so much can happen,” says Miller.
“It’s such a fluid division and there’s a bunch of guys that have built themselves up. I’m not going to focus on that and just focus on the task at hand.”
Miller says the only goal in his sights at the moment is a win over the 13-2 Henderson.
“I want the tough road. I want to fight the toughest guys,” says Miller.
“If I feel like I can be the UFC champ, then whoever they stick in my way on the way up to that point, I need to beat them.”
Miller says the key is to keep fighting — and winning.
“I like to stay active and I have that motivation through and through and I can light a fire under my ass,” he says.
“I’m going to keep fighting and treat every fight like it’s the big one.”
Henderson has the same approach and says he likes the way he matches up against Miller.
“I think our styles are very similar,” says Henderson.
“We’re both former collegiate wrestlers who got into MMA afterwards. He’s been transitioning to jiu-jitsu and I’m on a similar path.”
UFC on Versus 5 features a main event between Chris Lytle and Dan Hardy, and is available in Canada on Rogers Sportsnet.