Fans will look at the UFC on Fuel TV 9 card and see a lot of things: a former TUF winner and a smattering of TUF alumni, champions from smaller organizations, a couple of top-10 competitors and, of course, Gegard Mousasi’s UFC debut.

But will they see anyone that is close to a title shot?

Aside from the main event, now with significantly lowered stakes due to Alexander Gustafsson’s departure and Ilir Latifi’s arrival as his replacement, can you see a potential title shot in the distant future for any of the competitors on the undercard?

Maybe you should look again, because one of the overlooked match-ups could contain a couple of guys that are closer to the title than people realize.

You’d really have to squint your eyes to see this one, because it’s the Facebook prelim of TUF 14 alum Marcus Brimage versus two-time Cage Warriors champion Conor McGregor.

Still, both have semi-considerable steam headed into their match-up. An American Top Team product, Brimage is 3-0 in his UFC run after falling short in TUF competition. And the Irish-born McGregor is coming off wins in which he captured the CWFC lightweight belt and featherweight belt in his last two fights, which both ended in finishes.

Both fighters are part of the 25 percent of combatants on the card that are facing off while riding winning streaks. Their match is one that has stakes for the featherweight mix.

Granted, one shouldn’t expect a card consistent with top-tier talent for a Fuel TV offering. Fuel cards fall behind pay-per-view and Fox cards in terms of priority for the UFC to display top talent, but that doesn’t mean they can’t entertain. We’re just talking a much smaller, more dedicated audience that will be tuning in with vested interest.

When we look at ratings, subscribed Fuel viewers come in at numbers around the 200,000 range and less. Significantly more viewers watch the weekly Bellator offerings on Thursdays than they do Fuel TV events. That’s why we see a card like UFC on Fuel TV 9, with a few familiar faces and former contenders, but mostly fighters that are currently on shaky ground.

Conversely, these kind of cards also allow under-the-radar fighters to get their time on the big stage to entertain and possibly find themselves a niche with television audiences. Former UFC on Fuel TV 9 headliner Gustafsson was one of those guys at one time. So it is plausible to believe one of the undercard gentleman can do the same.

When you look at various online rankings (let’s not stress on their validity too much), Brimage isn’t far behind other notable featherweights such as Dustin Poirier. Brimage isn’t fresh on most fans’ minds, but it appears he is on a collision course with a notable fighter if he can continue his winning ways. Beating McGregor could give him that push.

It was Brimage’s last fight against Jimy Hettes that really woke people to his talent. Brimage displayed his diverse kickboxing skills and consistently found a home for a left jab in the third round to seal the decision win. Hettes came into the fight with a pair of wins over notable competitors—a decision win over Nam Phan and a submission win over Alex Caceres. The win over Phan was the only fight that Hettes hadn’t ended by submission, and Brimage successfully showed a solid defense against Hettes’ grappling attack and handed Hettes the first loss of his career. Brimage might not be finishing guys in the Octagon, but he has gradually shown improvement each time out, and that will warrant his move up the featherweight ladder.

McGregor has primarily fought in Europe in his entire MMA career, and he has bounced back and forth between the featherweight and lightweight divisions. Yet, he is riding an eight-fight winning streak with two titles to his name and not a single fight that has left the second round. His UFC signing was probably a safe bet for the promotion based on McGregor’s aversion to decisions. However, there are plenty of questions about McGregor’s ability to perform on the biggest stage that will need to be answered before he can be thrust into a favorable ranking. That’s why this match with Brimage makes sense, because it won’t necessarily be an easy test for either man.

For Western audiences, the experience edge would go to Brimage based on his recent competition. McGregor hasn’t fought any big American names, which will make Brimage his first “name” opponent to many U.S. fans. That doesn’t mean he’s untested, however. His resume includes wins over top European fighters Ivan Buchinger and Artur Sowinski, though it also includes a pair of quick submission losses to fellow top prospects Joseph Duffy and Artemij Sitenkov. McGregor has earned stoppages in every single one of his victories, and that is still worthy of merit. That is why a big promotion like the UFC has signed him. We’ll see if the Irishman can continue to do the same in the UFC for a much bigger reward.

Questions will need to be answered, but an exciting win for either competitor could realistically place them just outside of the featherweight top 10.

For Brimage, it would mean continuing a successful streak against stiffer competition. For McGregor, securing a stoppage win would have him ushered into the outside end of the featherweight mix.

When you look at the rest of the card that these two will be fighting on, you can’t help but see the sore thumb that sits at the top—the loss of an interesting and credible main event. Your eyes will wander through the main card in hopes of finding something else that will still catch your fancy, and you’ll see some familiar names and fun fights, but nothing that is going to shake up a respective division. There is, perhaps, the Brad Pickett vs. Mike Easton fight, but both men have work to do to get back to a top stop. Especially Pickett, who has already lost to the current interim featherweight champion, Renan Barao, in decisive fashion.

So, you might want something fresh and overlooked. Well, Brimage vs. McGregor is that fight.

Just because it is placed on Facebook and most fans will probably not even bother tuning in, doesn’t mean that you won’t be seeing the winner on a main card next time out. They might be closer to a title shot than you realize. And that is plenty reason to enjoy the lesser-heralded fights on this Fuel card now that the main event is kaput.

Photo: Conor McGregor (David Lethaby/Sherdog)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.