For a card that's seen more dance partners than the captain of your high school cheerleading squad, UFC 108: "Evans vs. Silva" might as well be called "The Return." That's because of the number of fighters - many of which are serving as replacements for previously scheduled, now injured, opponents - set to make their long-awaited return to action.
The Jan. 2 fight card will see the return-from-injury of UFC lightweight fighter Joe Lauzon and welterweight Dustin Hazelett, as well as the promotional returns of Dan Lauzon (Joe's brother) and Duane "Bang" Ludwig, in addition to the promotional debut of heavyweight badboy Gilbert Yvel.
It's sort of sad to think what UFC 108 might have once looked like, with UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Gabriel Gonzaga, Carlos Condit, Rory Markham, Steve Cantwell, Tyson Griffin and Sean Sherk all once scheduled to appear on the card.
In fact, the latter two - Griffin and Sherk - were both once named as opponents for rising lightweight talent Jim Miller. Now 4-1 in the UFC and 17-2 overall, Miller has made a name for himself for taking fights on short notice and earning hard-fought victories over such fighters as Matt Wiman and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 6 winner, Mac Danzig, among others.
The only chinks in Miller's armor have come at the hands of top contender Gray Maynard in March 2009 and to that other top contender, Frankie Edgar - who now trains with Miller - way back in November 2006 at Reality Fighting 14. Miller now looks to spoil the promotional return of Duane "Bang" Ludwig (19-9).
What toll do all these changes in opponents take on the mental or physical aspects of training for an upcoming fight? Excellent question, which is why I asked it, when I got the chance to catch up with Miller this week. See what he had to say about "Bang", where a victory places him in the crowded lightweight division, and even a potential rematch against friend-and-training-partner Frankie Edgar after the jump.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You were first supposed to face Tyson Griffin, then Sean Sherk, and now Duane Ludwig at UFC 108 on Saturday. Obviously this kind of thing happens a lot due to training injuries. In fact, it happened in your last fight - you were supposed to face Thiago Tavares, and then it ended up being Steve Lopez. Does that make it difficult to prepare for a fight either mentally or physically?
Jim Miller: You know, it's one of those things that does happen. The way that I approach training and preparing for a fight, it really doesn't affect me all that much. I'm not satisfied with where I am, in any aspect of the game. So I'm always trying to improve, and I feel that if I train specifically to fight a certain type of opponent, I'm going to slow down my improvements. So I just try to train hard and to get better in everything.
Coming into every fight, I want to be a better fighter every time I step into the Octagon. So I really don't train to fight any certain (type of) opponent. Maybe some quirks here and there. ...
The difference between Tyson and Sean, they're both about the same height, shorter than me, wrestlers, stocky guys. Now I'm fighting a guy (in Ludwig) that's taller than me and lanky. You know that's a little bit different.
But it really doesn't affect me that much. I'm still getting in there, I'm still fighting, and my main goal is still to fight my best.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): In terms of your camp - for example, the types of things that you're drilling - did that adjust with the change from Sherk to Ludwig?
Jim Miller: Yeah, there was a little bit. More preparation for somebody who's going to be striking (more) and moving away and not really ... getting in close.
I don't think (Ludwig) is going to be planning on standing inside the pocket with me where I can grab a hold of him and take him down. It's just one of those little switches, where instead of guys coming in and shooting on me, they circle away and keep their distance. It's a pretty simple little switch, it doesn't really bother me that much.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Ludwig has kickboxing experience, he has KO power. Do you have any hesitation keeping it on the feet, where it seems he'll probably be most comfortable?
Jim Miller: No, I mean he definitely has got the advantage on the feet, there's no doubt about that. But I'm very comfortable on my feet. And as long as I show up to fight and do the things that I know how to do, I shouldn't really run into too much trouble.
Then it's just a matter of implementing my game plan and working with what I know I'm better than him at, and that is the ground game. No surprises here (laughs).
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You're 17-2 with your only losses coming to Frankie Edgar way back in 2006 and, more recently, Gray Maynard - both guys, top contenders in the UFC. Where does a win put you?
Jim Miller: I don't know. The division ... it's a little messed up right now. There's a lot of guys that can compete with each other and guys that need to fight before any title shots are handed out in my opinion. It all depends.
It all depends on who loses in the coming fights. I think if Gray beats Nate (Diaz), Gray should get the title shot. He'll definitely have earned it. But then again, if he loses, you gotta bring Diaz back up into the top.
It's a very confusing situation at the top of the division. So I really don't know where a win would put me, per se. I just know that I can compete with all these guys.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Do you anticipate that Gray is going to win that fight?
Jim Miller: I think he should. As long as he doesn't make a foolish mistake, I think he should be able to beat Nate this time around.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): All training aside, this of course begs the question, would you like a rematch with Frankie Edgar?
Jim Miller: You know what, right now it's not my prerogative. We train together, he's a great training partner, he's a friend of mine. But I mean there is that thing where I want to be the champ, (and) he wants to be the champ, so if we both do what we're capable of and what we want, we're going to have to meet again.
I don't think it would bother either of us (laughs). We beat each other up in (training), why not get paid some money to do it. So it's something that I don't think we need to do right now, (but) maybe a couple of fights down the road. But it'll probably happen again, so ...
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Speaking of Frankie, with both you guys being from New Jersey, UFC 111 in late March - I believe it's March 27 - is coming to Newark. Recognizing that that's not quite three months away, is that a card you'd like to be on?
Jim Miller: It's a little quick after this one right now. It all depends. Fighting in Jersey's nice - the hometown fans and stuff like that - but I'll fight anywhere, I don't really care.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well, Jim, I thank you for taking the time to talk with us. I wanted to give you a chance to thank any sponsors of if you have any parting words for your fans about what they can expect to see come Saturday.
Jim Miller: I just want to thank my fans and thank all my training partners and trainers at AMA. I also want to thank Martin Rooney at Training for Warriors. I've had so much help from so many different guys, the list gets longer and longer with each fight, it's tough to call out particular guys. But everyone who's helped me, I just want to thank them.