In a battle of hard-charging 155-pounders, momentum is everything in a three-round fight, which is the reason the 155-pound co-main event tonight (Dec. 29, 2012) between Jim Miller vs. Lauzon from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, figures to be entertaining from the jump.
Matchup-wise, the Lightweight bout definitely tilts toward Miller, who is exceptionally tough when he can dictate from top position.
Lauzon's overall improvement in recent bouts is overshadowed by tough losses when he's stepped up in class against the likes of Kenny Florian and Anthony Pettis. He is certainly more confident in his evolving stand up lately and his takedown defense has improved from mediocre to respectable.
Miller, meanwhile, remains one of the tougher assignments in the division, especially if you aren't super-talented in one area to back him off. Forget his submission loss to Nate Diaz in his last outing -- Miller's one of the most difficult people to finish in mixed martial arts (MMA), bringing a blend of tenacity and conditioning, as well as adaptability. He'll strike just enough to set up clinches and takedowns, and against Lauzon, that's probably the best way to mitigate against nasty surprises on the feet or freak swings in momentum given exchanges that lead to scrambles, knockdowns and submissions, which "J-Lau" is skilled at exploiting.
It's always interesting to watch a guy come back after he's been stopped for the first time, particularly when Miller -- along with many of us -- were pretty sure he was as close to being impossible to stop as you could assess. When you've gone the distance with Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard and Ben Henderson, it's hard not to feel indestructible.
Diaz's brutal stand up clinic and finishing choke probably didn't dent the tough Miller's confidence, but it has to make you wonder how he'll approach Lauzon, a talented and dangerous submission ace in his own right.
For Lauzon, he has to execute a near-perfect fight to avoid being blanketed and ground out to a decision loss. He has to pick spots to fire off strikes while changing angles, especially in facing the southpaw Miller, who excels at changing levels and feasting on the lead leg to transition into chained takedown attempts. Lauzon's lack of high-level wrestling could cost him if he offers the slightest opening, and waiting on his back for a submission is a losing prescription against the well-schooled Miller, who knows how to grind away to avoid a restart while piling up points with judges.
Styles makes fights, and barring some scramble or wild exchange where Miller gives up his back and gets choked out, it's hard to see him losing this one.
Lauzon may have better technical stand up and is definitely rangier with his strikes, but Miller knows how to zip in-and-out competently enough, picking shots and spots before transitioning into a clinch-and-grind type of game. Miller, unlike many competent wrestlers, isn't afraid to end up on his back, either, as his Brazilian jiu-jitsu is excellent, which should give him confidence to try kicks and open up offensively.
Both have good conditioning and Miller's ability to dictate where the fight goes should prove the difference. The tea leaves point toward a mix of stand up and takedowns, with enough top control favoring Miller, along with careful ground-and-pound, to hammer out a decision win.
Miller via decision
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the UFC 155 main card action later this evening (Sat., Dec. 29, 2012), which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV). The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 6:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX Channel.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst