This Saturday night (Dec. 28, 2013) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweights Jim Miller and Fabricio Camoes will kick off the pay-per-view (PPV) main card of UFC 168 from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
On paper, this fight looks like a chance for Miller to regain some footing after his submission loss to Pat Healy way back at UFC 159 in April. Although the fight was changed to a no-contest after Healy failed his post-fight drug test for marijuana, Miller hasn't been able to get much momentum going this year.
The Healy fight was his only bout this year, so it will be crucial for him to defeat Camoes and get back on track. Miller's previous contest was a bloody decision win over Joe Lauzon at last December's UFC 155. Miller had some momentum built up heading into 2013 but his results surely haven't shown it.
And he needs a win at UFC 168, because he's kind of in a lose-lose situation.
Despite a world of talent and top-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills, Camoes hasn't been able to translate that into success inside the Octagon. His relatively pedestrian 14-7-1 record in mixed martial arts (MMA) is proof. Camoes was most recently seen dropping a decision to another unpredictable lightweight in the form of Melvin Guillard at UFC 148.
He's been on the shelf since summer 2012 and he'll most likely be released from UFC again if he loses to Miller.
All signs point to an easy walkover for Miller. But an animal is always the most dangerous with its back against the fence. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Jim Miller vs. Fabricio Camoes:
Record: 22-4 (1) overall, 11-3 (1) UFC
Key Wins: Joe Lauzon (UFC 155), Melvin Guillard (UFC on FX 1), Duane Ludwig (UFC 108)
Key Losses: Nate Diaz (UFC on FOX 3), Benson Henderson (UFC on Versus 5), Gray Maynard (UFC 96)
Keys to Victory: Number 10-ranked Miller is a gritty competitor who has won nine out of his last 12 bouts. His only problem has been getting over the hump with a signature win. He's failed in bids against top competition like Henderson, Diaz, and Maynard.
On a bit of a snide, UFC has given him a bit of an odd pairing in only his second fight of 2013. Miller is going to be the huge favorite heading into the bout, but that doesn't mean he can sleep on Camoes.
To get back on track, Miller has to show up healthy, focused, and sharp in all aspects of MMA. Camoes has shown that he can be finished in the past with two knockouts and three submissions in seven total losses. Miller needs to capitalize on that to put his name back on the map.
To do so he should focus on the striking that he used to bludgeon a resilient Lauzon at UFC 155. Miller is a well-rounded fighter with great wrestling and grappling, but submissions are where Camoes' strength lies. Miller can't allow himself to be lured into a trap by taking down Camoes only to be locked up in a fight-ending submission hold.
Miller succumbed to chokes in two of his last three fights (although the Healy loss doesn't officially count), so he'll have to show up to UFC 168 with his submission defense on point.
If he does, he should be able to keep the fight standing and pick apart Camoes on the feet.
Record: 14-7-1 overall, 1-2-1 UFC
Key Wins: None
Key Losses: Anderson Silva (Brazilian Freestyle Circuit 1), Melvin Guillard (UFC 148)
Keys to Victory: Camoes is a bit of a wildcard at this point, having been released from UFC once already despite his massive potential. We haven't seen him in the cage for 17 months and he lost that bout, so we don't really have a good idea of where he stands.
But if history serves us correctly, Camoes is in for the fight of his life at UFC 168.
Despite his recent inconsistencies, Miller still sits with a shining record at 155 pounds after fighting top opposition for the past few years. The same can hardly be said about Camoes.
However, he does possess a third degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, making him a potentially dangerous test for any lightweight. It bodes well for Camoes that Miller has shown a weakness against chokes lately. Camoes has finished five opponents with chokes and he should look to do the same against Miller.
Looking to stand and trade with him will only result in Camoes getting barraged with an array of vicious Muay Thai elbows and knees.
To have any chance at shocking the world and defeating Miller, Camoes needs to get this fight to the ground quickly. It's far from guaranteed that he'll win if he can because Miller also has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but he stands a much smaller chance on the feet.
Camoes has been given a golden opportunity against a ranked opponent here. After not winning in the Octagon since the prehistoric days of January 2012, he's quite lucky to be in this position. It's on Miller to prevent him from scoring the upset. Camoes is definitely in a huge win-win scenario.
Bottom Line from Las Vegas: The bottom line for this fight is that it's a dangerous proposition for Miller. A win over Camoes won't do much to regain the momentum he had during his seven-fight win streak a little over two years ago, but a loss will be devastating.
Despite Miller's impressive submission resume he should look to keep this fight standing. He showed some brutal striking against Lauzon. He's also been submitted twice in recent bouts so there's more justification to focus on his kickboxing against Camoes.
It's just not a good idea to go to the ground with a Royler Gracie-trained black belt like Camoes unless you have to. Miller should fight smart and stay outside of Camoes' grappling range while avoiding any takedown attempts that come his way. Miller can also score some points via ground-and-pound if he can turn the tables on Camoes, but he has to be careful.
A win over Miller would definitely be the biggest win of Camoes' mercurial career and he'd receive another big name opponent if he can pull it off. He's supposed to lose this fight so that could make him an outside threat. But overall Miller should be focused and intense in his quest to remain relevant in the ultra-tough UFC lightweight arena. If he can avoid getting choked on the mat, Miller should have a clear path to victory.
Or maybe not. That's why they fight the fights.
Jim Miller looks to right the ship after a winless 2013 against an unpredictable Fabricio Camoes. Will it be an easy walkover for Miller, or does Camoes have what it takes to notch his biggest win?