Submission specialist, Jim Miller, takes on fellow Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bonus-hunter, Donald Cerrone, this Wednesday (July 16, 2014) at Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Currently on a two-fight win streak, Miller is looking to standout in the crowded Lightweight division. Since Ben Henderson snapped his seven-fight win streak in 2011, Miller has been hot and cold, getting submitted in two of his next six bouts.
Luckily for fans, Miller has been consistently exciting throughout his mixed martial arts (MMA) career. In all of those bouts, the fight either ended in a finish or earned the "Fight of the Night" bonus. His opponent has a similarly aggressive fight style, and this fight is sure to be electric for however long it lasts.
But, will Miller come out on top?
Let's find out:
Miller has been continually developing a strong Muay Thai game since entering the UFC as a wrestler with some submission skills. His striking game has some flaws, but Miller's still a very dangerous southpaw.
The biggest development to Miller's game is his kicking ability. Often standing in an opposite stance to his opponent, Miller has really improved at hammering his opponent's body and head with power kicks. He doesn't usually set up these kicks with punches, preferring to punch at his retreating opponent after landing the kick.
In particular, Miller's inside low kick is excellent. He'll occasionally lead with it, but the kick works best when Miller's opponent is moving towards him with punches. As his opponent comes forward, Miller kicks the leg out from under him, often sending him tripping to the mat. Miller usually throws the kick at his opponent's calf, which destabilizes his opponent better than a thigh kick.
In general, Miller likes to attack from the boxing range. Despite his strong kicks, Miller does some of his best work at a range where tight punches are more effective than long jabs.
Miller's best punch is far and away his straight left hand, which is quite common for a southpaw. Miller throws it as a lead often and is sure to get his head off the center line when he throws it. Additionally, he can set it up with his right hand very well, often following the right hook or right uppercut with his straight left. In his last bout, Miller set up a guillotine choke by stunning Yancy Medeiros with a powerful straight left to the body.
The American Martial Arts (AMA)-trained product will also attack with the left uppercut. If his opponent begins to duck under the straight left, Miller will change his attack by coming up with his power hand.
Miller's right hand is developing as well. He really likes to start his combination with a right hook, which is also -- along with the inside leg kick -- his favorite counter strike. Whenever his opponent moves forward, Miller will take a step back, turns his hips into a right hook, and circle off to that direction.
When Miller is pushing forward, he will often grab a single collar tie. From this position, Miller will blast his opponent with left uppercuts and knees. In his fight with Joe Lauzon, Miller also utilized a number of elbow strikes from that position, slicing "J-Lau" open early.
Defensively, Miller has some serious issues. Despite his attempts to counter, Miller does not fight particularly well on his back foot. Whenever one of Miller's opponent's keep him moving backward (such as Nate Diaz and Pat Healy) Miller has a lot of trouble. This is largely due to his habit of moving straight backwards, which leaves him pinned against the cage and open to shots.
A high school and collegiate wrestler, Miller is often able to dictate where the fight takes place. Miller's wrestling, which lacks any serious credentials, is bolstered by his innate toughness and drive, as Miller is willing to absorb plenty of damage in order to drag his man to the mat.
For the most part, Miller relies on a quick double leg takedown. After distracting his opponent with punches, Miller will change levels and blast through his opponent's hips in the center of the Octagon. Not incredibly complicated, but Miller's timing and skill allow him to finish it more often than not.
In addition, Miller has a very nice single-leg takedown that he transitions to from the double leg very well. Plus, Miller can use it in the open area of the Octagon or up against the cage. Miller does an excellent job driving forward while twisting his opponent down, which is more difficult than driving his foe straight back.
Once Miller is on top of his opponent, his control is very strong. It's not that Miller is able to prevent his opponent from moving around, but Miller can out-scramble most fighters from top position. In addition, Miller is always looking to advance position or snatch a submission whenever his foe starts to scramble.
Of Miller's four UFC losses -- counting his submission at the hands of Pat Healy, which a failed drug test for marijuana overturned -- three were due to his defensive wrestling. Miller is not a particularly large lightweight and struggles with large wrestlers who can smother him. Gray Maynard, Ben Henderson, and Healy all had plenty of success grinding Miller down with tight top games, slowly working him over until he was not nearly as dangerous.
Part of the reason for this flaw is Miller's lack of circling in the stand up. Larger, stronger wrestlers can push him back to the cage with strikes easily. Then, a clinch or takedown attempt allows his opponent to lean on him, tire him out, and eventually force him to the mat.
A black belt under Jamie Cruz, Miller is one of the most dangerous grapplers in the UFC. With thirteen submission wins on his record, Miller has proven his aggressiveness time and again.
Off of his back, Miller often utilizes either the high or rubber guard. From either of these positions, Miller will crawl his legs up his opponent's back, lock up an arm, and then rotate his hips into an armbar or push his foe's arm through for a triangle.
Against third-degree black belt Fabricio Camoes, Miller pulled off one of the smoothest arm bars ever. After pulling his foot in front of Camoes' neck, the Brazilian leaned back a bit to land some ground strikes. Instead, Miller swiveled his hips incredibly quickly and wrapped up Camoes' arm with his legs. Then, he just had to apply pressure.
Most of Miller's submissions come from top position or scrambles. In particular, Miller is excellent at scrambling to his opponent's back. Whenever his foe turtles -- either to avoid the guard pass or in an attempt to stand up -- Miller will hop onto his opponent's back and cling to whatever he can. Then, Miller will slowly work his way toward more common grips to control his opponent and start working towards the rear naked choke.
Miller is more than willing to attempt risky moves or abandon position in pursuit of submission. This either works brilliantly and garners him praise and bonuses, or ends with Miller getting beaten to a pulp on the bottom. I'll give examples of both possibilities.
After hurting Medeiros with a body shot, Miller clinched up with the rangy Hawaiian. Miller tripped him to the floor, but Medeiros looked to use a takedown to stand back up. Instead, Miller immediately dropped on an arm-in guillotine. A risky move, but it worked, as Medeiros was asleep about twenty seconds later. With one move, Miller managed to take out a very dangerous young fighter, one that had been giving him trouble on the feet before the body punch.
That's the best case scenario.
For the worst case, watch his bout with former lightweight kingpin Ben Henderson. Miller attempted a plethora of high risk submission moves, from standing arm triangle chokes to leg locks. While Miller does have a very nice foot lock attack, it cost him dearly. Each and every time Miller attacked with a submission, Henderson would pound him with strikes while he attacked the limb. Then, Henderson would hit him some more after he got out. By the end of the fight, Miller's high risk strategy remained the same, but his face and body wore a fifteen minute beating.
Best Chance For Success
Miller promised to take the fight to "Cowboy," and that's likely his best chance. Miller cannot allow Cerrone to settle into his range, as the Greg Jackson-trained fighter has the ability and conditioning to work over Miller for five rounds if he establishes his range.
Instead, Miller needs to throw bombs and shoot takedowns at Cerrone right out of the gate. Cerrone is quite hittable and a known slow starter, meaning that Miller's best chance to steal this bout is early. Plus, there are few finishers as deadly as Miller once a fighter is hurt, meaning that he only needs to hurt "Cowboy" once or get him in a bad position early.
In addition, Cerrone does not fight nearly as well moving backwards. If Miller is the one pushing him backwards with straight left hands and body punches, Cerrone will have a tough time dealing with that. If the bout turns into a brawl, that favors Miller. "Cowboy's" overall striking game may be fairly far ahead of Miller's, but the New Jersey native definitely has the sharper hands.
Will Miller upset Cerrone or can "Cowboy" take another step toward the title?