Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight veterans Anthony Pettis and Jim Miller will throw down this Saturday (July 8, 2017) at UFC 213 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Normally, the level of competition that Pettis has been facing would excuse his recent slide, but it’s hard not to notice. He experienced defeat just twice in the first seven years of his career, yet “Showtime” has now lost four of his last five bouts. Following an unhealthy and brief stint at Featherweight, Pettis will look to bounce back at his natural weight class. Meanwhile, Miller recovered from a similarly bad streak of losses to win three straight in 2016. He came up short in his last bout, but that was back in the cage with a Top 10-ranked contender, meaning Miller has pretty successfully rebounded from nearly being released at one point.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Charles Oliveira (UFC on FOX 21), Benson Henderson (UFC 164, WEC 53), Gilbert Melendez (UFC 181), Donald Cerrone (UFC on FOX 6)
Key Losses: Rafael dos Anjos (UFC 185), Eddie Alvarez (UFC Fight Night 81), Edson Barboza (UFC 197), Max Holloway (UFC 206)
Keys to Victory: While Pettis has admittedly lost a touch of his explosive edge — which could be temporary — the core of his game remains the same. Pettis is a dynamic kickboxer with lightning fast submissions, and despite it being a weakness compared to the rest of his game, his wrestling isn’t half-bad.
There’s a reason he was champion after all.
This match up was designed to reintroduce Pettis to the Lightweight division in a favorable manner. Miller is solid everywhere and respected, but he doesn’t have the type of dominating wrestling or pace that Pettis has previously struggled with. On the whole, Miller may pressure a bit and mix in some takedowns, but that’s far from his primary strategy. Opposite men who do not really excel in those categories, Pettis usually has little trouble defending the takedown and finding the fight he wants.
If Pettis can maintain range and kick, he’s at a huge advantage. The last time Miller faced a fighter dedicated to keeping a healthy distance and kicking, he was absolutely chewed up by Donald Cerrone in brutal fashion. Pettis’ stylistic approach may be different than Cerrone — Taekwondoe vs. Muay Thai — but the result can remain the same.
Record: 28-9 (1)
Key Wins: Joe Lauzon (UFC on FOX 21, UFC 155), Thiago Alves (UFC 205), Danny Castillo (UFC Fight Night 45), Yancy Medeiros (UFC 172)
Key Losses: Dustin Poirier (UFC 206), Diego Sanchez (UFC 196), Beneil Dariush (UFC on FOX 15), Donald Cerrone (UFC Fight Night 45)
Keys to Victory: Miller’s consistent success across nearly 10 years inside the Octagon is a testament to both his mentality and skill set. There isn’t a part of Miller’s game that is a real weakness, as he’s comfortable in scrambles, brawls, and more technical battles.
Still, it would be a foolish decision for Miller not to apply the standard anti-Pettis game plan.
In a word, that plan is pressure. Pettis does not fight as well when on his back foot; his strikes are not as dangerous, and his conditioning does not hold up as well when not able to choose the pace. In an ideal world, Miller would use his inside low kick and left cross to the mid-section to trap Pettis along the fence and secure takedowns. The hardest part of that will be actually finishing the shot, but Eddie Alvarez proved the finishing the shot isn’t even necessary to win.
If Miller can keep Pettis on the defensive and land a decent amount of shots, he can win this thing.
Bottom Line: This bout seeks to answer the question of what the hell is next for Anthony Pettis?
After missing weight and losing to Max Holloway, it was clear that Featherweight was not the answer. Frankly, I thought that was clear when he fought well but looked miserable in his debut, but it’s tough to turn down a title shot. At any rate, Pettis has put some time between him and his trio of Lightweight losses, which does have some benefit. By returning in show-stopping fashion, Pettis would be able to remind fight fans just why he had so much support and reintroduce himself to rankings.
If Pettis loses this fight, the need to go back to the drawing board and drastically change something in his preparation becomes even more apparent.
As for Miller, there’s not much to lose here. Pettis is a former champion fresh off a title loss; he’s still somewhat considered an elite fighter, the type that tends to defeat Miller. Another loss to a top fighter won’t hurt him in the least, but pulling off the upset would make for a really impressive body of work in the last couple years for the New Jersey-native.
At UFC 213, Anthony Pettis and Jim Miller will open the main card. Which man will have his hand raised?