Jim Miller (left) enters UFC 142, with wins in 15 of his last 17 fights. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Friday nights are going to feature plenty of mixed martial arts action in 2012, including an updated format of “The Ultimate Fighter” and Season 6 for Bellator Fighting Championships. Kicking things off, however, is the UFC’s debut on the FX network, a four-fight main card offering headlined by a key lightweight showdown between Jim Miller and Melvin Guillard.
Miller and Guillard saw impressive win streaks come to an end in their last outings, which means both men desperately need a win to maintain solid footing in an always-competitive division. Guillard has tantalizing knockout power but can be hindered by a lack of consistency. Miller is about as durable as they come, with his only losses coming by way of decision to the best in the weight class today: Ben Henderson, Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar.
Emanating from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., the lineup also features a pair of potential high-entertainment value fights, as Pat Barry battles Christian Morecraft at heavyweight and Duane Ludwig takes on Josh Neer at lightweight.
Here is a closer look at the UFC on FX 1 “Guillard vs. Miller” main card, with analysis and picks.
Melvin Guillard (29-9-2, 10-5 UFC) vs. Jim Miller (20-3, 9-2 UFC)
The Matchup: Both fighters enter this main event with something to prove, as a second straight loss would push either further down the ladder in the UFC’s stacked lightweight division.
Miller saw his seven-fight winning streak come to an end at UFC Live 5 against Ben Henderson. In that bout, the AMA Fight Club product was dominated from start to finish by the physical ground-and-pound of Henderson. Was the loss a blip on the radar or evidence Miller has reached his ceiling against the elite talent of the weight class?
Guillard has perhaps the best physical tools of any 155-pounder in the sport today, but mental mistakes have plagued the Louisianan throughout his career. He seemed to have rectified those issues while training at Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts, but his performance in an upset loss to Joe Lauzon at UFC 136 showed Guillard is still prone to carelessness. “The Young Assassin” has drifted away from Jackson’s for his current camp, instead choosing to train at Imperial Athletics in Florida with the “Blackzilians.” It will be interesting to see how the change of scenery affects his approach in the cage.
The southpaw Miller is comfortable enough on his feet to use his striking to set up clinches and takedowns, but he will not want to get into a prolonged standup exchange with Guillard, who has lightning-fast hands backed by knockout power. Guillard can fall in love with that power, as he did in hunting for the finish against Lauzon. He paid dearly for his overconfidence when Lauzon hurt him with a straight left hand and finished the bout with a rear-naked choke in just 47 seconds. “The Ultimate Fighter” 2 alumnus needs to rely on his superior speed and footwork here, moving in and out of striking range while punishing Miller with combinations. Guillard is adept at working the body, as well, and has shown in the past that he can finish fights that way.
Miller is a smart fighter who is aware of his limitations in the standup game, but he is also aware that he will need to use his punches to help get Guillard to the mat. Guillard is strong, with good hips and a solid sprawl. Past opponents have paid for ill-timed shots in the form of knees and uppercuts from “The Young Assassin.” Miller is always in good shape, and relentless pressure will serve him well against Guillard, who thrives when his foes are intimidated by his knockout power and allow him to dictate the tempo of the fight. Lauzon showed that even a fighter with middle-of-the-road striking can bother Guillard by coming forward, and Miller figures to do the same. Attempting a takedown from across the cage is a recipe for disaster.
It becomes a whole different ballgame on the ground, as Miller’s work rate will allow him to transition to various submission attempts. Guillard’s ground game has long been a weakness, as he has tapped in eight of his nine career losses.
The Pick: Miller has the technique to win this fight, but it remains to be seen if he can match up with the most athletic fighter in the division. Speed and strength are going to be Guillard’s greatest assets, but a lot depends on his frame of mind. If he cannot get the knockout early, he cannot get frustrated, because Miller is not going to let up. The thinking here is that Guillard learned from his last loss. His takedown defense allows him to keep the fight standing, and his hands do the rest, stopping Miller by technical knockout in round two.
Continue Reading » Next Fight: Christian Morecraft vs. Pat Barry