Jim Miller got back into title discussion Friday at UFC on FX 1. | File Photo: Sherdog.com
Inside the cage, few traits are as valuable as toughness, technique and intellect. Jim Miller wields them all, often in concert. Such was the case against Melvin Guillard.
Miller fought through a knockdown and a hailstorm of figurative gunfire to submit Guillard with a rear-naked choke 2:04 into the first round of their UFC on FX “Guillard vs. Miller” main event on Friday at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. One of the Ultimate Fighting Championships’ most consistent and resilient performers at 155 pounds, the 28-year-old AMA Fight Club representative has posted 16 wins in his past 18 bouts.
Only three men have defeated Miller since he made his professional mixed martial arts debut in November 2005: Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard and Ben Henderson. They just happen to be the top three lightweights currently under UFC employ -- a fact which leaves Miller on a bit of an island in terms of where to match him next. In wake of UFC on FX 1 “Guillard vs. Miller,” here are six matches we want to see made:
Jim Miller vs. Gray Maynard or Clay Guida: Obviously, if Maynard and Guida wind up in the Octagon with one another, as has been rumored, Miller would fit conveniently into the plans for the winner. The New Jersey native already had a crack at Maynard, falling short against the three-time NCAA All-American wrestler at UFC 96 three years ago.
Josh Neer vs. Erick Silva: Following his latest triumph, a first-round guillotine choke-induced submission over Duane Ludwig, Neer finds himself in the midst of a full-blow career renaissance. The well-traveled 28-year-old has won six consecutive fights -- all of them finishes, five of them inside one round. The list of fighters lining up for the opportunity to face “The Dentist” figures to be a short one, considering his wealth of experience, well-rounded skill set and current surge of momentum. His controversial disqualification loss against Carlo Prater at UFC 142 notwithstanding, Silva looks like a superstar in the making. Neer would serve as a strong litmus test for the ballyhooed Brazilian.
Melvin Guillard vs. Sam Stout: On the cusp of a shot at the lightweight championship three short months ago, Guillard is on the verge of becoming irrelevant at 155 pounds. Still only 28, his career has been marred by a series of crash-and-burn nosedives.
Easily one of the sport’s most gifted fighters, Guillard has never been able to put all the pieces of the MMA puzzle together at once, and, after his outing against Miller, one has to wonder if he ever will. The ground game remains his kryptonite, as his last eight defeats have come via submission, seven of them by choke. Stout, who lost a hotly contested decision to Thiago Tavares at UFC 142, does not figure to pose a threat there and would be one of the few 155-pounders willing to humor Guillard with an exclusive standup battle.
Duane Ludwig vs. Dan Hardy: Ludwig had victory in his sights against Neer, until his back hit the canvas. A polished, accurate and powerful striker, “Bang” remains painfully vulnerable to anyone with a hint of a ground game. Such a glaring weakness limits his viability in the UFC, particularly in a division ruled by dominant wrestlers. In the middle of a four-fight losing streak, Hardy has long fancied himself as a knockout artist, despite the fact that he has finished only one of his eight foes inside the Octagon. Pair the brash Brit with a legitimate striker and let him sink or swim with what he does best.
Mike Easton vs. Nick Denis: Easton has a considerable amount of hype behind him and did what was expected of him against promotional newcomer Jared Papazian, as he defeated the former King of the Cage champion by majority decision in an action-packed 15-minute encounter. Heavy on the entertainment factor, many felt it deserved “Fight of the Night” honors. What Easton lacks in sound strategy, he more than makes up for with his overwhelming physical tools, and his charisma could make him a star at 135 pounds. Denis, meanwhile, needed all of 22 seconds to dispatch Joseph Sandoval with a series of hellacious standing elbows. At this point, an Easton-Denis showdown seems like guaranteed gold.
Pat Barry vs. Mike Russow-John Olav Einemo winner: Much was made of Barry’s ability to escape multiple submission attempts en route to knocking out Christian Morecraft. Alas, Fabricio Werdum Morecraft is not, and the jury remains out on whether or not Barry can shed the one-dimensional stigma. Proving he can survive a ground assault against someone the caliber of Russow or Einemo could go a long way towards that end. Russow and Einemo will collide at UFC on Fox 2 on Jan. 28. Let Barry see what he can do with the winner.