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Whenever Jim Miller decides to call it a career, he may have to settle for being on the shortlist of best mixed martial artists never to have fought for an Ultimate Fighting Championship title.
A model of consistency throughout his 48-fight career, the 37-year-old New Jersey native will attempt to rebound from an Aug. 15 decision defeat to Vinc Pichel when he faces Bobby Green in the featured UFC 258 prelim this Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Miller enters the cage ranked first on the UFC’s all-time list in appearances (36) and submission attempts (45), third in victories (21) and submission wins (10), fourth in finishes (13), sixth in fight night bonuses (12) and ninth in total fight time (5:54:12). He has competed inside the Octagon at least twice every year since he made his promotional debut in October 2008.
As Miller approaches his confrontation with Green, a look at some of the rivalries upon which his reputation was built:
Miller submitted the previously unbeaten Oliveira with a first-round kneebar in the first round of their UFC 124 lightweight showcase on Dec. 11, 2010 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The tapout brought it to a close 1:59 into Round 1. Miller walked through three early head kicks, took the fight to the floor and defended a variety of submission attempts from the Brazilian, then an unproven 21-year-old prospect. The two lightweights fished for dueling leg locks, but the former Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder cranked the kneebar in a blink and solicited a quick surrender from Oliveira, who winced in visible pain as his leg was torqued in the wrong direction. They met for a second time at UFC on Fox 31 eight years later, and their roles were reversed. Oliveira needed just 75 seconds to submit Miller with a rear-naked choke, the third notch in an ongoing eight-fight winning streak that has elevated “Do Bronx” to the top of the lightweight division.
Those with weak stomachs do not remember it fondly. Miller spilled Lauzon’s blood all over the cage when he captured a unanimous verdict from “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 semifinalist in the UFC 155 co-main event on Dec. 29, 2012 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28. A series of savage standing elbows from Miller opened a sickle-shaped laceration near Lauzon’s right eye in the first round. Before long, much of the canvas had been painted red. Miller assaulted his counterpart with everything in his vast arsenal, from leg kicks to left crosses, but he could not finish the job. Lauzon paid no mind to the adversity, even as pools of his blood dotted the Octagon. He made a last-ditch attempt at a Hail Mary victory in the waning seconds of Round 3, where he trapped Miller in a leg lock and transitioned to a front choke. However, the horn sounded, bringing a close to one of the bloodiest battles in UFC history. The inevitable rematch played out three-plus years later at UFC on Fox 21, where Miller eked out a three-round split decision—29-28, 28-29, 29-28—in a bout that saw the two men combine to land 189 total strikes in 15 minutes.
Diaz did what 23 previous men could not: He finished Miller. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner submitted Miller with a second-round guillotine choke in the UFC on Fox 3 headliner on May 5, 2012 at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Diaz cinched the submission and coaxed the tapout 4:09 into Round 2. Miller’s game plan became clear from the outset, as he initiated the clinch and tried to engage the Californian in close quarters. It was ineffective, and once the two men separated, Diaz established his superiority on the feet. The Cesar Gracie disciple floored Miller with a straight left hand late in the first round, and while he withstood the blow, his face was bloodied and he struggled to keep pace. Diaz did not let him breathe in the second, where he battered Miller with the high-volume punching attack that has become his calling card. Miller staggered forward and soon found himself trapped in the choke. Diaz adjusted his grip, rolled into full mount and sealed the deal.
The former World Extreme Cagefighting champion dazzled in what went down as one of many career-defining performances, as he smashed through Miller for a surprising, one-sided unanimous decision in UFC Live 5 co-main event on Aug. 14, 2011 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. All three cageside judges scored it for Henderson: 30-27, 29-28 and 30-26. “Smooth” assaulted Miller with savage ground-and-pound throughout the 15-minute affair, slicing into him with wicked elbows and battering him with powerful punches. Henderson was superior in every facet of the game, as he kept Miller on his back and dominated him like no one else had before. The MMA Lab mainstay punctuated his victory in the third round, where he registered the last of his seven completed takedowns and moved to full mount with 2:46 left on the clock. Elbows and punches fell, forcing Miller to surrender his back. Henderson nearly secured a rear-naked choke before abandoning the maneuver in favor of punches from the rear. Everything—striking, wrestling and submission defense—was on point for the longtime John Crouch protege. Outside of an attempted standing arm-triangle choke and a failed try for a kneebar, Miller’s moments were few and far between. Henderson went on to capture the undisputed lightweight crown a little more than six months later.
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