Lightweight match-ups are all the rage on the UFC 124 event card, but the clash between UFC veteran Jim Miller (18-2, 7-1 UFC) and rising prospect Charles Oliveira (14-0, 2-0 UFC) has the most significance in the upper reaches of the division. Miller will aim to make a case for his inclusion in discussions regarding the next contender for the UFC lightweight crown while Oliveira will hope to spoil that opportunity with an upset win on Saturday night. Miller's strength of record and current five-fight winning streak would suggest that he's the favorite in this match-up, but Oliveira's undefeated record and impressive performance against Efrain Escudero at UFC Fight Night 22 in September has caused some uncertainty to sink in among fans.
Miller's wrestling background, Brazilian jiu-jitsu credentials, and performances in the past would suggest that he is the favorite in this match-up, but Oliveira's quickness and diverse striking game should provide a stiff challenge for him. Oliveira happens to be a very solid Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner in his own right, and the quickness we've seen in his stand-up game is also prevalent on the ground. That combination of skills makes this a dangerous match-up for Miller, and it could be considered a lose-lose situation for him since Oliveira is relatively unknown to casual fans.
I expect this fight to be either a rude awakening for fans believing Oliveira is the next great fighter in the UFC's lightweight division, or a confirmation that he truly is of that pedigree. His striking should give Miller some problems on the feet, but Miller's wrestling and ability to avoid submissions could be his way to the promise land. I think his biggest advantage is Oliveira's propensity to kick at his opponents, leaving him wide open for counters and takedowns. While it's a gamble to aggressively seek out the takedown against Oliveira's slick transitions, it may be his best option.
Furthermore, Miller's skill-set should slow down Oliveira's quickness a bit as he'll likely be a bit hesitant to implement a gameplan similar to what he showed us in the Escudero fight. Escudero wasn't speedy enough to catch Oliveira, but Miller has the added threat of solid wrestling and above average striking. Eduardo Pachu was able to throw down Oliveira on multiple occasions and put him into some bad positions, positions that Miller would have capitalized on.
I want to pick Oliveira here due to his exciting style of fighting, but Miller is the safer bet. He has the wrestling to stifle Oliveira's stand-up game, and I don't think Oliveira can make him work as hard as Mark Bocek did at UFC 111. There is a threat of a submission catching Miller, but I'll bank on history maintaining Miller's unblemished record in that department. Miller will struggle a bit, but I think he edges out Oliveira over three rounds.