In one of the more meaningful bouts taking place on the UFC Fight Night 22 main card, Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and former NCAA Division I wrestler Jim Miller (17-2, 6-1 UFC) will battle American Top Team-trained Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Gleison Tibau (21-6, 7-4 UFC) in a lightweight battle that could propel Miller into a spot to fight for contention. Miller is currently riding a four-fight win streak with victories over Mac Danzig, Steve Lopez, Duane Ludwig, and a close, controversial decision win over Mark Bocek. With that string of wins, Miller's name has been involved in discussions as a potential title contender down the road, and a win over Tibau on Wednesday could prove to be the victory he needs to make that a reality.
Tibau has enjoyed some recent success as well. He's currently in the midst of a two-fight win streak, defeating former UFC fighter Josh Neer via decision back in October and knocking out Caol Uno in March. Before the Uno fight, Tibau stated that he was finished with fighting safely on the feet, and promptly delivered huge, booming overhands that eventually caught Uno. It's tough to say whether we should expect more of the same from Tibau in this fight, especially when he's fighting such a dangerous opponent in Miller. Furthermore, the opportunity that exists for Tibau to defeat Miller and raise his stock in the division could cause him to be much more cautious in this fight.
While both fighters are very good at submitting their opponents, they're much more adept at using their striking skills to damage and wear down their opponents than grapple their way to victory. That isn't always the case, and it's almost a certainty that a grappling match will unfold at some point during a match-up involving either one of these fighters. But both Tibau and Miller have the skills to compete on the feet, and that could make this a rather interesting battle if you believe their grappling credentials effectively cancel each other out.
Normally when we see two highly-credentialed grapplers face one another, striking is much more of the focus than wrestling or jiu-jitsu, mainly because both fighters know that there isn't a major advantage on the ground. Tibau has an edge in the power department, and that may be enough for him to believe he can put that power on Miller's chin and keep this fight standing. Miller is much more of a boxer than a power striker, and he can move in and out of danger rather quickly while peppering his opponents with straight punches and jabs. Neither fighter is exceptional in that department, and Tibau's aggressiveness and propensity to throw wild overhands in the stand-up game could be the edge Miller is looking for in this showdown.
This is a tough match-up to analyze because we really don't have a clear cut idea of the gameplans that both fighters will implement. In my mind, Miller could take advantage of Tibau's booming overhands by changing levels and gaining top control. From there, he could do enough damage to steal rounds and win via decision. But that works off the idea that Miller can avoid Tibau's power, and while Miller is a very good all-around fighter -- his defense in the stand-up game isn't great.
While Tibau's power is a concern, I think Miller's wrestling is more of a concern for Tibau, and it'll cause him to be a bit hesitant in this fight. Furthermore, it's been proven in the past that Tibau can be outwrestled, and I fully expect Miller to exploit that weakness over the course of three rounds and eke out a decision.