In lightweight action on the UFC on Versus 5 main card, former WEC lightweight champion Ben Henderson (13-2) will attempt to vault himself into relevancy when he battles long-time UFC veteran Jim Miller (20-2) on Sunday night at the Bradley Arena in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Miller is currently riding a seven-fight win streak with recent wins over Kamal Shalorus and Charles Oliveira at UFC 128 and UFC 124 respectively. Despite the two impressive finishes, Miller's lengthy streak hasn't been met with title hopes, likely due to poorly timed injuries and the propensity for Miller to produce decision wins versus fan-friendly finishes.
Henderson was a staple of the WEC's lightweight division in the last two years of its existence. He rattled of five straight wins, including title victories over Donald Cerrone and Jamie Varner, before losing his WEC lightweight crown to Anthony Pettis at the WEC's last show, WEC 53 in Glendale, Arizona, in December of last year. He successfully debuted with the UFC at UFC 129 in April, defeating Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Mark Bocek by unanimous decision.
Interestingly enough, Miller doesn't stand to gain much from this fight. He's already in a position that, in my opinion, deems him worthy of title contention, and Henderson, while not as experienced against higher level competition, has the skill-set to threaten Miller. A win will most likely put Miller into title contention, but Henderson would essentially leapfrog a pile of lightweights with a win. Miller will fight anyone however, and this is his chance to make a statement on a free UFC card.
Will Miller be able to produce such a performance? Henderson is far from a fighter who will wilt under pressure, but he is certainly beatable on the feet and avoidable on the ground. Miller's stand-up game should be the major difference in this fight as Henderson has yet to hone his striking game enough to beat above average punchers. Henderson's takedown game and ground tactics are formidable, but Miller is no Spring chicken on the ground. He has better wrestling, a better overall grappling game, and slick submissions to threaten Henderson. Unfortunately for Miller, Henderson has proved on multiple occasions that he's invulnerable to submissions.
I think Henderson poses a greater threat to Miller than many fans are expecting. I'm also under the impression that Henderson has some major faults in his defenses, and Miller's blue-collar style fighting will effectively neutralize Henderson along the fence and wear him out. In the trenches, Miller wins fights, and he'll defeat Henderson on Sunday night in the same manner. Look for Miller to pepper Henderson with blows from range before attempting to wear down Henderson along the fence with knees and dirty boxing. Henderson's best chance at victory is to avoid those pindowns and attempt to catch Miller coming in. If he can do that, this will be an interesting clash, but I'm putting my money on a methodical grind session by Miller.