Somewhere in the 47 extra boxes I have to fill out for each article, which are blank text fields intended for catchy phrases that lure in the reader, I randomly prattled off "Gentleman Jim" as a way to pitch UFC 155 co-main-eventer Jim Miller (21-4), who presently rolls sans nickname. And the more I thought about it ... I realized I might've been in the zone for that one. Am I right though? It just fits.
He's too polite and sportsmanlike to be a "Pitbull"; the sheepish ruffian, who'd mounted a 7-fight streak, had to be roused up and coerced by his corner into asking for a title shot. What's that? Describe the thought process behind such a monumental revelation, you ask? Fine: I'm not even sure what a Gentleman Jim is, but it would seem to conjure up an image of some chivalrous and respect-worthy lumberjack, who holds doors open for old ladies in public and beats up anyone who mistakes him as a pushover, but the kind of justified beating that has the women and children looking on clapping in approval.
Anyway, that's something to think about. This dashing protagonist will fist-fight a similarly styled lightweight with a polar opposite mentality in Joe Lauzon (22-7). To clarify: Lauzon's outside-the-cage personality is just as "aw shucks" and humble as Miller's, yet he transforms into a rage-fueled berserker in the Octagon. Miller and Lauzon are both heartily capable in the main MMA categories of striking, wrestling and submissions, but, whereas Miller plies his trade with a no frills, all-business composure, Lauzon flies off the handle and goes bat-shit crazy. Someone's going down hard when Joe Lauzon fights; a fearless valiance that defines his reputation and magnetizes fans, but doesn't always work out in his favor.
Regardless, it's impossible not to admire and appreciate a true soldier willing to go out in a blaze of glory. And, though the down-side of taking such a ballsy approach is evident on his sporadic record, I guarantee that none of even the world's best lightweights would ever overlook or under-estimate Lauzon. He pretty much made that statement upon arrival in the UFC when, as a virtual unknown and ridiculous underdog, "J-Lau" curb-stomped former champion Jens Pulver by vicious TKO in just 48 seconds.
It's funny -- I can vividly recall the base brutality of Lauzon's furious punching blitz against Pulver and, for as much as we all harp on evolution and improvement, Lauzon is still streaking the same nasty heaters today that he clubbed Pulver with 6 years ago
As far as overall efficiency, I'd generally put Lauzon and Miller on a fairly equal pedestal in all the key areas, but their contrasting methods of implementation are the influential factors. They're both skilled strikers: Miller is a calm and fundamentally sound kickboxer who chisels away with moderately powered and judiciously selected combinations; Lauzon stays coiled like a spring until erupting with an explosive succession of left and right haymakers, some of which are looping hooks hurled from his pockets, others are home-run overhand rights or deep-digging uppercuts.
On the mat, they're both at the black belt level and highly technical, but Miller will gradually inch his way into a better position while preying on tiny mistakes and Lauzon will go balls-out and commit to a wild attempt if even the slightest opportunity arises. In the realm of wrestling, the imperative gateway between striking and grappling that might play a big role here, neither has a gaudy collegiate background but both have highly functional takedowns for MMA. Following the underlying theme, Miller's value with takedowns lies in his intelligence, timing and technique, whereas Lauzon's ferocity and explosiveness accent his wrestling. Miller does seem to be a little more adept in dropping levels, setting the table with strikes and springing for singles and doubles from outside, and Lauzon's size and strength make him more formidable with trips and throws in the clinch.
I think it's understandable to side with the hard-nosed, methodical tactician over the fiery brawler, and the bettors seem to agree in placing Miller at -200. It's more likely that Miller, from the southpaw stance, will be wary of Lauzon's volatile outburst and circle to his left while prodding with jabs and sighting in his follow-up cross, knowing he can vault for a double leg when and if Lauzon bursts forward too aggressively. Miller is a skilled counter puncher and entirely comfortable on his feet, mostly because he's backed up by an invincible chin, but I imagine he'd prefer to put Lauzon on his back, where his technical top game could wreak havoc and where the looming threat of Lauzon's punching power is diminished. Miller is not known as a knockout striker and relies on volume and precision so, if he finishes Lauzon, his best chance is with a submission.
It would be insane to discount the idea of Lauzon heaping on some leather and stunning Miller enough to score a submission of his own or coast out the round on top, but "coasting" in any sense or scoring points is not Lauzon's intent -- a finish is. Miller is extremely difficult to put away and excels in capitalizing on the type of risks that Lauzon consistently takes.
My Prediction: "Gentleman" Jim Miller by decision.