FanPost

Fighting Long with Cole Miller

In a matchup of tall man versus short man, Cole Miller beat the shit out of Sam Sicilia and emerged almost entirely unscathed. But as always, it’s not the length…it’s how you use it.

The very first thing you should notice about this fight is Miller’s stance.

Note how low he is, with his knees significantly bent. He has good posture and his weight distributed about evenly between his hips. Against a shorter opponent, the low stance Miller uses serves to ensure that he has leverage. It makes it difficult for Sicilia to attack from underneath him (the easiest way to get past a tall man's punches) and is an important first step in his ability to control distance.

Miller immediately starts working to control distance by establishing his lead leg and arm as a threat. Using and feinting jabs, front kicks and inside leg kicks all within the first minute served to give Sicilia something to worry about and respect on the way in.

These threats coupled with careful footwork kept Miller on the outside where he was able to easily see and react to every telegraphed swing Sicilia took. It’s especially important to notice both the upward attacks (front kicks) being constantly threatened and the level changes Miller uses when he wants to box instead of kick. The upward attacks deter Sicilia from changing levels or advancing in a low stance while Miller’s level changes give him a strong base to punch from and prevent him from punching downwards—a critical error against someone with a right hand like Sicilia’s. The level changes make his jabs more effective as they can come straight out and make a big difference in Miller’s ability to control distance throughout the bout.

Another important factor in his ability to win was his clever footwork. Miller avoided the popular tall man mistake of backing up tall in straight lines when under fire. He would constantly begin circling in one direction only to switch suddenly and escape the other way once Sicilia tried to close the distance or hold him in place with hooks. Even when he found himself backed up, he was able to escape. In this exchange, Miller has been backed near the cage. Instead of waiting on Sicilia, he decides to take the initiative and lead with a straight right.

In the first frame, Sicilia ducks away from the right hand of Miller. Again, pay attention to how low in his stance Miller is. His knees are bent enough to give him power in the right hand while counter-intuitively making his chin a more difficult target—if Sicilia threw at the same time he would have hit Miller’s forhead or else his punch would have gone over Miller’s right shoulder. Next, Sicilia fires back with a predictable right hook. Miller’s defense is very savvy as he extends his lead arm and shifts his weight back, causing the hook to land harmlessly behind his left shoulder. Miller does stand up a little as he plans to circle out, as seen in the third frame. Sicilia, with his hips lower and Miller still in range, tries to catch him standing up on the way out with a left hook. Impressively, Miller is ready for it and catches the left hook with his right glove. Even more impressive, however, is Miller’s adaptive use of his lead hand. He retracts it then extends it again in coordination with his block, allowing him to get his lead hand inside Sicilia’s arms and establish head control. Miller uses that head control to push Sicilia away from the direction he is circling and gets back to the center as a result.

That’s some outstanding work to reestablish his range. Miller shows the ability to both control distance and regain it cleverly throughout the first round. He uses lateral movement to avoid being trapped as he controls distance to keep him safe and allow him to start attacking once he resets.

Throughout the first round, Miller was really able to use his teeps and jabs together to keep Sicilia hesitant and create openings.

In this gif, Miller lands a front kick immediately before feinting one to set up his jab, which he uses to close distance and attempt to land a right hand. Even though Sicilia avoids the right hand and Miller loses his preferred distance, he is able to adjust quickly. As Sicilia reaches for a body lock, Miller aggressively jams his forearms into Sicilia’s collar bones. This allows him to separate his hips and stop Sicilia from getting any closer. Once his hips are back, Miller intelligently snaps his opponent’s head down before disengaging. That’s beautiful stuff.

About halfway through the round, it became obvious that Sicilia was sick of being jabbed or teeped every time he tried to step forward. He began reacting to feints, reaching to parry, attempting to slip and hesitating to lunge forward. This ended up leaving him right in Miller’s punching range where he could start landing more serious punches.

In the above gif, you can see this all coming together. When Miller jabs or feints, Sicilia stands in place and tries to avoid it, only stepping forward after a miss. His inability to get past the jab causes him to stand right in front of Miller, leading to him being nearly rocked by a front snap kick to the chin before being actually wobbled a bit by a right hand. This is excellent control of distance, as Sicilia is stuck in a range where his attacks are all ineffective and predictable while Miller is able to land his best punches and kicks. Here’s another great example, that also shows some impressive footwork by Miller.

As Sicilia comes forward, notice how active Miller’s defense with the lead hand is. He keeps it right in Sicilia’s face, blinding him and disrupting his attacks. This allows him to pivot off the cage and land his right hand before escaping back to the center. Once there, notice how Miller’s jab is enough of a threat to cause Sicilia to completely stop moving forward and even step back, directly in the path of Miller’s second right hand, before swinging and missing another shot from far away.

At the start of the second round, Miller gets right back to work with that lead leg and lead arm. He throws multiple front kicks to the head in the first 20 seconds or so, as well as landing more stiff jabs. By this point, Miller was able to pick up on some huge weaknesses in Sicilia’s defense—namely that he was standing still and reaching to swat at punches. He begins by capitalizing on Sicilia’s oversensitivity to the jab with a classic left hook that comes around the parry, clearing the way for him to follow up with a hard straight right that rocks Sicilia.

Later on, he feints the jab and lets Sicilia parry it to come over the top with another powerful right hand that really hurts him bad. A few short rising left hooks drop Sicilia to his knees, at which point Miller goes for a guillotine and really makes my day by attacking with it to roll Sicilia onto his back and attempt to finish from mount rather than jumping guard. He fails to finish it when he ends in side control, but is quickly able to take the back and smoothly transition into a choke once Sicilia makes the mistake of giving up his back to a man with such long legs.

While the submission finish was surely impressive, Miller’s absolute ability to dictate range was nothing short of amazing. With an active an adaptive lead hand and threatening lead kicks, Miller was able to keep Sicilia right where he needed him to land his tight straight right. He was able to use his lead arm or a full clinch to break Sicilia’s posture anytime his distance was compromised, used lateral movement to avoid being trapped and by the end of the fight was using feints and manipulating reactions to land his power shots. Miller put on a clinic, and Jon Jones could take notes on how he was able to control with his lead hand without sticking his fingers in anyone’s eyes. Miller’s performance wasn’t without technical flaws. He’s a pretty awkward guy, made some footwork mistakes, lost his stance and balance several times and often had pretty bad posture when kicking. But on a conceptual level, he dominated that fight. I urge you to watch it again and learn something about fighting long.




\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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