UFC Fight Night: Donald Cerrone vs. Jim Miller Preview and Prognostication

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Lightweights Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller face off in New Jersey for a shot to see who can rise above the gatekeeper status both men are far too good for.

Donald Cerrone vs. Jim Miller Lightweight

Aren't these guys coming off losses?

It feels like it. Both are top flight fighters in the division who have only quietly put together a win streak. Donald Cerrone is remembered more for his losses to Rafael dos Anjos and Anthony Pettis than his wins over Adriano Martins and Edson Barboza. Miller is remembered more for being finished by Pat Healy with a rear naked choke than beating Yancy Medeiros and Fabricio Camoes.

It's a bit unfair to them since they're still top flight LW's. This is a very exciting fight on its own, and will deliver on being one of the best action fights this year. And yet there seems to be no silver lining. All of a sudden two of the most exciting contenders have seemed to have been drowned out by the glut of contenders at 155. I'm not down on this fight so much as I am aware of each fighter's ceiling. Miller has been given a few softball matchups (by his standards at least: Camoes and Medeiros are not chopped liver), while Cerrone, though impressive against solid opposition, has plateaued.

Wait...this isn't Cerrone vs. Nate Diaz?

Don't confuse Nate's ridiculous tweet with an invitation. Like any MMA fan, I've always begrudgingly admired the Diaz brothers. It's not that they know how to push the envelope of good taste. It's that they deny its very existence. Case in point.

Yea but that was a great MMA moment.

It was, but that same maliciousness informs his current inertia. Nate doesn't have any obligation to do whatever the UFC wants him to, but at a certain point, it's useful to recognize that a shot at the title requires some semblance of puglistic responsibility. Also, it's just a stupid, childish comment in keeping with MMA's Tucker Max posturing.

So. Miller is a +220. Seem fair?

Not at all. I'm pretty shocked those are the numbers. Although my BE colleagues all seem to be in agreement that Cerrone will take this. To be perfectly honest, I find that pretty curious. Although first thing's first: those are great numbers.

On paper, Donald seems like a very tough matchup. And he is. He's got excellent takedown defense to compliment a brutal arsenal of knees, kicks, and punches. In addition, he's highly gifted as a grappler. In fact, I'd argue that he's one of the better submission artists at LW, period. In MMA, grappling is less about mechanics, and more about efficiency. If you want to score submissions, you're far better off being a kickboxing ass kicker than you are a pure submission specialist. Modern fighters are too good at defending submissions while sober. Soften them up with a patella to the grill, or hit them hard enough to have them defecating their own teeth, and then you'll have success.

Cerrone excels at this. However, as he's shown in recent years, his party life away from the cage is becoming a potential x-factor. Donald has a lot of fight mileage on him. Even going all the way back to his WEC days, he absorbed some blistering shots from fighters like Jamie Varner, and Ed Ratcliff.

Miller is not exactly Earnie Shavers, but he hits hard enough to catch people admiring their handy work. His boxing has improved over the years as well. While it's nothing dramatic, he has better fundamentals now, and is less prone to being obliterated on the feet, which is what would have happened to him 3 years ago. Cowboy is a fairly hittable target. He keeps his hands low, and the strongest similarities I can draw from with respect to highlighting his chances is the dos Anjos bout.

Is Miller's striking really all that fundamentally different from dos Anjos'? I don't think so. Both guys possess some pretty formulaic striking, all things considered. But they're reasonably fast and accurate, are defensively responsible, and can threaten on the ground. There's also the fact that both are southpaws. Diaz, and dos Anjos both seemed to reap the benefits of fighting southpaw against him, and so did Anthony Pettis: while he sometimes fights traditional, switched to southpaw early in the fight and finished him with a left roundhouse to the body.

I don't know that it's necessarily Cerrone's weakness because these are all really good fighters. But I do think a case can be made that the southpaw stance exaggerates his striking flaws. He just seems more prone to feinting, and throwing low impact strikes while trying too hard to set up his power shots. This is a much more even fight in my view than the oddsmakers or my peers make it seem.

To top it off, Miller is a high wire act when it comes to grappling. To think he's incapable of locking in a guillotine, which is Miller's specialty (along with being the only submission Cerrone has ever yielded to), seems preposterous. Miller's isn't the far better grappler, but I think offensively he's equally gifted, and anticipates better on the ground.

It's an awesome bout either way, but I like Miller's durability to take over in a five round fight.

Jim Miller by Decision.

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