Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
The first two UFC on FOX main event offerings have left many viewers a bit unsatisfied. The first had a knockout so quick, it bordered on anticlimactic based upon the level of attention that led up to it. The second featured a fight that went all five rounds, though was considered somewhat lackluster.
But the third? When it comes to Jim Miller and Nate Diaz, these two couldn't possibly have a boring fight, could they? Diaz brothers simply don't have "boring" in their DNA, and Nate essentially gave Miller his stamp of approval as an opponent, saying he respected his aggressive fight style.
"These two … if this fight sucks, I don't know what to tell you, man," UFC president Dana White said "These two are going to go in there and go at it. For one round or five rounds, they're going to go."
Both are action fighters, always pushing forward, setting the pace, willing to contest the fight anywhere.
On their feet, Diaz (15-7) is probably the more accomplished of the two, relying on overwhelming volume to dictate the action. At 6-feet tall and with a 76-inch reach, Diaz usually has a built-in advantage when it comes to fighting from distance. Working under boxing coach Richard Perez, he has become well-schooled in learning to make good use of the jab as well. In many ways, he is the spitting image of his brother Nick.
If the fight stays standing, Diaz historically throws more volume. According to stats provider FightMetric, Diaz lands 4.24 strikes per minute while he's only hit 2.62 times per minute. The numbers for Miller (21-3) are not quite as strong, as he lands 2.23 strikes per minute while opponents connect on him at a clip of 1.89 strikes per minute. Miller, though, is usually defensively excellent at avoiding contact, as opponents swing and miss at him 67 percent of the time.
However, because of the height and reach differential along with Diaz's technical skill, it might not be so easy to make him whiff this time around.
If the fight stays standing, it might well be Diaz's to win. Not only will his length play a role, but he also throws early and often to the body, a tactic that could benefit him greatly by sapping Miller of energy, no small thing in a five-round fight. But both fighters are quite well versed on the ground as well, both boasting black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. In fact, both have more than half of their career wins by submission (10 for Diaz, 12 for Miller).
But it may well be the transitions that win or lose this fight. If you examine Diaz's career defeats, one thing stands out: he struggles with wrestlers. In all five of his Octagon losses, he lost on points due to someone who worked to put him on his back. Miller has the gas tank and willingness to employ that kind of plan.
To be fair, Miller is not an overwhelming MMA wrestler -- he lands just 46 percent of takedown tries -- but he's good enough to be dangerous, and his courage in chasing the position will at the least put Diaz in uncomfortable moments.
Diaz only defends 45 percent of attempts against him, so chances are at some points, Miller will get the fight to the ground. Once there, he will not shy away from engaging with Diaz as some do. That should lead to some interesting ground scrambles and chain submission attempts as each works for a finish. It also should lead to some difficult-to-score rounds.
That might come into play because in their 46 combined fights, the pair have only one loss that came via finish, and that was when Diaz was just 21 years old.
That means a lot of exchanges, a lot of scrambles, and a lot of sequences where both men have their moments.
So how does it ultimately play out? I see Diaz with a slight edge standing. For one thing, he trains with one of the best southpaw strikers in MMA, his brother Nick, every day, so he's not going to have a problem facing another lefty. We also know his conditioning will be off the charts. But things start getting hazier in the clinch and in the striking-to-wrestling transitions. Diaz's judo is usually good for a takedown or two per fight, but Miller is tenacious when he sets his mind to a takedown, and as we've seen with both Diaz brothers, they're often content to play guard and look for submissions from the bottom. Even though they are often attacking from there, if they ultimately don't get the tapout, judges tend to score it for the guy on top.
Unlike other opponents, at least Miller isn't likely to lie there conservatively and take the points. He won't let the position go uncontested. If he works from the top, he'll look to inflict damage and finish. Miller does have aggressive ground and pound, which he often uses to set up submissions by creating openings.
Ultimately, I don't think either man will get a finish. They're both just too tough and durable. That leaves us going five rounds, and while Diaz's stamina is without question, Miller has also never shown an issue in that regard, and given that he's more likely to score takedowns, and the fact that he'll be aggressive from the top, I'll pick Miller scraping by in a very close decision that finally satisfies the UFC on FOX viewers.
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