This past Saturday, Jim Miller fell to Nate Diaz in a bout in which Miller was never really in it. Diaz tagged his bearded foe with several shots, pressed the action and kept the fight in his range. With the loss, Miller now finds himself 1-2 in his most recent outings and drops far from contention in the lightweight division.
No fighter fits the definition of gatekeeper quite like Miller. He is a hard-nosed, battle-tested warrior who comes out on top more often than not. He has bested men who were otherwise undefeated, winners of The Ultimate Fighter and longtime UFC veterans alike. However, when put against elite fighters, Miller has faltered at every turn.
Notice the connection between the only four men to defeat Miller: Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard, Benson Henderson, Nate Diaz. All are either champions or contenders in the UFC.
Where does he go from here? At one point, Miller had a seven-fight win streak inside the Octagon, which is only one shy of Maynard's record in the division. Not only that, but Miller was a top contender less than one year ago.
Miller is hardly irrelevant, nor is he the kind of fighter who will be discouraged by Saturday's contest. If anything, he will use it as motivation to come back better than ever. I legitimately pity whomever Joe Silva puts across the Octagon from this New Jersey native.
Let's take a look at some UFC lightweights who may find themselves in such dangerous waters.
Donald Cerrone vs. Jeremy Stephens loser
On May 15, Cerrone and Stephens square off at UFC on Fuel TV 3.
Last year, "Cowboy" Cerrone found success in his first four UFC appearances and attempted to win a fifth against Nate Diaz. Additionally, he has only lost to champions Benson Henderson and Jamie Varner.
Stephens has wins over Sam Stout, Cole Miller, Rafael dos Anjos and Marcus Davis. Barring a bad decision in a contest with Melvin Guillard, Stephens' only loss in his last six fights came in a decision against Anthony Pettis.
G-Sot knows how Jim Miller feels. Sotiropoulos also won seven straight fights in the UFC, but was unable to secure a title shot despite wins over Joe Stevenson, Joe Lauzon and Kurt Pellegrino. In a fight that would likely crown him as a No. 1 contender, Sotiropoulos fell short against Dennis Siver and lost every ounce of his precious momentum.
A knockout loss to Rafael dos Anjos last summer sent the Aussie star spiraling off the contender's ladder entirely. A bout with Miller would be a high-risk, high-reward situation for both stars.
Another notable lightweight who would be well-suited to square off with Jim Miller is submission specialist Joe Lauzon. Coming off of a head-kick KO loss to Anthony Pettis, Lauzon is a dangerous competitor who is eager to get back on the right side of the win column.