Joe Lauzon is again looking to build a winning streak.
He jumped into the thick of the lightweight title picture by choking out Melvin Guillard, but his momentum was snuffed out after he was decapitated by Anthony Pettis at UFC 144. He got back on the horse by beating Jamie Varner in a Fight of the Year candidate but was looking to get closer than arm's length to the title picture.
Miller, meanwhile, is in a similar boat.
After stringing together seven wins over some legitimate competition, Miller's title aspirations were killed when he was manhandled by current champion Ben Henderson. His most recent fight was a scary loss to Nate Diaz, who almost made him bite his tongue off with a savage guillotine choke.
With both fighters putting it all on the line, Jim Miller gutted out a decision victory after an absolutely brutal fight.
So what did we learn from this possible Fight of the Year candidate?
Joe Lauzon Has a Big Heart Capable of Pumping Lots of Blood
Seriously, how much of a beating did Lauzon take in the first round? He then came out swinging in the second round like nothing had happened.
In the first round, Miller opened a cut that had to be about two inches long on the inside of Lauzon's eyebrow. When the fight went to the ground, blood literally pooled underneath Lauzon. When Lauzon got top position,the first thing he did was rub his face all over Miller's chest and head to clear his vision.
Still, he fought hard and never quit. His performance was one of the gutsiest we've seen since Mark Hominick battled back against Jose Aldo.
Is Jim Miller Experiencing a Career Renaissance?
Miller was very high up on the list of contenders in the lightweight division. That said, nobody really considered his wrestling-focused style especially exciting.
Chael Sonnen once said, “Fans don't want to see two guys 'bang'...they want to see guys working.” As we have seen from Jon Fitch, and to a lesser degree Yushin Okami, the popular trend these days is for these sorts of fighters to stop grinding and start using their strong wrestling chops to really lay a beating on fighters.
Jim Miller still has plenty of fights ahead of him, but there's no time like the present to really start pressing towards a title shot. He worked Lauzon over hard, and this win puts him on the right track towards a title shot.
Joe Lauzon Still May or May Not Be a Title Contender
I love Joe Lauzon. He lives about an hour from me, and I love my local fighters.
Joe Lauzon is one of the smartest and savviest fighters in MMA. He also has some of the sweetest submissions in the sport and has very underrated hands. That said, the list of people he has beaten is not nearly as illustrious as the list of people he has lost to.
Lauzon owns wins over Jeremy Stephens, Jens Pulver, Gabe Ruediger, Melvin Guillard and Jamie Varner. He owns losses to Kenny Florian, Anthony Pettis, Jim Miller and George Sotiropoulos.
So what wins out? It remains hard to say.
If this was a five-round affair, or even if Lauzon didn't lose so much blood, it's very possible this fight could have panned out differently.
Then again, maybe not.
If Joe Lauzon can string together wins, something he has consistently struggled to do over his UFC career, he could end up fighting for a belt some time in the future. That said, Lauzon hasn't won three consecutive UFC fights since 2007.
Even so, I'm going to root for Joe Lauzon. You just have to hope things eventually line up for him.
Lightweight Division? Still Awesome
The fact that fighters can be this good and find themselves well out of the title picture makes it pretty obvious how amazingly deep the lightweight division is right now.
We have seen a bit of an exodus from 155 lbs in the last few months. Dennis Siver, Ross Pearson, Cole Miller, Frankie Edgar, Clay Guida, Jeremy Stephens and more have all dropped to featherweight.
Still, the lightweight division remains downright amazing.
Jim Miller is a very, very strong wrestler. Joe Lauzon is one of the smartest fighters in the UFC and is scary anywhere in the cage. It's great we get to see fights like this.
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