Donald Cerrone vs. Jim Miller: Appreciating the UFC Fight Night 45 Main Event

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Donald Cerrone vs. Jim Miller: Appreciating the UFC Fight Night 45 Main Event
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Neither Donald Cerrone nor Jim Miller has ever headlined a UFC pay-per-view.

Neither guy has ever been champion (or even fought for UFC gold).

Both are eternally kicking around the bottom half of the lightweight Top 10, and though they each come into Wednesday's UFC Fight Night 45 main event riding a modest win streak, they've lost their most recent bouts against top-flight competition.

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Still, this fight, man. This fight.

If you're a hardcore MMA fan, Cerrone vs. Miller is about as close to heaven as you'll get from one of the UFC's weird midweek Fox Sports 1 broadcasts. If competitive fighting is your bag, this matchup figures to be the equivalent of a sunny summer afternoon at the lake.

We're going to put our feet up, maybe crack open a cold one and just soak it all in.

Even during a month that has already given us Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida and promises Robbie Lawler vs. Matt Brown, this one should be circled on all our calendars. It's that rare, free-TV fight that seamlessly blends mindless fun with actual potential divisional ramifications.

Cerrone and Miller are two fan-favorite, 155-pound workhorses who've won a total of 20 performance-based bonuses during their Zuffa careers. This fight will be their combined 31st appearance inside the Octagon, and it's unanimously expected to be a knockdown, drag-out good time.

If Miller wins, he could (depending on what happens to Gleison Tibau the same night) set a new record for all-time victories in the UFC lightweight division with 14. If Cerrone takes it, it'll be his third win of 2014 and will keep him more or less on pace for the half-dozen fights he said he wanted at the beginning of the year.

Both guys have already conclusively proved that if you're not one of the very best in the world, they will tear you up. Given the length of their respective UFC tenures, it's tempting to think their best days are already behind them, but the truth is they each remain startlingly young. Cerrone turned 31 in March. Miller won't get there until late August.

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Chances are, both still have a lot left in the tank, which is impressive considering they've mostly already exceeded our modest expectations.

Cerrone had already lost three WEC title fights by the time he arrived in the UFC in 2011. Because of that, few people had him ticketed for breakout success on the big stage. Then, he started his career in the Octagon on a 5-0 sprint. Since that fast start, he's gone a more-than-respectable 6-3 and established himself as one of the company's most reliable and popular attractions 

To say Cerrone doesn't give a rip, that he's down for whatever, would be a massive understatement. He swills beer at press conferences, talks openly about squandering his riches and seems to take great pleasure in the fact he gets paid to fight other men inside a cage. If you talk trash to him on Twitter, he'll send you his home address and invite you to stop by anytime.

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He's a wild man but also a sober professional. He harshly critiques even his best performances and has talked publicly about dealing with the pressures and fears that go hand-in-hand with professional fighting.

By comparison, Miller is understated—staid, even—though almost anyone would look that way opposite Cowboy Cerrone.

Miller came to the UFC in 2008 after an 11-1 start on the independent circuit (his lone loss at that point was to an up-and-coming Frankie Edgar). Since then, he's put together a 13-3-1 record and matured into one of the lightweight division's least expected contenders when he won seven fights in a row from 2009-11.

If Miller didn't fight in arguably MMA's most competitive weight class (and if he hadn't dropped high-profile meetings to Gray Maynard, Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz), he surely would've gotten a title opportunity already. With his everyman appearance, fairly iconic walkout and never-say-die attitude, there just isn't a lot to dislike.

Like Cerrone, he's hard-nosed and well-rounded. Both guys can put a scrap on while on their feet and submit you on the ground, but where Cerrone's true strength lies in his nimble striking skills, Miller skews more toward grinding clinch work and takedowns.

They are both exciting, and their styles figure to complement each other nicely. You know, in the same way baking soda complements vinegar.

Despite the fact they've both let down in big spots—Miller in a title eliminator against Diaz in May of 2012, Cerrone to Anthony Pettis in the Jan. 2013 bout that set the future champ up for his title shot—neither is considered lost property just yet.

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Pettis' title is on the shelf owing to injuries and a The Ultimate Fighter coaching stint opposite Gilbert Melendez, but it's possible the winner of Wednesday night's fight could write his name on the short list of potential challengers for early 2015.

Cerrone and Miller are likable. They are maniacs. They are exactly what Dana White talks about every time the UFC president goes on one of his rants about who is his "kind of guy."

Only one can reassert himself as a top contender in the 155-pound shark tank. In some miracle of scheduling, they're going to decide who gets to do it this week on cable TV.

Lucky us.

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