Donald Cerrone vs. Jim Miller: A Pivotal Fight in the UFC's Lightweight Division

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Donald Cerrone vs. Jim Miller: A Pivotal Fight in the UFC's Lightweight Division
USA Today/ AP Images

This Wednesday's UFC Fight Night 45 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, is headlined by a lightweight clash between the Garden State's own Jim Miller and Donald Cerrone

This is a matchup with major title implications, therefore making it a pivotal scrap inside the Octagon at 155 pounds. 

Miller, the most recognizable face from Whippany, New Jersey's AMA Fight Club, enters the bout ranked as the No. 7 lightweight in the world, according to the UFC's official rankings

The 30-year-old was a dark-horse title contender after he rattled off seven straight wins between July 2009 and March 2011, though he was stopped in his tracks by former lightweight champ Benson Henderson in August 2011. 

However, Miller has since compiled a solid 4-1(1) record, with key wins over Melvin Guillard and Joe Lauzon, so he remains a legitimate title threat at the moment. 

Also worth mentioning is that Miller is 2-1(1) in his home state since joining the UFC ranks in October 2008, and all of his career losses have come against big-name fighters in Henderson, Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz

A win over Cowboy would more than likely mean Miller would be just one win away from a title shot. 

Of course, Cerrone, a former WEC lightweight title contender, is no pushover. 

The Greg Jackson product enters the matchup as the No. 6 lightweight in the UFC's official Top 10 list and is enjoying a three-fight win streak—all of which were stoppages. 

Two of those victories came via submission over the likes of the always tough Evan Dunham and Edson Barboza

While Cerrone is known by most casual fans for his kickboxing skills, his submission came is arguably the best weapon of his arsenal: Fifteen of his 23 professional wins have come by way of tapout

However, it's well known that Miller is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and is regarded as one of the strongest competitors at 155 pounds, so a submission either way here seems fairly unlikely. 

Like Miller, Cerrone has struggled against elite competition and has come up short against Jamie Varner, Henderson (twice), Diaz, current champ Anthony Pettis and contender Rafael dos Anjos

Therefore, the loser of this matchup will likely face the fate of dropping out of the UFC title picture for good and becoming a gatekeeper until he's released from the promotion. 

Even with a win over Miller, Cerrone may need at least two more wins to earn a shot at UFC gold since his loss to Pettis was just 19 months ago. 

That could quickly change, though, if Gilbert Melendez defeats Pettis when they square off at the UFC's annual year-end pay-per-view in December. 

Finally, also consider that between these two high-level athletes, the UFC has awarded an unheard-of 15 Fight Night or Performance of the Night bonuses. 

Cerrone vs. Miller, which thousands of fans will watch live at the Revel Casino, will determine the true contender and pretender in the UFC's 155-pound division. 

That's why it's a pivotal, must-watch matchup for casual and hardcore fight fans alike.

 

John Heinis is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA editor for eDraft.com.

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