Donald Cerrone vs. Jim Miller: Keys to Victory for Each Fighter

Kyle Symes@ksymes88Correspondent IIIJuly 15, 2014

Donald Cerrone vs. Jim Miller: Keys to Victory for Each Fighter

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Although it’s become a bit of an overused term in the MMA world, the phrase “this fight has Fight of the Night written all over it” definitely applies to the upcoming fight between Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller.

    Fans couldn’t ask for a better pairing of lightweight contenders, as neither man is known for putting on boring performances. Both also have the ability to end the fight in an instant, whether it be on the feet or on the ground.

    Cerrone is among the most popular lightweights on the UFC’s roster, a feat due in large part to his accomplishments under the popular WEC promotion. Cerrone had one of the most intense rivalries in recent memory with Jamie Varner and was a mainstay atop WEC cards.

    He transitioned over to the UFC and has maintained his status as not only one of the more popular, but also one of the best 155-pound fighters in the world. He’s struggled a bit when given the chance to become a lightweight elite, but that hasn’t stopped Cerrone from signing up for as many fights as he can.

    Miller has also struggled to climb over the hill between gatekeeper and lightweight elite. But it’s hard to knock the guy for losing to guys like Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz. Miller may not have the initial name value that “Cowboy” enjoys, but he routinely puts on some of the more exciting performances in the cage.

    The fight looks poised to deliver some late fireworks in July with both men having plenty of opportunities to capitalize on the other’s mistakes. Here are the keys to victory for Cerrone and Miller.

Donald Cerrone

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    Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

    For Donald Cerrone, the first few minutes will be the most important of the fight. Why, might you ask? After all, it’s not how you start the fight but how you finish.

    Well, that’s normally true except in the case of Cerrone, who is a notoriously slow starter. Unless Miller plans to slap the taste out of Cerrone’s mouth at the weigh-ins to get him angry, expect Cerrone to come out with his usual tepid pace.

    The problem for Cerrone is that he will be facing a guy who sets an incredible pace in Jim Miller. If Miller can come out and set the tone early, it may be too late for Cerrone to take back the fight if it goes to a decision (much like Cerrone’s fight with Rafael Dos Anjos).

    If the fight is on the feet, Cerrone will need to utilize his excellent striking skills to keep Miller at bay. Miller will likely look to crowd Cerrone and push him against the fence. By using his bruising leg kicks and straight punches (Cerrone is five inches taller and will enjoy a two-inch reach advantage), Cowboy can avoid being pushed against the fence or taken down.

    With that said, odds are Cerrone will get amped up during one of the exchanges and provide Miller with the opportunity to secure a takedown. It isn’t the endgame for Cerrone, however, as he’s one of the more talented submission fighters in the division despite being more known for his striking.

    It will be tough to submit Miller, however, as he is at the very least equal (if not better) than Cerrone on the ground. Cowboy’s ground game has always been offense-centered, meaning he could lose valuable positions or find himself on the mat for an extended period of time while Miller grinds out points on the scorecards.

    Cerrone doesn’t need to come out guns-a-blazing because that’s not his style and you don’t want to try and match Miller’s endless gas tank. Instead, Cerrone should be sure to use his length to pepper Miller from a distance and look for the finish with proper technique over raw aggression.

    On the ground, Cowboy should focus on getting back to his feet, as tapping out a talented grappler like Miller is likely more trouble than it’s worth.

Jim Miller

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    USA TODAY Sports

    For Jim Miller, the blueprint to victory in every fight is nearly identical. He’ll want to push the pace early and often against Donald Cerrone.

    The strategy for Miller is going to depend on just how confident he is in his ground game against Cerrone. Cowboy has never worried too much about his takedown defense because he’s so good at locking in submissions, so the chance for a takedown will likely be there for Miller if he can time it right. Just because Cerrone doesn’t mind being on his back doesn’t mean he won’t put up a fight to avoid it.

    Miller could also find success on the feet if he can land his left hand with efficiency. We saw Cerrone wobbled against Edson Barboza in their contest, and with Miller being a southpaw, the power shots will be even easier to land if he can put himself in position to land them.

    But Miller hasn’t always been known as a strategist when it comes to striking—not that it’s bad, but it’s not what he uses to win in the Octagon. However, Miller will need to use his striking, particularly his footwork, to close the cage off and swarm Cerrone with strikes.

    Even if they don’t land, Miller should throw just enough to push Cerrone into the fence or have Cerrone raise his guard up to where Miller can slip in for a takedown. Cerrone’s length advantage will be nullified if Miller can initiate a clinch battle against the fence.

    Of course, it’s easier said than done with having to engage Cerrone in the striking game, as he’s one of the more technical strikers in the division. Luckily for Miller, he has the chin and gas tank to weather the storm while closing the distance.