UFC No. 1 Lightweight Contender: Jim Miller or Anthony Pettis?

Jesse CurranContributor IJanuary 16, 2011

Hailing from the Garden State, lifetime Sparta, N.J. native and UFC veteran Jim Miller has moved steadily up the lightweight rankings. Since his beginnings as a wrestler at Sparta High School, and continuing for a year of Division-I wrestling at Virginia Tech, Jim has always striven for greatness.

Jim and his brother Dan grew up wrestling and made the transition to mixed martial arts together. Having found a home at AMA Fight Club in Whippany, N.J., Miller started off his MMA career on a five-fight win streak.

He made the transition from lower-tier organizations to the UFC in October of 2008 by earning Submission of the Night honors over French MMA vet David Baron. He went on to fight three months later and record UFC victory No. 2 with a unanimous decision over fellow wrestler Matt Wiman.

The match was deemed Fight of the Night and gave Miller his second bonus in just his second UFC fight. This improved his record to 2-0 in the UFC and 13-1 overall.

Then rising star, and now current No. 1 contender, Gray Maynard was next on the horizon. Miller got out-struck on the feet and was unsuccessful at taking down the former three-time All-American Michigan State Spartan.

The fight concluded with an unanimous decision victory for Maynard. This was just the second loss of Miller’s career. The only other blemish on his record was a decision loss back in 2006 to fellow Jersey native, and soon to be UFC lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar.

Four months later, Miller bounced back with a dominating performance over former King of the Cage champ, Mac Danzig. Led by greatly improved striking (from what was seen in the Maynard fight), several powerful takedowns, and topped off with some good ground-and-pound, Jim was back on track for a climb to the top of the division, and a chance at UFC gold.

A mere two months later Jim followed this up with a win over newcomer Steve Lopez, where he showed the same striking and effective ground-and-pound that was seen in the demolition of Danzig.

Under the tutelage of Jamie Cruz, Miller is the recent recipient of a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and is one of the best practitioners in the division. This has earned him two Submission of the Night bonuses.

These tremendous skills were showcased in quite impressive fashion, with a first-round armbar victory against Duane Ludwig, and a win via kneebar in less than two minutes over highly touted and undefeated youngster, Charles Oliveira.

Jimmy, as his coaches and training partners call him, is currently on a six-fight winning streak with victories over the aforementioned Danzig, Lopez, Ludwig and Oliveira, as well as Mark Bocek, and Gleison Tibau. Miller is one of only three fighters to post a perfect 4-0 mark in 2010 with two wins by unanimous decisions and two finished by submission.

Miller is reported to have a fight set against WEC transfer Kamal Shalorus, though it has not yet been confirmed by the UFC. Not taking anything away from Shalorus, but Miller deserves someone who is more proven; Shalorus is coming off of a controversial split decision victory and a draw.

However, last reigning WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis would be a great and deserving matchup for Miller. After his impressive title-earning decision victory over Ben Henderson, and following the WEC-UFC merger, Anthony Pettis was next in line for a shot at Frankie Edgar's UFC lightweight title.

At UFC 125, with Pettis watching front row, Frankie Edgar went to defend his title in a rematch against the only loss of his career: No. 1 contender Gray Maynard. After getting rocked several times very badly in the first round, Edgar overcame great adversity and lasted to Round 2. The two battled for five rounds and showcased one of the most memorable lightweight performances in recent history.

The fight was so closely contested that it ended up a draw on the judges’ score cards. This left a very unsettling taste in the mouth of Anthony Pettis, now unsure of what lies ahead. Later that night, UFC president Dana White announced that there would be an immediate rematch, and that the title shot for Pettis would have to wait.

Rather than waiting several months for the winner to be determined, Pettis decided he wanted to take a chance and fight in the meantime. It took only days for rumors to spread about who he might get matched up against. The name most talked about is formidable lightweight contender and fan-favorite, Clay Guida.

However, given his stellar record and impressive resume of recent accomplishments, Jim Miller is much more worthy of being awarded the fight with Pettis.

A lot of people are talking about Kenny Florian as a possible matchup for Pettis. At 2-2 in his last four fights, and coming off of a very one-sided loss, Florian isn’t the most fitting opponent. As far as Clay Guida is concerned, he is right there in the mix, having won and finished three fights in a row; although, he did lose pretty convincingly to Kenny Florian just over a year ago.

With six consecutive victories, all of which were in decisive fashion, Jim Miller is definitely more deserving of a fight against Anthony Pettis, and No. 1 contender status, than anyone else in the lightweight division!