You should be impressed with Jim Miller.
There’s something beyond his efficient tear through the UFC’s lightweight division. There’s a link to his ability, and the ability of MMA’s elite lightweights.
Miller has lost two professional MMA bouts, both decision losses, one to Frankie Edgar before either was in the UFC, and one to Gray Maynard in March of 2009. You’ll surely recognize those names as the two fighters at the top of the lightweight latter. They’re the two fighters rematching each other for the title at UFC 130 end of May after a brutal title fight this past New Year’s Day that ended in a draw. Edgar has only lost to Maynard back in April of 2008, Maynard has one no-contest in June of 2007 and now one draw with Frankie. Miller’s only two tastes of defeat came at their hands, and he’s hungry to get them back.
Sporting a 19-2 overall record, Miller has made a habit of making fighters cry uncle. Of his 19 victories, 11 have come by way of submission, including his most recent, a nasty first round knee bar he slapped on BJJ black belt and (at the time) rising prospect Charles Oliviera. A black belt himself, Miler makes no secret of going into each fight looking for the submission.
“That’s where I get my rush. That’s the feeling I hunt for, is that submission,” said Miller in a versus.com feature that aired this past September just before he beat Gleison Tibau. Miller, whose brother Dan fights in the UFC’s middleweight division, will hunt down UFC newcomer Kamal Shalorus next at UFC 128 next Saturday, March 19th.
The Iranian born Shalorus, coming from the WEC, is undefeated with two draws and has some of the heaviest hands Miller will have faced to date. Though his last three fights have gone to decision, he left a trail of TKO’s before that.
If that’s not enough, he began his MMA career after representing Great Britain in an Olympic qualifying tournament, and is a partner and official member of the American Combat Association for which he instructs MMA schools on catch wrestling. In short, Shalorus is a well-rounded mixed martial artist, and is capable of giving Miller fits when they step into the Octagon.
Having said all that, there really isn’t any reason Miller shouldn’t dispatch Shalorus and continue his ascent. With only nine fights under his belt, Shalorus is still a relatively inexperienced mixed martial arts fighter, and the only name on his resume that jumps out is Jamie Varner, who he fought to a draw in June of last year. Miller is a fast rising lightweight who has bested eight of his nine opponents in the UFC, and emphatically declared in his in-cage interview with Joe Rogan after his recent win over Oliveira, “I want my shot, I want my shot.”
So the question becomes, why is Miller being handed a second rate opponent when he should be fighting someone higher up the chain, like a Kurt Pellegrino or Sean Sherk? My guess is the UFC is gently bringing along a potential game-breaker, much like when they slated Jon Jones to fight Vladimir Matyushenko after he beat Brandon Vera. If anything, it was a lateral move, if not a step backwards to go forwards. Miller’s talent and potential are undeniable, and while the top of the division sorts itself out, it makes sense to keep Miller sharp and hungry. Both angles are solved with a fight against Shalorus.
The UFC seems to deal with certain fighters more delicately than others, careful not to burn their stars out early. This is a lesson they may have learned along the way. We saw them throw out Fabricio Werdum after he was knocked out by a young Junior Dos Santos, who was a relatively unknown at the time. This, after Werdum held impressive victories over Gabriel Gonzaga and Brandon Vera, who were both strong contenders in the heavyweight division at the time. After his expulsion from the UFC, Werdum joined Strikeforce and hasn’t lost since. Unless you don’t follow the sport, you’re well aware that in his last fight he took down MMA’s greatest legend, Fedor Emelianenko. The UFC undoubtedly takes notice of this, and acts accordingly with certain talent in its stable.
Back to Miller. This is another chance for him to simply put another notch on his belt and move on before officially swimming with the division’s big fish. His fighting prowess is more impressive than Shalorus’, and his submissions are far superior. In this fight, Miller has the opportunity to take another, albeit small, step towards his goal of fighting the best in the lightweight division. Miller makes no qualms about why he wants to fight and beat the best, and it’s not about holding the belt.
“The reason that I want the belt, is to have that bulls-eye on my back. I want people to be gunning for me, and really have to step up my game to beat these guys that are coming after me.” Miller doesn’t covet trophies made of shiny material with his name inscribed for everyone to see. He’d rather have his name on the mind of every lightweight fighter in the UFC, and he’d sooner collect scars and blood-stained shorts as lasting symbols of victory than an actual belt. But if the belt is representative of his stature in the organization, he’ll take that just the same.
You should be impressed with Jim Miller.