IS HE NEXT?
Jim Miller is in the midst of tremendous UFC career. After 12 fights in the promotion, his record stands at an amazing 10-2. There aren’t many guys in any weight class that hold 10 wins through their first 12 trips to the Octagon.
With Frankie Edgar set to defend his title against Benson Henderson at UFC 144 on February 25, there is a big-time scrum going on to determine who is next in line. The ultra-deep lightweight division has no shortage of deserving challengers, with Nate Diaz, Clay Guida, Edson Barboza, Anthony Pettis, and Donald Cerrone just a few names that quickly come to mind. None of those guys have enjoyed the same recent success as Miller. Former champion Sean Sherk is another who could make a solid case, based on his career accomplishments. In fact, he might be the only one who can put together a case that trumps Miller, if one ignores the fact that Sherk has been on the sidelines for the past 16 months due to a run of injuries.
Assuming Edgar wins, Jose Aldo is the guy I’d like to see challenge for the belt. Edgar is a great matchup for him on paper, and the chance for a guy to make history (i.e., holding two belts at the same time) is always something that brings tremendous intrigue. If Aldo isn’t interested in moving up, then Miller is the logical next choice, in my opinion.
If Henderson wins, an immediate rematch is likely, but Edgar will likely drop back into the 155-pound pack if he suffers a one-sided loss. In that instance, Miller is at the top of my list for three reasons. First, Miller has earned the right based on his body of work in the UFC. Second, I don’t think Aldo matches up as well with Henderson, due to the size difference, so I don’t think the reigning featherweight champ would move up. Third, Henderson-Miller reminds me a lot of Henderson-Guida from a matchup perspective, which should make for a tremendous fight.
Should Miller be next in line? Tell me what you think in the comment section below.
MELVIN, MELVIN, MELVIN…
Friday’s bout between Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller went almost exactly as predicted. Guillard showed his vast superiority on the feet. But he was exposed, yet again, once the fight hit the ground.
The affable lightweight now has six career UFC losses. All six came via submission. All six were some form of choke. If that isn’t a telling statistic, then I don’t know what is.
Guillard is constantly referred to as one of the best, if not the best, athletes in the UFC. I fully agree with that notion, which makes it all the more frustrating to watch him lose by choke again and again. Imagine how good this guy would be, if he could address that gaping hole in his game. Guillard’s hands are as good as anyone in the division. His flying knees are at the top of the lightweight food chain. His physical strength probably rivals that of most welterweights. And he is a very good wrestler.
Yet, Guillard will never fulfill his amazing potential until he addresses his lack of submission defense. If I was in his corner, I’d have him take a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu sabbatical—nothing but submission defense for the next several months.
Most 60-fight veterans don’t have much room left for growth. They are so set in their ways that dramatic improvement isn’t really an option. Guillard is the exception to that norm. He is just now coming into his fighting prime. The growth he showed during his stint as a student at Greg Jackson’s gym was amazing. That suggests to me that he is still a sponge waiting to soak up more knowledge. For Guillard’s sake, I hope that knowledge is filled with submission defense.
NO ROOT CANALS FOR NEER
Josh “The Dentist” Neer earned his nickname because he reportedly left more than a few teeth on the canvas – none of them his own – during his amateur career. His professional career has been equally exciting. I don’t know if he has extracted any teeth from his opponents, but Neer has certainly engaged in slugfest after slugfest with some of the baddest dudes on the planet. That is why many people thought that his bout with Duane Ludwig, arguably the best technical striker in the welterweight division, would be a Fight of the Year candidate, though many thought Ludwig would be the one playing the role of dentist.
The bout was certainly fun while it lasted, but the explosive rock’em, sock’em robots war that everyone hoped for didn’t materialize because Neer opted to fight with his head, not his ego. Ludwig is the better striker; that much was obvious early on. He was basically landing crisp, hard shots at will. But this is mixed martial arts, not kickboxing or boxing, so Neer took Ludwig to the place where he often struggles – on the ground.
It only took Neer a matter of seconds to submit Ludwig once the action hit the floor. The result should serve as a reminder that this guy is far more than just a slugger. Neer is a very skilled mixed martial artist. He now owns six consecutive wins, the last two coming in the UFC.
Neer has always excelled against the middle tier. The question is whether he can compete with the true cream of the welterweight crop. A win over Ludwig is a good step in that direction.
POSSIBLY THE BEST BARRY, BUT IS IT THE BEST WEIGHT CLASS?
363 days since last winning in the Octagon, Pat Barry finally righted the ship with a savage first round knockout win over Christian Morecraft. The fight was typical Barry, with good back-and-forth action before a sudden end.
This time, however, “HD” showed a vastly improved ground game. The much bigger, heavier Morecraft twice got him to the ground. Barry, who is routinely criticized for having a limited ground game, worked back to his feet both times.
The second trip to the canvas saw Morecraft mount his foe and then sink what appeared to be a very deep arm bar. Barry didn’t panic. He instead showed high-level submission defense by working his way out of the arm bar and back to his feet.
Moments later, Barry showed his elite striking by slipping a wild right hand and countering with a perfectly placed leaping left hook. The follow-up punches were just icing on the cake.
That was probably the most well rounded performance of Barry’s UFC career, one that proves he is working hard to shore up the shortcomings in his game. I firmly believe that he will continue to get better as a fighter. But the one thing he cannot overcome is his height.
Mark Hunt is listed as the shortest heavyweight in the UFC at 5’10 to Barry’s 5’11. But I highly doubt that Barry is actually taller than Hunt. I actually think the opposite might be true. Whatever the case, he is extremely vertically challenged for a UFC heavyweight.
I often wonder how Barry would perform if he found a way to cut to light heavy. I know he is sick of hearing that. But I cannot help but wonder. And I can’t help but wonder why he hasn’t hired a diet guru to find out for himself.
Maybe he just loves being David each and every time he fights, because the average heavyweight certainly looks like Goliath every time Barry steps into the Octagon.