I remember when Jim Miller was set to face Mark Bocek at UFC 111. I told my friends about how Miller wasn’t well known but was one of the best lightweights in the world. His only losses at the time were to highly ranked Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. Even though Miller wasn’t an exceptional athlete, I felt his well-rounded game and very strong ground game would serve him well against high-level opponents. Then Bocek gave Miller an extremely tough fight; Miller won by decision but it easily could have gone Bocek’s way.
At the time, I chalked it up as a great performance by Bocek, and a sign that perhaps Bocek was an underrated fighter. As time has gone on, however, I’ve started to wonder if I’ve just been overrating Miller this whole time. In his last fight, Miller was being out-boxed by Fabricio Camoes of all people before he won by first-round armbar from his back. Before that, Miller was pummeled by Pat Healy, beaten up and submitted by Nate Diaz, hurt by strikes before submitting Melvin Guillard, and dominated by Benson Henderson.
I’ve come to believe that instead of being a well-rounded fighter, Miller is a limited striker and wrestler who overcomes these weaknesses with a genuinely excellent submission game and a lot of toughness. That’s great when Miller faces opponents who either can’t strike (Joe Lauzon) or can’t defend submissions (Guillard), but against anybody who is strong in both areas, Miller is going to really struggle.
I was fully prepared to pick Bobby Green to defeat Miller. Not only have I soured on Miller as a high-level lightweight fighter, I have to accept Green as one of the fastest-rising lightweights in the UFC. Green’s performances have been good enough that he’s currently rated as the 7th best UFC lightweight by FPR. Unfortunately, an injury has forced Green out of the contest… leaving Yancy Medeiros as the short-notice replacement.
Now, Medeiros is a fighter I’ve been very intrigued by since I saw him compete against Gareth Joseph at a Strikeforce event in 2010. I remember thinking Medeiros had really nice Muay Thai and takedown defense, but then Medeiros didn’t compete again for three years. When he returned, he was a lightweight instead of a middleweight and nobody knew what to make of him.
Medeiros is a perfect example of a fighter I want to see a lot of so I can figure out his skill set. Naturally, both of his UFC fights have been very short. A thumb injury ended his return bout against Rustam Khabilov within three minutes in his first UFC fight; Medeiros defeated Yves Edwards by knockout in the first round of his second fight. Five minutes of action just isn’t enough to have a strong grasp of just how good Medeiros is.
But let’s look at what we do know. We know Medeiros is at least a threatening offensive striker; he landed 25 significant strikes in his short knockout win over Edwards (which was later overturned to a no contest due to a failed drug test). If we count that as a knockout win, that makes seven career wins by KO/TKO in 11 fights. Medeiros also showed against Khabilov that he wasn’t going to be taken down and controlled easily.
Usually in a situation like this, I play it safe and take the betting favorite. I’m feeling dangerous today. I think Medeiros can get the better of Miller on the feet and stuff Miller’s takedowns as well. And if Medeiros has been training with the Diaz brothers, I have to assume he knows something about defending submissions as well. I’m going out on a limb with this pick.
Pick: Yancy Medeiros by decision