There’s never been a match where Jim Miller has been able to take it to the ground in which he didn’t get his hand raised when it was over.
Miller, who had a seven-fight win streak and seemed one step away from a lightweight title match before he lost in August of last year to Ben Henderson, took a big step on the road back with a quick victory over Melvin Guillard on Friday night’s UFC on FX 1 event at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Miller (21-3) was getting the short end of the early stand-up battle. Guillard (46-11-3, 1 no contest) was beating him to the punch, and knocked Miller down right away with a left hook. But Guillard kept going for flying knees, and Miller timed one of them to get the fight to the ground and it was over in short order as Miller got Guillard’s back, clamped on a body scissors and secured the choke in just 2:04.
"I was really hoping I wouldn't have to find out how hard he hits," Miller said. "He has explosive shots. I don’t get knocked down too often. I was able to find my home on his back in the scramble and was able to work my arm underneath his neck. I feel pretty good once I get in that position as I can usually work things the way I need to. The win is just so gratifying, here in the main event on FX."
The Miller brothers, Jim and Dan, are known for not turning down fights, and have never pulled out of a fight. This past week Jim Miller reluctantly revealed that in his loss to Henderson, which likely cost him a title shot vs. Frankie Edgar, that he was battling a kidney infection and mononucleosis.
In securing his 12th career submission win, Miller had to get it to the ground against perhaps the most explosive fighter in the division.
Guillard has shown strong takedown defense in his recent fights and knockout power in both hands, and the combination gave Miller fits early.
"I just found a way to get his back, it’s something I’ve always been able to do," Miller said. "From there, it’s just securing the position. I’m pretty confident I’m the most dangerous lightweight in the world."
"I’ve actually been working back escapes all camp," said Guillard, who moved his training from Greg Jackson’s gym in Albuquerque, to Imperial Athletics in Boca Raton, Fla., training with the likes of Rashad Evans and Anthony Johnson. "I just fell the wrong way, fell right into him. I hurt him, had him down. I think he was still hurt even when he had a hold of me. I don’t like to tap, but I had to. The way I feel he just got too tight a grip on me. I’ll be back. I want to fight my way back from the bottom up. That’s the right way to do it."
This is Guillard's second defeat in a row, coming off a shocking 47-second submission loss to Joe Lauzon on Oct. 8. Guillard is 11-6 in his UFC career, with all six losses coming by submission, five of which came in the first round.
Miller dedicated the fight to his nephew, Danny Jr., who has battled health problems and recently had a kidney donated by his sister after a fund raising drive which saw the UFC as well as fans make generous donations.
"It is so gratifying, everybody, all the fans, the UFC, everyone, you probably know my nephew is going down some hard times," he said. "I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, myself and my family, we love you guys so much."
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Like last week’s show in Brazil, the event was filled with early finishes, with only two of 10 fights going to a decision and six ending in the first round, several of which were like the main event, with come-from-behind finishes.
Josh Neer (33-10-1) survived a similar fate, being outstruck early to win by first-round submission over Duane "Bang" Ludwig (29-12) in 3:04 in the semifinal.
Ludwig, like Guillard, had the strong early advantage with quicker hands, landing punches and knees, along with strong takedown defense. Neer was wobbled by his punches and his left eye started to swell, but finally got the takedown.
As Ludwig tried to escape the bottom and scramble to his feet, he was caught in transition with a guillotine and he was put out with the hold just as it appeared he was readying to tap.
"It was a good win," Neer said. "I wanted to stand up and trade more. He was getting the better of me, so I took it to the ground. I think one of my biggest strengths is I don’t want to lose."
Another fighter who went through some hard family times, Jorge Rivera (19-9), who turns 40 next month, announced earlier Friday that win or lose, he was retiring after his fight with Eric Schafer (14-7-2).
It was another come-from-behind affair, with Schafer able to take Rivera down three times and control him on the ground most of the first round.
But Schafer tired in the second. When he went for a takedown, Rivera was able to sprawl, throw punches and land on top. He landed a lot of hard punches on the ground until referee Herb Dean stopped it at 1:31 of the second round.
"As far as the fight, I just played to my strengths and never felt threatened by him," said Rivera, whose 17-year-old daughter died three years ago from a bad reaction to medication, and who has just opened up a gym in the Boston area.
"Hey, I like knocking people out, but if I have to go to the ground, I will. But I’m not going to mess around, especially when I know my opponent has a better ground game. I told myself coming in tonight to just relax, let it all hang out and hopefully walk away with a win. I’ve had a wonderful career and I’m very grateful to the UFC, but I don’t want to do this anymore. This job isn’t easy. I’m ready to put my time in being a husband and father."
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