The co-main event of UFC Fight Night 80 is a lightweight match-up between Jim Miller and Michael Chiesa. Both fighters find themselves somewhere in the middle of the lightweight pecking order. Miller is coming off a split decision win over Danny Castillo in July, while Chiesa is coming off a decision win over Mitch Clarke in April. Jim Miller (25-6 (1 NC) MMA, 14-5 (1 NC) UFC, +100 underdog) The 32-year old is about to enter his eighth year as a UFC fighter. The New Jersey native has racked up 13 wins in the shark tank that is the UFC’s lightweight division. At one point Miller had even reeled off seven straight wins in the division. However, future lightweight kingpin Benson Henderson put a stop to that in 2011, as he dominated Miller for three rounds. Since then Miller has been up and down with his UFC performances, as he beat Danny Castillo, Yancy Medeiros, Fabircio Camoes, Joe Lauzon, and Melvin Guillard. However, many if those wins were sandwiched between dominant losses to Nate Diaz, Donald Cerrone, Beneil Dariush, and Pat Healy, though the submission loss to Pat Healy was overturned to a no-contest after Healy failed his drug test. Miller is a well-rounded fighter, as he has a tremendous submission attack and serviceable striking. The southpaw offers a variety of left hands, right hooks, and lead right uppercuts. Further, he is a good counter puncher, as he times his right hook and straight left hand well. Standing elbows, inside and outside leg kicks, and kicks to the body are also staples of his attack. Miller is especially dangerous in the first round, as he often comes out guns blazing. However, conditioning has been a serious issue in several fights. Miller tends to slow down significantly in the later rounds. Defensively, Miller has become more hittable in recent years. His head movement is not what it once was and he tends to retreat in straight lines instead of circling away. The 20-fight UFC veteran’s best aspect of his game are his submissions. He has decent wrestling, including his serviceable double-leg and trips in the clinch. From top position he has a smothering base, passes effortlessly, and has an affinity for either securing full mount or taking his opponent’s back. From there Miller’s submission game is deadly. He has a nasty guillotine, armbar, leglocks, and rear-naked chokes. Further his offensive guard game is quite dangerous. He is tricky with his sweeps and submission games off his back, which benefits him because his takedown defense is not great, Miller has had trouble against tall, lanky strikers he cannot take down and superior wrestlers/grapplers that can avoid his submission game. Michael Chiesa (12-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC, -120 favorite) The popular Chiesa returns to the cage for the first time since his dominant decision win over Mitch Clarke. The Spokane, Washington native burst onto the UFC scene when he won season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter, which was the first and only season of the show that utilized a life format. Chiesa was the underdog in every fight on the show because his game was still raw and he did not look like much of a fighter. However, he earned three dominant victories, including two finishes to reach the finals against Al Iaquinta. Chiesa wasted little time in ending this one, as he took Iaquinta’s back and choked him unconscious in a little under three minutes. Since then Chiesa has earned wins over Clarke, Francisco Trinaldo, Colton Smith, and Anton Kuivanen. Further, his only two losses were to longtime veterans and top fighters Jorge Masvidal and Joe Lauzon, both of which were close fights. The 27-year old has constantly improved from fight to fight, which is something great prospects do. He is a tough, grizzled fighter that is a tough out for any fighter, even at this point. His major strength is when he is able to use his above-average wresting to get his opponent to the ground and work from top position. Chiesa has a nice array of trips and throws in the clinch, as well as a decently timed double-leg in open space. From top position Chiesa is a serious problem. He is very hard to shrug off, is a decent passer, has a tremendous full mount, and drops bombs when he gets to a dominant position. Further, he has shown an affinity for taking his opponent’s back and locking up a rear-naked choke. Additionally, he has excellent conditioning and has no problem going three hard rounds. The area where Chiesa has improved the most is with his striking, but he still has a lot of work to do. He has a long reach for the division, but he does not use it that well. He often leaps in with straight lefts and right hooks, which immediately puts him in range of being countered. He could have more success if he used his reach and length more. However, his aggression and blitzes help him close the distance and obtain a clinch, where he is very strong. In the cinch Chiesa has strong knees and elbows, as well as a variety of takedowns, as I previously mentioned. Thoughts This is tough fight to get a read on. Miller has declined in recent years but he is still a dangerous mid-tier fighter. For his part, Chiesa continues to improve from fight to fight and is known for studying his opponents thoroughly before his fights. Miller is the more technical striker but Chiesa may have success with rushing in and clinching with Miler, where he will look to take the New Jersey native to the mat. Chiesa is very heavy on top and Miller can struggle getting back to his feet at times against bigger grapplers. Chiesa will just have to be careful about Miller’s submissions from his guard, as he is very tricky off his back. Ultimately, I will go with the younger and constantly improving fighter to pick up the win. The Prediction: Michael Chiesa defeats Jim Miller by split decision
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