The main event of UFC 196’s Fight Pass preliminary card is an exciting lightweight matchup between longtime veterans Jim Miller and Diego “The Dream” Sanchez. Miller is coming off a December loss to Michael Chiesa, while Sanchez lost his last fight to Ricardo Lamas in November. Jim Miller (25-6 (1 NC) MMA, 14-6 (1 NC) UFC, -140 favorite) The always exciting Miller returns to the Octagon for the first time since his December loss to #14 ranked Michael Chiesa. The New Jersey native finds himself in a tough spot, as he has lost three out of his last four fights. His sole win during that span was a very close split decision loss to Danny Castillo. Miller is obviously not the same fighter that he once was, but he is still a dangerous out for most fighters in the division. He finds himself in a must-win situation on Saturday night. Miller is a well-rounded fighter, as he has a tremendous submission game 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 because he 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 21 fight UFC veteran has decent wrestling, including 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 choke. Further his offensive guard game is quite dangerous. He is tricky with his sweeps and submissions off his back, which benefits him because his takedown defense is not very good. Miller has had trouble against tall, lanky strikers he cannot take down and superior wrestlers/grapplers that can avoid his submission game. Diego Sanchez (25-8 MMA, 14-8 UFC, +120 underdog) “The Dream” has been at the center of controversy over the years, as he has won fights that a vast majority of people believe he lost. He is 3-4 in his last 7 fights but if those fights were judged correctly he would be 0-7. Sanchez returns to the lightweight division after one fight at featherweight, which was a lopsided decision loss to top contender Ricardo Lamas. Although the New Mexico native is only 34 years old, he has absorbed a ton of damage and has been involved in around 35 fights. Sanchez badly needs a convincing win to get back on track and silence his criticizers that have been calling for his retirement. What is for certain, though, is that his days as a top contender are over. Sanchez is one of the most popular fighters in UFC history due to his aggressiveness and tendency to get in wild brawls, such as his fights with Gilbert Melendez, Karo Parisyan, and Clay Guida. Those brawls and his tendency to train extremely hard have led to him suffering multiple injuries over the years. Those injuries eventually led to have him having to go under the knife several times, which takes a piece out of a fighter each time. As far as his style, Sanchez is a brawler. He started as a submission grappler, but his wrestling is not that great and he now has a hard time taking fighters down. Instead, he pretty much bites down on his mouthpiece and brawls. He is more than willing to eat a punch in order to land one of his own, which obviously is not a great strategy. One positive aspect of Sanchez’s game is his conditioning, as he can push a hard pace for as long as the fight lasts. Thoughts It is painfully obvious that both Miller and Sanchez are nowhere near the fighter that they once were. They both badly need a win this weekend in order to continue to be booked in high profile fights. As far as the matchup is concerned, Miller should hold an edge on the feet and in transitions. Sanchez is not the grappler that he once was, which limits his effectiveness. While Sanchez is always capable of landing a big shot on the feet or even winning a decision that he has no business winning, Miller should be able to get his hand raised come Saturday night. Prediction: Jim Miller defeats Diego Sanchez via decision.
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