On March 5, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will make their third appearance on the FOX network when they present UFC On FOX 3: Diaz vs Miller live from the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The main event is expected to decide the potential #1 contender in the Lightweight division when TUF5 winner and Northern California native Nate Diaz (15-7-0) takes on perennial contender and New Jersey native Jim Miller (21-3-0). Diaz will come into this bout riding a two fight win streak with both bouts serving as some of his best performances in the octagon, with those wins including a successful return to 155lbs earning a Rnd1 Submission victory over former PrideFC Lightweight champion Takanori Gomi that earned Submission of the Night honors, and a dominant Unanimous Decision win over 3x WEC title challenger Donald Cerrone that snapped a six fight win streak for the WEC import and earned both competitors Fight of the Night honors. Miller will come into this bout off a Rnd1 Submission victory over TUF2 alumni Melvin Guillard, which served as a rebound win after suffering a Unanimous Decision loss to future champion Benson Henderson which snapped a seven fight win streak. This bout will be an interesting match-up between two top contenders in one of the most stacked divisions in the sport, especially seeing the level that both competitors have reached before the age of 30 and with 46 fights between them. In this match-up, both competitors have much to offer when engaging in either the stand-up or on the ground as well rounded mixed martial artists.
Diaz:Height-6’0”; Reach-76”; Style- Control range with reach, land snapping accurate punches from distance, dirty box up close, pure BJJ; Notable wins- Manvel Gamburyan, Melvin Guillard, Marcus Davis, Takanori Gomi, Donald Cerrone
Miller: Height-5’8”; Reach-71; Style- Aggression, accurate power punches, combine wrestling game for takedowns with BJJ for submission game; Notable wins- Duane Ludwig, Mark Bocek, Charles Oliveira, Melvin Guillard
Stand-Up/Striking: In the stand-up, range will be a key word when deciding who holds the advantage in this area of analysis. At 76” Diaz holds one of the longest reaches in the UFC’s Lightweight division, an advantage that he has learned to utilize perfectly keeping opponents at the end of his punches and staying out of their range. Training with his older brother Nick Diaz who is known as one of the best technical boxers and ranked the #2 or #3 top Welterweight in the world, Nate has developed a stand-up game that rivals the technical aspects of his older brother and a style that at times has overwhelmed some opponents. Similar to his brother Nick, Nate utilizes a style known as “punches in bunches” by many pundits and analysts which refers to the overwhelming volume of punches that come at a surprising pace alternating between the body and head as to pick apart opponents when in close range with the shots landed also alternating in power landing shots ranging from minimal to full power to confuse opponents where to cover most, a tactic that has shown to wear opponents out both mentally and physically. With a 71” wingspan of his own, Miller will be one of many opponents that has to figure out how to neutralize or get past the extra 5” of range Diaz will be able to control over him. With a style that emphasizes closing the distance to land powerful strikes and engage in grappling either in the clinch or look for a takedown, Miller has blown through many of his opponents, with his lone career losses coming to now former division champion Frankie Edgar, 2x title challenger Gray Maynard, and newly crowned division champion and former WEC champion Benson Henderson. As seen in his bout with then undefeated Kamal Shalorus, Miller pushed the pace getting in range to land shots and pushed aggressively leading into the moment where he backed him against the cage and landed a knee that sent Shalorus down where he landed powerful punches that forced the referee to intervene calling a stop to the contest. The opposing styles will collide between the two, with Diaz being able to dictate the range and pace along with being able to pick apart the head and body in clinch range, and Miller able to land strong shots in a bull-rushing manner. With the advantage in range and style that can confuse his opponents as much as damage them, Diaz will be a favorite when striking.
Clinch: Though some analysts will still try to decide who is the favorite in the clinch, but that may simply go in the favor of Diaz. While Miller is known to land strong shots up close, Diaz’s long arms allow him to create momentum in close range to deliver his brutal dirty boxing style. Though his boxing skill set takes center stage in his performances in recent bouts, the momentum he can generate in the Thai clinch can be devastating position with his long legs able to generate plenty of momentum as sell. Positioning in the clinch will be an interesting exchange. Diaz’s height advantage will allow him to lean his weight on Miller when holding him against the cage and his longer legs will give him a wider base when resisting the takedowns against the cage. Miller will likely have an advantage in strength and his game plan in this bout could involve obtaining a body lock in the clinch against the cage for control and work for the takedown from there. With these factors Diaz will be favored by many analysts in the clinch.
Grappling: Should the fight end up on the ground, which seems to be likely in this bout, it will be interesting to see how active both fighters will be and who will gain the upper hand with both fighters recognized as two of the best grapplers in the division with 22 victories via form of submission between them. For credentials and background, Diaz was recently awarded the rank of Black belt by longtime BJJ trainer Cesar Gracie and has been training in Judo with Olympic bronze medalist and Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, while Miller has held the rank of Black belt in BJJ under the tutelage of Jamie Cruz with an amateur wrestling background stemming from high school and briefly in college. Comparing their grappling styles employed in previous bouts, both competitors are two of the top grapplers in the division. Known for utilizing an amazing BJJ skill set chaining submission attempts in a nonstop offensive game off his back, beginning to lock on submission attempts while being taken down, and showing position awareness, Diaz employs a style that is considered by other practitioners in MMA as a “pure” BJJ form that usually shows no aspects of other disciplines, which is evident with 10 of his wins coming by way of submission. Miller on the other hand puts his wrestling background to use driving for takedowns with an almost relentless aggression and is quick to scramble for the dominant position. As seen in his most recent outing against Guillard, Miller showed how grappling comes as a natural instinct for him as he was quick to look for the takedown after being rocked and was quick to take his back locking on the Rear Naked Choke that forced Guillard to tapout. Diaz will be prepared as usual to put his BJJ on display being aware of Miller’s positioning and movement to counter with a submission attempt and make him think twice when engaging him on the ground. Miller will likely look to showcase his own position awareness as he will likely show less activity on the ground as usual. Next to Mark Bocek, Diaz could be the most dangerous BJJ Black belt he has faced in his MMA career. With these factors, picking an overall favorite on the ground may be difficult. Between Diaz’s ability to throw on a submission at any point from almost any position on the ground and Miller’s wrestling game combined with a strong BJJ game that could allow him to simply control from inside the guard or side-control, the advantage on the ground could be considered even between the two competitors.
X-Factor=Cardio: An added factor that could decide the outcome of this bout may be who can maintain the same pace for the full five rounds. With the UFC adopting the new format of scheduling every main event as a five round affair, a change-up since five round bouts were originally reserved for title bouts, cardiovascular training has become more important for competitors in the promotion. For this factor, Diaz will be immediately seen as a favorite by many analysts should the bout make it past the third round. Training with his brother Nick who is known for competing in marathons and triathlons in his free time, Nate sometimes joins his brother in competitions and will go mountain biking at high altitudes to train his cardiovascular and physical endurance. Though he has never competed in a bout that has gone past the usual fifteen minutes of a three round bout, Diaz is one elite fighter that has the capability to maintain a constant pace with minimal breaks in action. While Miller is another fighter who can maintain an aggressive pace, his level of cardiovascular endurance is not considered to be at that of Diaz. With Diaz be favored most should the bout go past the third round, Miller’s best chances of finishing the fight are within the first three rounds of the fight.
Written by @MMAFanHQ