UFC 134: Under the Radar

Middleweight match-up going unnoticed heading into Saturday’s event

Alright, I’ll admit it: Johny Hendricks and Mike Pierce kind of let me down a little at UFC 133.

The welterweight battle turned into more of a welterweight war of attrition, as there were no real explosive moments, only a whole bunch of good-but-not-great boxing and pummeling for position. The grinding elements would have been fine if they’d both let their hands go — or even if one of them offered a nice 15-second flurry at one point or another — but those things didn’t happen, and the last installment of Under the Radar ended up falling way short of expectations.

But look at it this way: the only way to go from here is up.

Dan Miller

Rousimar Palhares vs. Dan Miller

Rousimar Palhares (12-3, 5-2 UFC)

WIN UOV 5 David Branch (Submission, Round 2)
LOSS UFN 22 Nate Marquardt (TKO, Round 1)
WIN UFC 111 Tomasz Drwal (Submission, Round 1)

Dan Miller (13-5, 1 No Contest, 5-4 UFC)

LOSS UFC 128 Nate Marquardt (Unanimous Decision)
WIN UFC 124 Joe Doerkson (Split Decision)
WIN UFC 118 John Salter (Submission, Round 2)

WHY WE LOVE THIS FIGHT

I honestly believe Palhares is one of the most under-appreciated guys in the UFC today. “Toquinho” is a top 20 middleweight with five wins — four finishes — in seven trips to the Octagon, and his two wins came to top 5 fighters, Nate Marquardt and Dan Henderson. The Marquardt loss was a complete brain cramp too.

Not that I’m saying he would have beaten Marquardt, but to stop fighting in the middle of the opening round to object to the referee is brutal and cost him dearly. Herb Dean rightfully didn’t call time, Marquardt rightfully didn’t stop attacking, and Palhares got finished.

Outside of that lack of thinking, he’s 5-1 in the UFC with his only loss coming to Henderson when he was fresh off his loss to Anderson Silva. That’s a pretty damn solid track record if you ask me, but Palhares still manages to get less attention than middleweights who haven’t won in two years (see Akiyama, Yoshihiro) or a guy whose last real solid victory came in 2007 (see Miller, Jason).

Then there is Miller, the quintessential blue collar grinder who has proven time and again that he really will fight anyone, anywhere, at any time.

A look at his record and you see the markings of a middleweight gatekeeper: he beats anyone in the middle tier or lower, then comes up short against top 10 competition. He’s never going to be middleweight champion, but Miller is a tough out who helps you gauge where the opposition stands in the 185 pound pecking order.

Stylistically, this has the potential to be a fun little chess match.

Palhares is all about the ground; nine of his 12 wins have come by way of submission, and seven of them have been leg locks. Since none of those finishes start with the word “flying,” you know he’s going to be looking to either pull guard or drag Miller down to the canvas from the opening second of the bout.

But Miller has pretty good wrestling and a solid ground game of his own. Though he too is a BJJ black belt, Miller isn’t on Palhares’ level, but he’s far from being a deer in the headlights here. He knows where Palhares wants to go and will have trained diligently to defend against that. If he can shed some takedown attempts and push the action on the feet, we could get a little stylistic tug-of-war that proves to be entertaining.

For the record: it also has the potential to be a Palhares steamrolling, a Miller jab session, or an ugly fight full of “I don’t want to play your game; you come and play my game” moments like when Alistair Overeem faced Fabricio Werdum.

Shoot me for trying to think positive.


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