One to Watch: Diego Sanchez vs. Jim Miller

Fightland Blog

By Jake Hughes

Photos by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC

UFC 196 may not be hosting Conor McGregor’s chance at earning another belt following Rafael Dos Anjos’ untimely foot injury, but it remains a great event packed with intrigue and the potential for some classic match-ups.

Whether it’s the entertaining back-and-forth between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz, as well as their respective fighting abilities, or Holly Holm defending her UFC women’s bantamweight crown for the first time against a dangerous opponent in Miesha Tate—there are plenty of stories and plotlines to get both hardcore and casual fans hooked.

The two headlining acts aside; there are further interesting match-ups for you to sink your teeth into—none more so than Diego Sanchez vs. Jim Miller.

There has been a growing trend of the UFC featuring its best undercard fights on their Fight Pass network—a headline fight of a mini card of its own right to help encourage Fight Pass users to part way with cash to watch the big show on PPV.

Boasting 11 Fight of the Night honors between them, both Diego Sanchez and Jim Miller have an array of fans who adore them for their in-ring exploits. Sanchez, the skilled fighter-turned crazed brawler versus Miller, the crafty submission artist who isn’t afraid to wade forward with striking attacks on the feet. Who else better to feature on Fight Pass?

Both men remain fan favorites and that support hasn’t waned during their combined 19 years of uninterrupted time competing in the Octagon.

However, despite their respective fan-friendly fighting styles, both athletes will be entering the Octagon on Saturday night with three losses from each of their last four fights.

The fact they are still kicking about in the UFC is a testament to both Sanchez and Miller. A 1-3 record in your last four fights is a dangerous run to have if you value your future in fighting under the UFC banner. But, you would have a tough time justifying cutting either guy from a bulging UFC roster with their respective popularities and the quality of opponent both Sanchez and Miller have faced throughout their UFC tenures. There is no shame in losing to the likes of Donald Cerrone, Gilbert Melendez or Ricardo Lamas in that four fight timeframe.

Sanchez’s last outing saw him face perennial featherweight title contender Ricardo Lamas in his first and only foray in the 145lbs division. “The Dream,” who has previously competed in varying weightclasses as high as middleweight, struggled to make the move down with USADA imposing the ban on intravenous rehydration following the torturous weight cut. Sanchez’s performance against Lamas showed signs of a tough weight cut and was much more placid than what has been seen in his last bouts. But, back at his (hopefully) permanent home at lightweight, Sanchez will be able to compete to the best of his abilities once again.

However, despite his undoubted popularity among the MMA masses, it’s been some time since Sanchez truly performed at a level we have seen in the early days of his UFC journey. In fact, Sanchez has only fought seven times since his 2010 win over Paulo Thiago, with a record of 3-4 in that run and some controversial decision wins to boot—namely the farcical split decision victory over bruising Brit Ross Pearson. Sanchez has left more to be desired in his wins than in his valiant losing effort to Gilbert Melendez, for example. That’s not to say Diego Sanchez isn’t must-see, but his opponents have figured his plodding, face-first striking defence out somewhat.

Despite the poor record of late, Sanchez appears as confident as ever. Speaking to the UFC, Sanchez said: “Jim Miller is the perfect matchup for me and my style and he’s fighting me at the worst possible time in his career and the best time in mine. I’m more confident than I’ve ever been training with my team at Jackson-Winkeljohn’s. I have built a full new level of confidence knowing that I train with the very best in all areas of mixed martial arts while my opponent doesn’t. Knowing that my opponent doesn’t train with guys of that calibre boosts my confidence even more and I will look for the knockout on March 5 and be ready for everything Jim Miller has to offer.” 

Sanchez’s kryptonite is speedy, technical strikers who stick and move—avoiding the wild hands of The Dream and staying well clear of the brawling distance Sanchez feeds off. While Miller is proficient in his striking, his bread and butter is his advanced jiu jitsu game—made clear by his 13 career submission victories. But, don’t think for a second that Miller is a one-trick pony: he relishes the opportunity to get into a brawl should that opportunity arise no matter who he is facing . There is no doubting such a chance is highly likely to occur on Saturday night against Sanchez.

A UFC stalwart since 2008, Miller is only 32-years-old with extensive MMA experience which belie his years. Miller’s last appearance in the UFC was a submission loss to Ultimate Fighter winner Michael Chiesa back in December. The New Jersey native was largely outclassed in his latest excursion, but still gave it his all enough to earn yet another Fight of a Night award.

Sanchez is naturally a tough match-up for anyone. But, Miller won’t be fazed by Sanchez with a career made from competing against lightweight’s big names in the past. As a result, he seems to be relishing his next challenge. Speaking to MMA Noise, Miller said: "It’s definitely a tough fight; Diego doesn't stop. He's one of those guys who's kind of changed throughout his career. At the beginning of his career, he was more of a grappler, but now he brawls because he's made some bonuses doing that. You hear those birdies chirping in your ear and you kind of change your style a little bit to get noticed. I'm going to have to choke him unconscious and that's what I'm looking to do."

With their continual popularity since the mid-to-late 2000s as a part of the UFC furniture, it’s shocking this fight hasn’t been made sooner. But, now it’s been a few years since both Sanchez and Miller’s career pomp, the two men will have never been more eager to put on a show and earn the victory on March 5th.

Simply put, Diego Sanchez and Jim Miller give it their all every time they set foot in the Octagon. But, in a fight which could potentially have career implications for them both with matching 1-3 records from their last four fights? For the love of God, please find the time to catch this fight live on Fight Pass this Saturday.


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