One of the story lines leading up to UFC 228, was whether the event could mark the end of Jim Miller’s remarkable career. But, the rugged and well rounded fighter reminded the MMA world his days as top 155’er, aren’t done yet.
Miller took on Alex White on Saturday night, and proceeded to take out the younger fighter with a some stinging left hands, and a rear-naked-choke in the first round. Since Miller is 35 year’s old, and had dropped four in a row prior to the contest, the result likely surprised some folks. After all, the betting lines had Miller as an underdog for the fight, in the +130 to +160 range.
But, that narrative didn’t really address some of the other factors that have contributed to Miller’s recent slide. One, a closer inspection of Miller’s record shows that all of his losses came against established and top level lightweights. After Miller earned a decision win over Thiago Alves in 2016, he proceeded to drop bouts to Dustin Poirier, Anthony Pettis, Francisco Trinaldo, and Dan Hooker. Poirier, Pettis and Hooker are all top 15 ranked lightweights, Poirier and Pettis are in the top 10. It wasn’t that long ago that Trinaldo was sitting in the top 15 as well. So, it’s not like Miller was coming up short against cans. Further, the only fighter to stop him during that run was Hooker, and Miller has claimed an eye poke contributed to how that fight concluded.
Then, and more importantly, there’s the fact that Miller’s been battling Lyme Disease the last few years. Here’s some of what he had to say after UFC 228, while discussing how the disease impacted his training (quote via MMA Junkie):
“The journey that I’ve been on, it’s tough for me because I don’t want people to know,” Miller said. “I don’t want them to know what I’m going through. I don’t want them to experience it themselves, I don’t want them to have a loved one experience it. And the most messed up part is that my Lyme disease is not that bad, comparatively, to some people I’ve met.
“It sucks, and the last six or eight months I’ve felt pretty damn good. I’ve been able to train in a way that gets me ready to do my best inside the octagon. That’s something I hadn’t been able to do in a long time.”
“If I did a light circuit or I bench pressed 185 pounds I’d feel like I lifted a boulder off my chest,” said Miller, when referring to how he felt during the worst period of battling the disease. “I wouldn’t be able to move for three days.”
Miller was long regarded as one of the toughest, most complete lightweights on the UFC roster for a reason, and you can’t help but wonder if some of his recent losses would have differently, if not for his health issues.
Now that Miller is feeling better, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to see him return to the top 10. But, don’t be surprised if we see the jiu-jitsu black belt defeat some contenders, or halt the rise of some prospects, in the coming months.