Posted 07/17/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

UFC Fight Night 45: Donald Cerrone vs. Jim Miller Review

We MMA people often talk about those sorts of fights that make the fandom worth it. The high-drama action fights like Jones vs. Gustafsson or Henderson vs. Shogun I or the latter two Edgar vs. Maynard fights that remind us why we deal with a promoter that calls a female reporter a “bitch” or a promoter that locks fighters into iron-clad contracts and enforces them with an iron fist or an ex-fighter/current executive that calls a transgender woman “it” or a promotion and television network protecting an ex-felon multiple drug cheat until we found out he tested positive for even more drugs (and they will probably welcome him back within a year when things cool down).

Those fights are rare, and rarer still is the card that makes you forget those things. Last night’s Fight Night from Atlantic City was one such card. The card delivered from Cláudia Gadelha and Tina Lähdemäki christening the strawweight division on Fight Pass to Aljamain Sterling continuing his development against Hugo Viana to Gleison Tibau and Pat Healy hossing in the main card lead-in to John Lineker and Alptekin Özkiliç whipping around their little angry fists for fifteen minutes to Edson Barboza body shot KOing Evan Dunham Punch-Out!! style to Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller giving you exactly what you’d expect from Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller in a whirlwind eight minutes.

This is the Platonic Fox Sports 1 show. With UFC 175 still in the rearview mirror (and let’s ignore that The Ultimate Fighter Finale), an excellent Fight Pass show on Saturday, and a barnburning, cow-tipping, gas-siphoning Fox show next Saturday, the UFC is hitting a rare stride across its various platforms.


I’d say the four lightweights at the top of the card were at a career crossroads last night, but every fighter is at a career crossroads in every fight just like every [basketball/hockey/baseball] playoff game is a “must win” despite analysts trying to shove the “must win” narrative when it’s a conveniently “ingenious” talking point.

In any event, all four guys are at an interesting point in their careers, so let’s break that down.

Donald Cerrone: It’s hard to believe that Cerrone now has four more fights in the UFC than he did in the WEC. He had an up-and-down period with losses to Nate Diaz, Rafael dos Anjos, and now-champ Anthony Pettis, but his current four-fight winning streak over Dunham, Adriano Martins, Barboza, and Miller should have him on the cusp of a title shot. With Pettis on the shelf until a late-2014 matchup with Gilbert Melendez, a title eliminator (and bonanza Fox main event?) with Khabib Nurmagomedov seems like the obvious direction to take.

Jim Miller: Miller is now 0-3 in his last three fights in Jersey (including the Healy no-contest), and the loss to Cerrone cements him as a Tier II lightweight. Which is fine, because lightweight is deep, and there should always be a place for a guy as talented and scrappy as Miller in the division. The UFC typically shies away from matching fighters coming off losses with fighters coming off wins, but Miller would be a good “next-step” test for Myles Jury, should Jury get by Takanori Gomi in September.

Edson Barboza: Jamie Varner put the brakes on the Barboza hype train in 2012, and Cerrone diverted it in April. The win over Dunham is a great bounceback, and hopefully a sign of development. Barboza’s 28 years old, so it’s not unreasonable to expect a Cerrone-esque run through a solid lineup of 155ers putting him back in title talk. Let’s match him up with Michael Johnson, who had to pull out of next week’s Fox show with an injury.

Evan Dunham: Dunham’s 4-0 UFC start signaled a bright career before taking a controversial decision loss to Sean Sherk which preceded a the first stoppage loss in his career to Melvin Guillard. He bounced back and won three of four before dropping three straight. Granted, Dunham’s loss list in the last couple years is full of top ten lightweight talent, but he’s way low on the totem pole at this point. Dunham’s a guy that you can throw in with most any lightweight, and the UFC might do well to throw him a bone in his next fight.


-If you like watching guys throw leather and eat leather and beat each other like they are softening leather, track down John Lineker vs. Alptekin Özkiliç. Get your rag ready for the third round.

-As mentioned, Cláudia Gadelha and Tina Lähdemäki opened the show and the strawweight division, which was met with some consternation given that it aired on Fight Pass. It doesn’t bother me, seeing as I subscribe to Fight pass, but it’s a curious decision to bury a debuting division where most won’t see it.

Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter

Mike Fagan