UFC on FX 1: Miller finishes 'The Young Assassin'
The first Friday night fights on FX went off without a hitch---no hitches, but several glitches, as the new production crew battled opening night jitters. That didn’t keep the fighters---many of whom were first-timers in the UFC Octagon---from bringing their A game.
Melvin ‘The Young Assassin’ Guillard (46-11-3) looked to be a very large 155 pounder as Bruce Buffer introduced the lightweight main event to a loud but very polite crowd at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. Jim Miller (21-3), on the other hand, with his beard and Jiffy-cuts hairstyle, never looks intimidating. But looks don’t count. Not here.
Miller has never lost when he has had at least one takedown, so in spite of a respectable stand-up, we all knew where Miller wanted to take heavy-handed Guillard. Miller ate some strikes in stalking his opponent, but even pressing Guillard to the fence and with underhooks, a position that should afford him leverage, he could not get Guillard to the ground.
Miller then withstood more bionic knees, and as blood pooled around his mouth, he seemed destined for early bedtime. But like The Terminator, Miller keeps coming forward, gauging his timing. In the second minute, Miller timed Guillard’s knee and took the New Orleans native to the mat. Guillard deftly scrambled up, but Miller had his back, leveraged another takedown, and finished Guillard at 2:04 with a rear-naked choke.
The win continues Miller’s run up the division, which was derailed with his loss to Benson 'Smooth' Henderson. Despite Friday’s win, that loss last August---to a more energetic grappler---mapped out the work Miller needs to do in order to get a title shot.
It’s hard to say where Guillard now stands with the UFC. Prior to his current two losses, his five fight win streak was so impressive, many pundits thought he was a shoe-in not just for a shot, but to have and hold the belt. Like snakes to a pit, mental errors that plagued his past seem to have found their way back into his cranium. And in his 6 UFC losses dating back to 2006, all have come via one choke or another. There has been plenty of time for Guillard to work on these weaknesses, something matchmaker Joe Silva and check-writer Dana White know well.
Another notable fight on the card was the first preliminary bout, between Ottawa native Nick ‘The Ninja of Love’ Denis (11-2) and Joseph Sandoval (6-2) from Lubbock Texas. The Canadian punished the Texan with straight punches, and finished what could have been a fight with right elbows, after transitioning from a Thai plum to a collar tie, at :22 seconds of the first. It was the Canadian’s first fight in the UFC, a performance sure to offset what has to be the new title-holder for worst nickname.
The shortcomings of the production were: bad timing between segments; jitters between Jay Glazer and Stephan Bonnar during the preliminary bouts; jitters betweeen the UFC’s new announcer, Jon Anik, and his commentator, longtime UFC standout Kenny Florian. All players performed their tasks well enough, and new blood is certainly welcome. Practice makes perfect, or at least good enough to limit the inevitable rude complaints from the always punishing online comment pages.