It brings warmth to my innards to see Jim Miller walk out there at 36 years of age,15 years deep into his professional MMA career, and put on an absolutely perfect performance against a very dangerous up and comer. In MMA, people often confuse a fighter’s age as a measurement of the stage of their career they are in. When in actuality, it’s the number of fights and the wear and tear on the body that is at the forefront of determining if a competitor is in their physical prime or the twilight of their career.
But with Miller, both age and the number of battles endured seem to be of no use when establishing how much runway there is left to his career. If we are basing our opinions on last night’s performance against Roosevelt Roberts at UFC Vegas 3, Miller just might be more capable than he has ever been.
As a fight fan, you have to be aware of how much recency bias plays a factor in one’s perspective. You also have to take into account that it’s commonplace for people to blow a single good performance out of proportion. Just because Miller made short work of Roberts last night, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he is poised to make a run at the lightweight title. There are so many variables at play when assessing a fighter, and a fight that is just over a couple of minutes long is too small of a sample size to draw such extreme conclusions from.
But damn it, it’s hard to not get excited about what we witnessed last night and feel like it isn’t telling of where Miller is with his career today. Long time hardcore fans of this sport love veteran fighters, we’ve been following them for years through all of their ups and downs and trials and tribulations. They’ve brought us so much quality entertainment over time as we’ve grown up ourselves, but far too often we’ve had to watch these beloved fan favorites make their exit from the sport in a less than ideal fashion. Oftentimes they go out looking like a shell of their former selves, shopworn and a step or two slower than they once were, and performing with exponentially less desire than they put on display in the glory days. So it’s always a feel-good moment when we get to see these seasoned vets that are thought to be in the latter stages of their career come out and score an impressive win like Miller did on Saturday night. It’s a rare occurrence, and when it happens, it feels special for good reason.
— Karyn Bryant (@KarynBryant) June 21, 2020
When you look at how the fight went right from the start, Miller caught the first kick that Roberts threw, and promptly put the young gun on his back. The sequence that followed shortly thereafter that led to the arm-bar finish was masterful. As Miller explained in the post-fight interview, when he ended up on the bottom, Roberts threw one hammerfist and it was at that very moment that Miller realized that Roberts was going to make another mistake. So he just simply maintained position and waited for another hammer first or for Roberts to try to stand up to attack. Seconds later Roberts was verbally tapping (in agony) and the fight was over. How Miller ended this fight is the epitome of how valuable experience is in this game.
Now tied for the record of having the most fights in UFC history, and after having fought the best of the best in the most talent-rich division the sport has to offer since 2008, Miller finds himself with more pep in his step than he has had in years. It’s not just his in cage performance that speaks volumes of his vigor for competition, but from the happiness and confidence he was brimming with in his pre and post-fight interviews.
After such a monumental moment of scoring a quick impressive finish in his record-setting fight, Miller reacted as if he just submitted a training partner in a routine training session . In the post-fight interview with Jon Anik, Miller expressed his genuine sadness of the absence of the fans and went on to explain that it’s the cheers from the audience that gave him the motivation to push through his toughest moments in the octagon. It’s these qualities coupled with the next level toughness and skill set that endears Miller to the fanbase and makes everyone so happy for him.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) June 21, 2020
By the way, he still isn’t even that old! Being a couple of months away from his 37th birthday, Miller is no spring chicken. But with showing no signs of diminished durability and the motivation seemingly being as high as ever been, it’s going to be interesting to see if he looks as good in his next fight as he did in his latest one.
The fact that he is already rallying to compete on Fight Island is as good of a sign as any in terms of indicating what his intentions are. Having cited Lyme disease as being the reason for some of his uninspired performances from fights gone by, and explaining that now that the disease is behind him, he is physically feeling the best he has in years. It might be a good time to start paying some extra attention to Miller.
It’s starting to become apparent that he may very well be better than most of us realized. Miller has always been well respected by the fanbase and his peers, but never truly got the respect he deserves based purely on his skillset, it’s mostly been about is toughness and ‘fight anybody,anytime’ attitude. But if Miller can continue this momentum into the next fight and follow up on his latest impressive performance with another, he just might be on the verge of surpassing everyone’s expectations by a wide margin.