Guida's win secures top spot for Miller
June, 6, 2011
By Franklin McNeil
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.com
It was apparent very early Saturday night that Anthony Pettis would have a tough time maintaining his front-runner status as UFC lightweight contender. The more experienced, more technically sound Clay Guida took Pettis down at will and outmaneuvered him standing to earn a lopsided unanimous decision.
It was an impressive performance by Guida; one that left many observers wondering if he was the new top lightweight contender.
Count the lead trainer for lightweight contender Jim Miller among those singing Guida’s praises -- up to a point.
“It played out exactly like I thought it would play out,” Mike Constantino told ESPN.com. “If I was cornering Guida, [it] would have been my exact game plan. Guida’s wrestling pedigree and overall experience came into play.”
But Constantino veers off when the conversation shifts to whose most deserving of a title shot against the Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard winner.
“Right now, Jimmy is next in line for a title shot,” Constantino said. “By all logical sense: 9-1 in the UFC, seven wins in a row, his last two fights were finishes and he’s never been submitted. There is no doubt in my mind that Jim’s it; he’s at the top of the list.
“There really isn’t an argument. As good as Clay is, and the streak he’s on, I believe he is what, 9-5 now in UFC?”
The knock on Pettis, according to Guida, was that the last WEC lightweight champion hadn’t paid his dues in UFC. And for that reason Pettis wasn’t truly deserving of top-contender status. In that sense, no one has paid more dues in the 155-pound ranks than Miller. He is 20-2-0 professionally and the only guys to defeat him currently reside atop the UFC lightweight division -- Edgar and Maynard.
It’s no secret that Miller would love a chance at redemption against either Edgar or Maynard. When the opportunity becomes reality, Constantino is convinced Miller will even one score and become UFC lightweight champ at the same time.
“I like Jim matched up with anybody in the world at 155,” Constantino said. “What Jim has is a very wide skill-set.
“Jim can strike; he’s knocked people out. He can wrestle and he can play jiu-jitsu. There are very few fighters who have all three of those strengths, and Jim is very good at all three of those skill-sets.”
Miller is a completely different fighter today than the one who lost to Edgar and Maynard.
But all this talk of exacting revenge and a gaining title will be for naught if Miller fails to win his next fight. He has an Aug. 14 tilt with former WEC titleholder Ben Henderson.
While Henderson (13-2-0) poses a threat to anyone at 155, Miller is expected to walk away victorious. But the Sparta, N.J., native can’t become overconfident and look beyond Henderson.
Constantino says there is no chance of Miller taking Henderson lightly. He’s come too far to blow it now.
“Jimmy’s smart enough not to look ahead and no one around him is looking ahead,” Constantino said. “If we don’t beat Henderson, nothing else matters. We have to beat Ben Henderson.
“I told Jimmy [on Saturday night] that the title shot is his for the taking, and to go out and put an exclamation point on the win over Henderson.”
That opinion is shared by UFC president Dana White, who claimed on Saturday after Guida’s win over Pettis that Miller is the No. 1 lightweight contender.
All that remains is for Miller to extend his win streak to eight on Aug. 14.