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Ring of Combat 12 Preview
By Jim Genia
When: November 17th. Where: Tropicana Casino & Resort, in Atlantic City. What: Ring of Combat 12, featuring the opening round of the Tournament of Champions. In the style of Pride’s Grand Prix elimination tournaments, promoter Louis Neglia returns with a card chock full of exciting fighters from tough camps. From Team Quest to Team Renzo Gracie, from Team Serra/Longo to Team Tiger Schulmann — it’s a roster of badasses, and the winners going on to face each other at a future show. Here’s a look at the match-ups:
Brothers in Arms
By Jim Genia
Strangely, there is no shortage of fraternal duos in the world of mixed martial arts. Consider Andre Roberts and Tyrone Roberts, Nick and Nate Diaz, or Joe and Dan Lauzon. On October 6th, Planet Jiu-Jitsu’s Dan Miller captured the middleweight crown at the Cage Fury Fighting Championship, and when his arm was raised in victory, his brother Jim was there sharing in Dan’s success. Jim himself is considered by many to be one of the top lightweights fighting in New Jersey – a fact that makes these homegrown sparring partners part of the "brothers in arms" club.
"I started wrestling when I was kid – about five-years old – and wrestled from then until my senior year of high school," says Dan, who, when not training and fighting, works in construction. "That’s basically my whole fighting background." At Reality Fighting 10, Dan had little trouble submitting Tenyeh Dixon with a triangle, and followed up that win with an armbar victory over Jay Coleman at Reality Fighting 11. These bouts put him on a collision course with Mike Massenzio, with the winner getting a shot at the Reality Fighting middleweight belt. Dan lost via split decision in a close, close fight.
"We had a conflict of styles and back then my wrestling was my base," he says. "And he was a better wrestler, which made the fight real tough." Two months later, though, Dan was back, stepping into the cage at the Cage Fury Fighting Championship against Dave Perez. Perez couldn’t keep up with Dan’s pace and didn’t answer the bell for Round Two – which meant Dan was back in the running for another belt. The one man standing in his way: the veteran Lance Everson, who, with 16 fights to Dan’s four, had a definite edge in experience. But the Planet Jiu-Jitsu representative made it look easy, experience notwithstanding, and with a rear naked choke at 2:26 of the first round, Dan finally had a belt to call his own.
How did Dan get into the sport of mixed martial arts? "Just from watching the UFC," he says. "My brother would get the UFC and we’d say, ‘yeah, I could beat that guy,’ or ‘I could do that.’ From there we went on the Internet and found a place to train, and that’s about it."
As brothers go, Dan could do worse. After all, Jim may not have a championship title yet, but with an unblemished record against tough competition, he’s ranked near the top in the 155-pound division. Jim, who also works in construction, has parleyed a year of college wrestling into a solid grappling game, and in five fights has tapped out some of the area’s best. At the last Combat in the Cage event, Jim took on the veteran James "Binky" Jones, and showed a ton of adaptability when he won the bout using his guard.
"It was kind of a new way of fighting for me," says Jim. "I went after him on my feet and that was the first fight where I ended up on my back. But that’s what I’ve been training for since I started fighting. I was actually having fun on my back, so I didn’t mind as much."
The instructor at Planet Jiu-Jitsu, Jeff Miller (no relation), has helped more than a few wrestlers make the transition into MMA – former Reality Fighting champs Glen Sandull and Rich Attonito, just to name a couple. Do the Miller brothers supplement their training anywhere else? "I train exclusively at Planet [Jiu-Jitsu] right now," says Dan. "I would like to start working stand-up more often. We do work it down there, but not as much as I’d like."
"Dan and I spar," says Jim. "We do a lot of pad work and stuff like that. We’ve had a lot of help from Jonathan Helwig [of Team Endgame]. He’s been helping us a little bit with defense and counter punching. It’s gotten a little bit crisper lately. We’ve won fights by subs and using wrestling, now we’re trying to get more well-rounded and get the strikes coming in there."
On November 18th, Jim will square off against Rhino Fight Team’s top-ranked Frankie Edgar for the Reality Fighting belt. It’s sure to be his toughest test yet, and it’s a match-up that’s been a long time coming.
"There’s some history between us, so it should be good," says Jim. "It’s nothing real personal. It’s just that when I was wrestling for Virginia Tech he was wrestling for Clarion [University], and we would’ve had two occasions to wrestle each other and both times something happened to me. So we weren’t able to wrestle." Adds the lightweight submission stud: "I just haven’t gotten the opportunity to compete against him and I’d really like to."
With New Englander Joe Lauzon getting called up to the UFC, and in turn knocking out former UFC champ Jens Pulver, it seems the doors have been opened for top local guys to get their big break. If Zuffa’s matchmaker Joe Silva called tomorrow, would Dan hesitate? Or would he drop everything and go? "I would not turn down an opportunity like that," says the CFFC Middleweight Champ. "I’d like to make it all the way to the UFC or Pride."
"That’s a hard one to turn down," says Jim. "If they call me and say I’m going to fight Jens or BJ [Penn], I’m quitting my job and training my ass off, and going in there with nothing to lose."
Until the UFC calls, however, it’s still the Frankie Edgar match-up that’s foremost on the lightweight Miller’s mind. Is there anyone else out there he’d like to face? "When you look on the Internet, and they say who they want to see on the next "Ultimate Fighter" show, it’s always the same list of guys – the same names. I want to fight them. I want to show people what the guys on the East Coast can do."
Fast-paced and aggressive grappling. A championship belt and a spotless record. An impending war with the one of the toughest 155-pounders in the Garden State. With what the Millers have accomplished thus far, it’s clear to New Jersey fight fans what these brothers in arms can do. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world finds out.