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Entering the Octagon inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday night with 13 UFC fights each and a combined 15 post-fight bonuses, lightweights Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon quickly lived up to their fight’s hype, outshining UFC 155’s three middleweight bouts and adding a last-minute entry to year-end Fight of the Year lists.

Both durable, well-rounded and nimble submission artists, Miller vs. Lauzon was billed as a match-up of mirror images. By the end of three rounds, those mirror images were coated in blood, with a screaming arena celebrating Miller’s decision win and thrilled by the performances of both men..

Known for coming out aggressively, Lauzon did just that, but Miller answered with equal intensity, landing uppercuts and low kicks as Lauzon came forward. He forced Lauzon against the cage, wobbling him with uppercuts, and at one point dropping him with a low leg kick. An elbow from close quarters opened a cut on Lauzon’s forehead, and Miller grabbed for a standing head-and-arm choke that only caused it to pour, drawing a temporary checkup from the doctor. Lauzon bounded back, but Miller continued the onslaught of punches, which Lauzon merrily weathered and returned in kind. At one point, the two traded kicks and both dropped backward. Neither relented as the round buzzer sounded and the crowd stood to its feet.

Miller, a BJJ black belt, landed a takedown early in the second, and Lauzon – himself a submission expert — worked to tie up one of Miller’s arms. Lauzon eventually got the sweep, and another brief stoppage occurred as the cutmen removed a piece of tape from Lauzon’s glove that had come unraveled. Back in Miller’s rubber guard, Lauzon stood and slammed Miller down, which had little tactical result but further endeared Lauzon to the crowd. Lauzon reached for an armbar then rolled for a kneebar, but both men were slicked enough with blood that Miller escaped. Both men again drew a standing ovation at the end of the second.

Back on the feet for the third, the pair moved in and out as they boxed, with Lauzon working the body until slipping on the mat. He tried to goad Miller into his guard, but Miller’s success on his feet had him happy to keep things there.  Lauzon scored with a left and a knee, while Miller worked to hold Lauzon in the clinch and throw right elbows. With less than a minute left, Lauzon dove and spun for a flying leglock, then pulled Miller into a guillotine.

“I knew I was going to have to bring my best effort to put him away and I was never able to,” said Miller post-fight. That’s how good he is. Even in the last minute, look what he was trying to do to win the fight.

Judges gave the bout  to Jim Miller with three scores of 29-28, as Miller rises to 22-5; Lauzon slips to 22-8; both men saw their bonus counts grow for their troubles when the bout was named Fight of the Night at the post-fight press conference.