Although the month of September has become an extended break for most promotions in the world of MMA, there are still some great fights happening this month. On deck this week is a rescheduled title tilt between Georgi Karakhanyan and Micah Miller.
The two featherweights will be featured in the co-main event of Tachi Palace Fights 14: “Validation” on Friday, Sept. 7, which streams live on Sherdog starting at 9 p.m. ET. The pair were slated to meet in March at TPF 12, but the champion Karakhanyan was forced out of the bout on fight day due to illness. Luckily, the California-based promotion was able to put the fight together once again.
The fight will be Karakhanyan’s first defense of the belt, which he captured in December of last year. The Bellator veteran is riding a four-fight winning streak. Miller, meanwhile, hasn’t competed since an ill-fated run on The Ultimate Fighter. The former WEC and Dream combatant’s last official bout came in December of 2010.
Let’s take a deeper look at the fight. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills matchup against one another.
While both fighters are accomplished grapplers, they both have shown the ability to end fights on the feet. Nine of their combined 35 wins have come by way of knockout and both have shown strong chins, with their only stoppage losses coming to Josh Grispi (Miller) and Patricio Freire (Karakhanyan).
The biggest factor on the feet may be Miller’s length. At 6-foot-1, he is a towering featherweight. Like his older brother—the UFC’s Cole Miller—he possesses a massive reach and height advantage over nearly every fighter in the 145-pound division. That will certainly be the case against Karakhanyan, as Miller will stand five inches taller and hold an eight-inch reach advantage. Ordinarily, that would allow a fighter to stay on the outside and pick an opponent apart, but that’s not Miller’s game. Because he wants the fight on the mat, his biggest weapons on the feet may not come into play.
For the Russian-born, Armenian champion, MMA was not his first passion. Karakhanyan was a professional soccer player before trading in his boots for four-ounce gloves. That athleticism has translated into his new trade and is most evident in his striking—albeit wild and uncontrolled at times. His leg kicks still possess the same power as if he were kicking a soccer ball. Coupled with the power he has demonstrated in his hands and knees, Karakhanyan has the more dangerous attack on the feet—provided he can get inside on Miller.
This is where things will get interesting in this fight. Neither fighter has ever been submitted in MMA and between them, they hold 20 combined wins by tapout. Both fighters possess brown belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and over the course of the five-round affair, the fight is bound to find the mat.
Miller’s length will prove to be a huge weapon in this department as well. Of his nine career submission wins, four have come by way of triangle choke. That is something that Karakhanyan will have to be wary of in this fight. Even if Miller ends up on his back, he has the skill set to submit Karakhanyan from the bottom.
On the other side of things, Karakhanyan is no slouch on the ground himself. In fact, prior to his first-round knockout of Aaron Mobley in his last outing, he had submitted three straight opponents—all in the first round. Ten of his 11 submission wins have come inside the first five minutes, so if the Millennia MMA fighter is going to keep his belt, the opening stanza may be his best time to attack.
Neither of these fighters are known for their pure wrestling prowess, despite their grappling accolades. But this is the area where Miller’s training at American Top Team may prove to give him the upper hand. With fighters like Mike Brown, Brad Pickett and his brother at his disposal, Miller has high-level talent to push him in practice every day.
Karakhanyan is usually focused on taking his opponent’s head off more than securing a takedown. And his takedown defense has looked suspect in the past against Joe Warren and more recently against Tony Hayes and Issac DeJesus. His grappling skills allowed him to submit both Hayes and DeJesus from his back, but against Miller, don’t expect the same result.
This is a five-round title fight. Conditioning will play a significant role in this fight as it goes on. Both fighters are known for their finishing abilities, having been to the third round only 14 times in their 44 total bouts. Which fighter will enter the fight in the best shape? Which one can adapt best if the fights goes into deep waters?
Verdict: While Karakhanyan enters the fight as the champion, this is Miller’s fight for the taking. He’s fought tougher competition throughout his career—especially in the WEC—and an impressive showing will go a long way toward earning him another chance on the big stage. Miller by second-round triangle choke.
Top Photo: Micah Miller (L) faces off with Georgi Karakhanyan (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)