Pre-fight Analysis

Juliana Miller: A UFC star in the making

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Two absolute bangers highlight this weekend’s UFC 286 event in London.

Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards square off for an epic third clash, and Justin Gaethje looks to rack up another highlight for the reel, this time against Rafael Fiziev.

A UFC Star on the Prelims

With the time difference, the main card kicks off at 2 p.m. PST, but it’s the early birds who will catch a first glimpse of a rising star in the making when women’s flyweight Juliana Miller steps into the octagon to open the early prelims at 10 a.m.

Miller—nicknamed “Killer” for that one time she literally attempted to kill someone—will make Veronica Hardy (née Macedo) wish she stayed retired.

“If we’re in a cage, I’m going to try to kill you,” Miller told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I’m the kind of person where if there’s a bear in my face, I’m not going to turn and run and let the bear grab me in the back and bite my head off. I would rather stand up to this bear, face-to-face, and say ‘Bring It.’”

Dominant on TUF Season 30

That hard-nosed mindset gave Miller dominant victories over Kaytlin Neil and Brogan Walker on The Ultimate Fighter Season 30. If concussions were an issue for Hardy before retirement, wait until she meets the downpour of “Hell-bows” that Miller used in her third-round TKO of Walker in the TUF finale to claim the crown.

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More impressive than Miller’s performances—finishing four of five fights since turning pro in 2019—is the way she carries herself out of the octagon.

Despite being the least experienced fighter on TUF, Miller has the confidence of a seasoned veteran on the microphone. Crediting the times she watched professional wrestling growing up with her Brazilian grandmother, Miller easily fields even the most challenging questions with poise, oftentimes sprinkling in some humor.

She channeled her inner Bruce Buffer to introduce herself at a press conference where she donned giant silver hoop earrings and a leopard print top that’s more suitable for an 18-and-over nightclub than an interview. Following the finish of Walker, Miller “Suck It” chopped her depleted opponent and shoved her head down to the ground before turning to celebrate her victory. She said the celebration was a response to unappreciated trash talk in the first round. When Michael Bisping reached out the microphone post-fight, Miller didn’t mince words.

“She got what she asked for,” she said of her former TUF housemate. “It feels good to humble somebody who was talking smack about you.”

Her self-confidence is undeniable, and it grows with every victory.

“I level up exponentially every time I step into this cage,” Miller said. “Watch out, world.”

Miller, an outspoken wild card with an edge, looks like a long-lost Diaz sibling, not so much in physical appearance but very much so in demeanor. She was hardened by a broken home and had a chaotic upbringing. A member of an abusive household as a child, she was a victim of an abusive former partner as a young adult.

Juliana Miller is a battle-tested warrior

She doesn’t go into much detail about her attempted murder, but Miller was battle-tested long before she stepped into any gym.

“I’ve been fighting my whole life, even before I knew that mixed martial arts existed,” Miller said. “I was constantly fighting: Fighting for acceptance; Fighting to be worthy; Fighting to be…enough.”

A 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu brown belt and member of Manolo Hernandez’s Team Hurricane Awesome, Miller advocates for bullying victims to learn self-defense, and she’s not afraid to share her story to prove its importance.

A relative newbie to the sport, Miller has infinite room to grow. On Saturday, the “Killer” will have yet another chance to prove herself the only way she knows how: Fighting for it.

“I know, as long as I step in that cage and put on a show, I ain’t going nowhere,” Miller said.

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Jonathan Andrade is a longtime sports reporter based in Southern California. A graduate of Cal State Northridge, Andrade was a full-time newspaper reporter in Ventura County for six years. While covering all sports throughout his career, Andrade gravitated to the storylines of MMA. Away from writing, Andrade enjoys time with his wife and son, and produces a YouTube channel all about reselling.

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