Kyte on UFC 155: Final 2012 breakthroughs

December 31, 2012, 7:13 PM

Following each event, Breakthroughs focuses in on the fighters who delivered memorable performances outside of the night’s main event. A few fighters stepped into the spotlight with big efforts in the cage Saturday night at UFC 155.

Here is the final edition of Breakthroughs for 2012:

JIM MLLER

In the lead-up to his meeting with Joe Lauzon, Miller said he was ready to get in the cage and hurt somebody. Saturday night, he did just that, blasting Lauzon with more aggression and ferocity in the first round than we’ve seen out of him in previous appearances.

From the opening seconds of the contest, it was clear that Miller was in a different class than his opponent. This was a reminder that Miller, who now holds the record for most wins (11) in the history of the UFC lightweight division, is at worst a dangerous gatekeeper to the upper levels of the division. He’s only ever lost to champions and championship contenders, and will be a tough out for anyone with title hopes in 2013.

Additionally, this was a phenomenal rebound performance for the Whippany, N.J., resident. Last time out he was steamrolled by Nate Diaz. That didn’t sit well with Miller, and he took it out on Lauzon on Saturday night.

COSTA PHILIPPOU

There are going to be a lot of people downplaying Philippou’s victory over Tim Boetsch in the coming days. They’ll point to Boetsch’s broken hand and the two accidental fouls — a headbutt that split him open and an eye-poke that scrambled his vision — as “the only reason Philippou won.”

Here’s the thing: while all those factors surely contributed to the Team Serra-Longo product earning the upset win, Philippou still had to do his part to capitalize, and it’s not like he didn’t show any positive attributes in the process.

His takedown defence was solid when all things were equal in the first, and his ability to smell blood and find the finish bode well for continued future success. Philippou has now won five in a row, and should find himself lined up with a high profile name next time out.

ERIK PEREZ

When the UFC is selling your merchandise, that’s a good thing.

Saturday night, there were plenty of Mexican luchador masks in the audience that matched the one worn by Perez on the way to the cage. Once he took it off, “Goyito” earned his third consecutive first-round finish since in the last six months, blasting Byron Bloodworth with a heavy knee to the midsection before eventually pounding him out on the ground.

With the UFC working hard to break into the Mexican market, Perez will continue to get a heavy push. He’s now crushed three straight opponents, though besting foes with a combined 3-7 record in the UFC doesn’t make him a contender. Dana White said he’ll get a serious step up next time out, so don’t be surprised if you see the young Team Jackson-Winkeljohn product in a prime main card position on a strong event early in 2013.

MYLES JURY

A lot of people questioned why the UFC was matching surging lightweight Michael Johnson up with a former TUF contestant who didn’t even win the show? Saturday night, Jury halted Johnson’s three-fight winning streak in impressive fashion, and showed that he’s a fighter to watch in the deep lightweight ranks moving forward.

Jury was tabbed to win Season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter before a knee injury forced him from the show. He returned on Season 15, losing to eventual finalist Al Iaquinta in the elimination round before rebounding with a first-round submission win on the finale.

The 24-year-old Alliance MMA representative is now 11-0 in his career, and just completely dominated a guy who spent the first 11 months of the year making a steady climb up the lightweight ladder. If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Jury has a bright future.

JOHN MORAGA

In early July, Moraga was fighting Jose Carbajal at a Cage Rage event in Parker, Arizona. Entering 2013, he’s a legitimate contender in the UFC flyweight division, having posted consecutive stoppage wins in his first two trips into the Octagon.

Saturday night, Moraga capitalized on the only real mistake Chris Cariaso made, latching onto a modified standing guillotine choke early in the third round to force the veteran to submit. Moraga splits his time between the two best camps in his home state, Arizona Combat Sports and the MMA Lab, and has now shown a compete arsenal in his two appearances.

With the division still in the developmental stages, a win like this will carry the 28-year-old flyweight into contention, and certainly established Moraga as a key member of the UFC’s lightest division going forward.

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