In a year that already has proved to be massive for the UFC, with one major card after another, UFC 205 on Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York looks to be the biggest and most important of them all. In honor of such a marquee event, ESPN.com is providing dedicated previews to all 13 bouts on the card, breaking down what's at stake and projecting who will win, along with quotes and statistics for each fighter.
Lightweights: Jim Miller (27-8) vs. Thiago Alves (21-10)
Odds as of Nov. 2: Alves (-165), Miller (+145)
Dana White's thoughts
"Jim Miller is always exciting. You never watch a Jim Miller fight and go, 'Oh, what happened? That guy just didn't show up tonight.' He's one of those guys who just goes. He'll stand with you if you want to stand, but he's also great on the ground and has had some great ground wars.
"And Thiago, I think everybody the last couple years has been moving around weight classes and if he's still the Thiago we used to know at this new weight, that should be a really good fight."
What's at stake?
Miller: From retirement talk to win streak in less than six months
A strange feeling came over the veteran Miller on March 5 as he stepped into the Octagon to fight Diego Sanchez at UFC 196. It was something he had never felt in his entire career.
"That was the first time I actually kind of didn't want to be there," Miller said. "That was a tough one for me, and it was for a million different reasons."
Miller, 33, decided long ago that whenever his career ends, it will happen immediately after a fight, while he's still inside the cage. He wants that farewell moment on the microphone, to let his fans know it's over. In order to guarantee that moment, Miller said he has to know ahead of time, going into a fight, that it's his last one.
He thought that was going to be the case at UFC 200 in July. After performing poorly and not feeling right at UFC 196, Miller asked for a fight at UFC 200. He figured it was the perfect time and place to say goodbye.
But when he got into that fight camp, Miller's body responded better than he thought. Things turned around quickly and he ultimately decided that wouldn't be his last fight. He has won two in a row since.
"It started off like it would be my last run, but I got back to feeling like my old self," Miller said. "It's different now. I know what it's like when I'm off, but I also know when I'm feeling good. I know by the results in the gym -- they're back to where they should be, where they used to be a couple years ago.
"It went pretty quickly from 'All right, let's just get through this and put on a show' to 'I think I can stay in this for a while.'"
Alves on weight cut: 'I'm gonna make all these lightweights pay'
Alves is tired of looking up to the opposition -- literally.
The veteran welterweight will make his long-awaited lightweight debut at UFC 205, and he'll do it without the assistance of longtime nutritionist Mike Dolce. Alves is working with a new nutrition group ahead of his first cut to 155 and feels confident about the process, even though he actually has struggled in the past to make the 170-pound limit.
"I'm gonna make weight and I'm gonna feel great -- that's actually the slogan of the company I'm working with," the 5-foot-9 Alves said. "I know the morning of the weigh-in, I'll have the whole world asking, 'Is he gonna make it?' That's exciting for me because I love to prove people wrong.
"I'll be one of the biggest lightweights in the division. I had to lose 10 pounds of muscle and 10 pounds of fat. I've lost a lot of muscle and I'm gonna make all these lightweights pay for that s---. We shouldn't be losing muscle, man, especially doing what we do, but that's what was necessary and my body feels great.
"I was just giving up a lot of reach and height as a welterweight. All my last fights, these guys were 6-foot-2. It's tough fighting giants."
Alves, 33, has never recaptured the magic of a seven-fight win streak that led to a title shot at UFC 100 in 2009. But in a new weight class, under a new lifestyle, he doesn't think it will take long to get a title shot.
"A lot has changed since the last time I fought [in May 2015]," Alves said. "I'm a father now. I got married. You guys used to see the young, dumb 'Pitbull.' Now you've got an adult.
"I'm not looking ahead. I know I've got to get through Miller first. But I think it makes complete sense to give me a top-5 opponent next and then the title. That's the goal."
Miller: 27-8 record (16-7 UFC); on two-fight win streak
Miller: 16 wins in UFC lightweight division tied for most all time with Gleison Tibau
Alves: 21-10 record (13-7 UFC); first fight since May 2015
Alves: 11 knockdowns landed in UFC fights, tied for eighth most all time
Alves said it in plain English: He's looking forward to fighting opponents with less reach.
His knockout power stacked up fine at 170 pounds, but the same wasn't always true of his frame. That doesn't mean he wasn't (or still couldn't be) effective at that weight, but you can't blame him for dropping down.
Although he has expressed confidence, it's worth asking how that cut to 155 will go. Miller likely will look to set a high pace on the bigger man and his grappling can be deadly, especially if his opponent tires. He does have a tendency to get into prolonged exchanges, which is good for his entertainment value but perhaps bad against a dangerous finisher like Alves.
PREDICTION: Miller by third-round submission.