Two head coaches of The Ultimate Figher (TUF) season 14 will finally clash this Saturday night (December 3, 2011) as former TUF season 3 winner Michael Bisping matches up against former Strikeforce title challenger and UFC returnee Jason "Mayhem" Miller in a bout with middleweight title implications.
Bisping has been put on ice ever since his controversial fight against Jorge Rivera in Australia earlier in the year in which he landed an illegal knee and then spit at his opponent's corner for his post-fight celebration. He traded pranks and insults with "Mayhem" over the course of TUF season 14 and now it's finally time to fight.
Jason Miller was put in MMA purgatory after his participation in the now infamous Nashville brawl that he instigated. He was finally signed by the UFC earlier this year and his personality was the perfect foil for Bisping during season 14 of TUF. He's hoping to launch himself firmly into "the mix" with a huge victory on Saturday night.
Will Bisping continue to infuriate American fans with another victory? Can "Mayhem" stop the Brit in his tracks with a slick submission? What's the key to victory for each fighter in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale?
Let's find out:
Record: 21-3 overall, 11-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Michael Bisping entered season three of The Ultimate Fighter with a spotless 10-0 record and having been a Cage Warriors star in his native England. He dominated the competition and, despite being an undersized light heavyweight, won his first four fights in the UFC.
His momentum was finally halted when he dropped a decision to Rashad Evans, and he decided to make the cut to middleweight immediately afterwards. Bisping won his first three fights at 185 as well and was potentially in line for a title shot against Anderson Silva, but first he had to coach season nine of The Ultimate Fighter against Dan Henderson.
Bisping faced Henderson at UFC 100 and was infamously knocked out in one of the greatest knockouts in MMA history. "The Count" rallied against Dennis Kang at UFC 105 in his native England, but once again, he'd have his momentum halted by another Pride legend, this time Wanderlei Silva who was dropping down to 185 for the first time.
Since that loss, Bisping has won three straight, although his last performance against Jorge Rivera was full of controversy with a blatant illegal knee and the spitting incident afterwards. The Brit decided to coach another season of The Ultimate Fighter in his downtime and didn't do himself any favors with the fans by pretty much acting like a jerk for much of the season. He'll finally square off with his rival coach "Mayhem" Miller on Saturday night.
How he gets it done: Bisping has developed a style which plays into his skill-set very well in the last couple years. He doesn't have a ton of power in his strikes, but he's very good at getting in, landing blows and getting out.
His opponent, Jason Miller, isn't known to be much of a striker, so don't be surprised so see Bisping be a little more aggressive in his stand-up over the course of the bout. Sure, he'll likely employ his "hit and run" attack early, but as he gains confidence, he's definitely going to follow up with some of his power strikes.
Even if they don't knock Miller out, the power strikes have potential to open cuts and they definitely will score points with the judges.
Footwork will be key for Bisping as well. He needs to dart in, do his damage and dart out before Miller can get his hands on him. "The Count" has some pretty solid takedown defense and his ground game is vastly superior to most of his countrymen, so as long as he doesn't do anything crazy and come in throwing haymakers, he should be able to defend against most of Miller's attacks.
Record: 24-7 (1 No Contest) overall, 0-1 in the UFC
How he got here: Jason "Mayhem" Miller fought for a plethora of smaller promotions across the continental United States for the first four years of his career and had notable battles against the likes of Chael Sonnen, Dennis Kang and Tim Kennedy. He made his UFC debut against Georges St. Pierre at UFC 52 in 2005, losing a unanimous decision. He would not fight for the promotion until this upcoming Saturday night.
Miller would also never fight at welterweight again, as the cut was too draining for him. Miller became a staple of Hawaii's Icon Sport promotion, winning the middleweight title, but he would find his true home in Japan.
Miller's outgoing and at time outrageous personality was a big hit in Japan and he competed three times for the Dream promotion. After his last fight, a no contest against Ronaldo Souza, Miller also began hosting a series called "Bully Beatdown" on MTV.
The popularity of the show helped earn "Mayhem" a title shot against Jake Shields for the vacant Strikeforce middleweight belt. Miller would lose a unanimous decision, but came the closest to finishing the fight when Shields was saved by the bell from a rear naked choke at the end of round three.
Miller has been sidelined for a considerable time due to his participation in the "Nashville brawl" after interrupting Shields' post-fight speech and asking for a rematch. With his Showtime contract expired, he was the first Strikeforce fighter to hop over to the UFC and he was a logical choice as a coach of The Ultimate Fighter season 14 opposite Bisping.
How he gets it done: Miller is rather unpredictable in the stand-up department. He isn't the most technical fighter, but he can attack with anything from kicks to spinning back fists. The key for him, though, is to get inside and do whatever it takes to get the fight to the ground.
An important element in Miller's attack is going to be closing the distance. However he can do it, he has to get inside and get either in the clinch or work for takedowns. Footwork will be tricky because Bisping will likely be circling away from him and darting in and out for much of the fight.
If Bisping comes in too aggressively with a "hit and run" attack, Miller needs to capitalize with a body lock and either a trip takedown or by dropping down for a single or double leg takedown. There's almost no chance that Miller can win this fight standing.
If he can get the fight to the ground, "Mayhem" needs to stay heavy, smother Bisping and really try to keep him on his back. That's more important than passing guard and attacking with submissions. If he can wear Bisping out and force him to waste precious energy fighting to get back to his feet, that will be vital to his success.
Only once he's tired "The Count" out should Miller begin passing guard, attacking with ground and pound or hunting for submissions.
Fight "X-Factor:" There are two key factors for this fight. One is time. Jason Miller has fought one time since the infamous brawl in Nashville and that was against an ancient Sakuraba over a year ago. Sure, he's been putting time in and getting himself in terrific shape over at Reign Training Center and King's MMA, but that's not a substitute for actually getting in there and fighting. Cage rust is real, even if the theory has been taking a hit lately due to some impressive comeback performances. Miller will need to shake it out quickly or he's going to find himself in a deep hole against Bisping.
The other factor is obviously where the fight takes place. If Miller can't get the fight to the ground, he's going to have problems. Striking is not one of his strongsuits and I just don't see him winning if he doesn't put Bisping on his back.
Bottom Line: This fight has potential to be terrific, what with a full season of The Ultimate Fighter to build some hype for it, but there's also a huge possibility of a letdown. Bisping is a solid striker and if he can keep it standing, it could be a terribly rough night for Miller while if "Mayhem" can put Bisping on his back, it could be a very one-sided victory for him as well. The only possibilities for this to be a back-and-forth scrap are if both men have really put the time in to work on their weaknesses and can either create more interesting scrambles or striking exchanges than I'm expecting.
Either way, the outcome of this fight is not easy to predict, so there should still be plenty of surprise in store for UFC fans.
Who will come out on top at The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!