Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Max Holloway and Cole Miller will collide this Saturday (Feb. 14, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 60 on FOX Sports 1 from inside the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, Colorado.
After going winless in 2013, Holloway broke into the rankings last year by earning four straight victories and finishing each of his opponents. Now, the "Blessed" young fighter will look to continue his streak against his veteran foe.
Miller's return to featherweight in 2012 did not go as planned, as the lengthy jiu-jitsu specialist faltered in his first two bouts. Since then, Miller has won three of his last four, and his only loss was extremely questionable.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each fighter.
Key Wins: Andre Fili (UFC 172), Akira Corassani (UFC Fight Night 53), Clay Collard (UFC Fight Night 49)
Key Losses: Conor McGregor (UFC Fight Night 26), Dennis Bermudez (UFC 160)
Keys to Victory: Holloway is a rather dangerous high-volume kickboxer. Usually, the Hawaiian is slowly wearing away at his opponent with constant offense, mixing together solid boxing with flashy kicking techniques.
Though Holloway's grappling was rather weak when he first entered UFC, he's become rather adept in a very short span of time. Not only does he now possess his own slick submission game, but his takedown defense was sturdy enough to arguable defeat Dennis Bermudez.
That will obviously be quite important here. Holloway's opponent is a legitimate jiu-jitsu black belt, who's made a career out of locking in submission holds.
Luckily, Holloway's advantage on the feet should be very helpful. Against Bermudez, Holloway used his superior footwork to stay outside of grappling range while landing his own strikes. Plus, he stayed off the fence, which made staying out of his opponent's grip much easier.
In this bout, Holloway should mostly stick to his boxing, and be sure to set up any kicks very well. Otherwise, he risks giving up an unnecessary takedown, since Holloway has the pugilistic skill to take control of the fight without relying on his shins.
Key Wins: Sam Sicilia (UFC Fight Night 35), Andy Ogle (UFC Fight Night 30), Bart Palaszewski (TUF 17 Finale)
Key Losses: Steven Silver (UFC on FX 2), Nam Phan (UFC on FOX 4)
Keys to Victory: Miller has been with UFC for quite some time, relying heavily on his excellent jiu-jitsu skills. In addition, his kickboxing skills have steadily improved, especially when he's allowed to control his range.
For Miller, this bout is all about cutting off the cage. He's not the best wrestler in the division, so his chances of blasting through Holloway with a double leg are pretty slim.
Instead, Miller can use his lengthy arms to herd Holloway into the fence with punches. If he can pin Holloway's back to the fence, Miller will likely be able to transition into the clinch. From there, Miller is pretty capable with his body locks and will happily jump on his opponent's back should he turn away.
If Miller can get his opponent to the mat, he needs to be ready to immediately attack with submissions. Holloway is generally quite speedy in scrambling back to his feet, so Miller should be ready to capitalize, either with a choke attempt or transition into a dominant position.
In order to return to his feet, Holloway will occasionally use an open guard. Miller could also capitalize on this if he acts quickly, as Miller undoubtedly has the jiu-jitsu necessary to navigate the Hawaiian's guard.
Bottom Line: This is a solid match up of rising young contender and veteran gate keeper. Plus, both men are quite talented in their respective areas of expertise, which means fight fans could be in for some excellent technique regardless of who takes the win.
Thanks to his streak last year, Holloway has earned a ranking at just 23 years old. If Holloway can continue to put strong wins together, he'll undoubtedly earn some more high-profile matches. "Blessed" has steadily improved across his UFC career, and he's certain to become a top 10 mainstay if that remains the case.
On the other hand, a loss to Miller would likely indicate that Holloway still has work to do on his grappling. It's still not the worst fate -- Holloway has plenty of time to improve after all -- but it would likely cause him to drop out of the rankings.
Bad timing, considering the upcoming implementation of the Reebok deal.
Miller should be in his prime around this point, so this is the victory he needs to break into the rankings. He's also been known for his grappling talent, but Miller has never appeared to be a contender. He undoubtedly wants to change that, and his current win streak and a victory here could get him into the mix.
Alternatively, a loss to Holloway would once again confirm that Miller cannot consistently defeat top ranked fighters. In short, that means it's back to the drawing board for "Magrinho."
At UFC Fight Night 60, Max Holloway and Cole Miller will slug it out. Which of these talented featherweights will walk away with the victory?