Michael Bisping owns 17 finishes among his 21 victories. | Photo: Sherdog.com
The end of an era is at hand for “The Ultimate Fighter,” as the 14th finale marks the popular reality show’s final appearance on Spike TV. Next year, the series introduces a new live format to FX, where fights throughout the season -- not just the last bout -- will count toward each fighter’s record.
As usual, the finale presents the possibility that a new star or stars will be born in the Octagon. On Saturday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, bantamweights John Dodson and T.J. Dillashaw as well as featherweights Diego Brandao and Dennis Bermudez are those candidates. Also looming large is the matchup of coaches, where Michael Bisping and Jason Miller can settle their differences while simultaneously ascending the UFC’s middleweight ladder.
Here is a look at the main card fights at “The Ultimate Fighter 14” Finale, complete with analysis and picks.
Michael Bisping (21-3, 11-3 UFC) vs. Jason “Mayhem” Miller (24-7, 0-1 UFC)
The Matchup: While these two opposing coaches certainly had their fair share of obligatory confrontations on Season 14 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” there does not seem to be too much genuine animosity between Miller and Bisping, a la Rashad Evans-Quinton Jackson or Bisping-Dan Henderson on previous seasons. With both men serving as only mild sources of irritation for one another, it becomes easier to focus on what shapes up to be a key middleweight duel.
Prior to his stint as reality show coach, Miller might be best known for hosting MTV2’s “Bully Beatdown” or his role in the Strikeforce “Nashville” melee that effectively ended any hopes the promotion had of remaining on CBS. That said, Miller’s most notable achievement of late came in the ring at Dream 16, when he submitted Kazushi Sakuraba with an arm-triangle choke at 2:09 of the first round. Like Babe Ruth allegedly calling his own shot, “Mayhem” predicted he would make the former Pride Fighting Championships standout tap and then looked downright clairvoyant when he became the first man in 14 years to do so.
Miller’s grappling is excellent. He owns 14 submissions in his career and managed to go the distance without tapping in losses to skilled jiu-jitsu practitioners such as Jake Shields and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza; moreover, he nearly submitted Shields with a rear-naked choke. He will have his work cut out for him against Bisping, who is one of the soundest defensive fighters in the UFC.
Miller will want to take it to the ground as soon as possible, where he can implement some of the same relentless ground-and-pound that set up his historic win over Sakuraba. The Las Vegas resident is extremely active while working from the top, and he will have to be because Bisping is good at controlling his opponent’s posture from the guard. The Englishman is also adept at clearing his hips and using the cage to get back to his feet when his solid takedown defense fails him.
“The Count” will want to use those skills to keep the fight standing as much as possible, where he can rack up points with his precise boxing. Bisping’s power is not overwhelming; it is his footwork and ability to land a high volume of punches that will confound Miller. Bisping is an expert at landing the one-two combination and then swiftly moving out of harm’s way.
The Wolfslair Academy representative’s lack of knockout clout will allow Miller to push forward without fear of serious repercussions. If Miller can fight at close range, he can use his muay Thai to punish Bisping while in tie-ups before attempting to get the action to the canvas. Bisping is usually composed in the Octagon, so do not expect “The Ultimate Fighter 3” winner to stray far from his game plan of boxing and solid takedown defense.
The Pick: The best chance of a finish resides with Miller cinching an arm-triangle or rear-naked choke, but, in 24 professional bouts, Bisping has yet to be stopped by anything other than a Dan Henderson right hand. Miller needs to make Bisping work by taking him down repeatedly and using his ground-and-pound to find an opening for a submission. In the long run, Bisping will prove too difficult to keep down, however, and his right hand will find its mark enough times to garner a decision victory.
Continue Reading » Next Fight: John Dodson vs. T.J. Dillashaw