TUF 14 has been one of the best series so far, with some of the most talented fighters ever to take part in the show duking it out for our viewing pleasure and their place in the MMA premier league. As ever at the the finale, the series coaches will face each other in the headline bout. This is a much talked about fight: The American audience particularly absolutely hate Bisping and Miller is a massive fan favourite around the world. To be fair, I think Bisping hasn’t done himself any favours in the series. I’m a fan of him as a fighter and a proud supporter of UKMMA and always root for the UK guys doing well for themselves in big organisations all over the world. However even I have sat watching TUF this year thinking that Bisping is coming off like a bit of an arsehole. Particularly when he was shown pretty much beating the crap out of one of his team who was next in line to fight (can’t remember which cast member it was, but if you’ve seen the show you’ll know who I mean). He also missed fights, fight picks and weigh-ins with no decent explanation and that has to be demoralising for his team. Miller, by contrast, seems to have a great rapport with this team and his cageside coaching has been much more precise and deliberate than Bispings.
But this isn’t a popularity contest it’s a fight, and Bisping is well used to being the heel character in the USA anyway. He won’t care a bit if (when) he gets boo’d by pretty much every fan at the venue on Saturday. Come fight time, the only thing he needs to worry about is the man standing opposite him.
So how does this one go down? Well Bisping (21-3-0) is a heavy favourite here and it is no surprise why. Miller (24-7-0-1 NC) hasn’t fought in over a year, hasn’t been in the Octagon since 2005 and his two recent wins were over a well-past-it Sakuraba and an outmatched Tim Stout. Bisping has had 14 fights for the UFC, and has only lost twice at middleweight. Has only been KO’d once in his career and never submitted. While Miller definitely has the edge in the submission game, he won’t be the only BJJ blackbelt Bisping has faced. ‘The Count’ dealt with Denis Kang and more recently Dan Miller very handily: His submission awareness and defence is top-notch and I honestly think Miller will struggle to get anything on him if this hits the mat.
Surprisingly for a England vs USA fight, the Brit will have the wrestling advantage here in my opinion. Bisping has decent takedowns and also excellent takedown defence. He is well conditioned and very strong and I think he will be able to outmuscle Miller in any clinches.
Millers striking is decent enough and he has a few KO’s to his name, but I don’t think he surpasses Bispings skill in this area either. OK, Bisping hasn’t exactly set the world alight with his striking since coming to the UFC. But when he was fighting on smaller promotions in the UK he was brutalising pretty much everyone he fought, including iron-chinned monsters like Mark Esptein. He controls distance well, has decent timing and is effective at getting in and out to score points due to his excellent footwork. Miller is very unorthodox, but nowhere near as technically sound as Bisping is on the feet.
To be honest other than straight up submissions I think Bisping does everything better than Miller. But what Miller does have is uber-toughness: He will take a kicking, smile and come right back for more. He also has a (small) advantage in that he is the only one of the two to do five rounds. Bispings cardio has never been questioned but he hasn’t ever gone 25minutes in a fight. Against Jake Shields, Miller did just that. He didn’t gas and also had some moments when he had Shields in real trouble…..
In a five-rounder, there is probably less of a chance of Bisping pulling an in-and-out point scoring strategy on the feet where he controls distance and scores with jabs and leg kicks for the full 25 minutes. He is no Frankie Edgar after all! It is also hard to picture him finishing the fight due to Mayhems sheer toughness and will. I see this being all Bisping for at least three rounds and then as we head into the last two Miller rallying a little, but with too little too late and the judges giving Bisping the nod. Of course, there is always a chance of Miller latching onto a submission and his unorthodox style could make him tricky to pin down on the feet, but for me the smart money goes on a Bisping decision.
It’s kind of hard to see where Miller fits in the Middleweight division. He is a big name in MMA but he is no way a top ten fighter, so it’s difficult to see how the UFC will balance giving him the matches the fans want to see (ie name vs name) and still have him maintain his place in the UFC if he isn’t up to the task and ends up getting beaten a lot. There is also the question of how bad he wants it? It’s almost like he prefers being known as a ‘personality’ rather than a fighter. He is a really likeable and entertaining character on the TV so he definitely has a future in front of the camera. Is he the new Joe Rogan???? Maybe one day. I can see that being a lot more likely than Miller strapping UFC gold around his waist!
Talking of UFC gold: Bisping is after the title shot without a doubt. But I fear like so many before him (Ken-Flo anyone?) he is destined to be one of the UFC’s nearly men. If anyone of Sonnen, Munoz or Silva is holding the title, Bisping is screwed. You can addd fighters like Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson (if he ventures back down to 185lbs) to that list too. Apparently the rumoured Sonnen vs Munoz match for #1 contender has already been nixed by Sonnen, who made a cryptic comment that lead a lot of people to believe he will face the winner of Bisping vs Miller for #1 contender. If true then I predict Sonnen will destroy either of them easily. I personally would rather see Sonnen vs Munoz, but in that match there is a higher chance of Sonnen getting beat. Given that EVERYONE wants to see Sonnen vs Silva 2, I guess giving Sonnen an easier path to the title-shot without giving him the rematch immediately makes sense. This puts Bisping in no-mans land really – assuming he beats Miller then faces Sonnen and loses – he is always going to be the guy that gets beat when he takes that step up in class. A shame for him and for UKMMA as a whole but unfortunately, any UK fans who are looking to Bisping to be the first British UFC champ are looking in the wrong place in my humble opinion. Nevertheless I always look forward to his fights. I will be very interested in how, both the fight on saturday and the future matches that determine the next contender, play out. Maybe I have this all wrong, he will destroy Miller inside a round and go on to storm his way to the title. No-one would cheer louder than me if that happened, but sadly as I look into my MMA crystal ball, I see no gold for Mike on the horizon.