Friday, 2 December 2011

Ultimate Fighter Finale: Bisping vs Miller

This has been really fun few weeks to be a British MMA fan.  The Ultimate Fighter reality show is one of my guilty pleasures (although I do spend most of the show hoping that the fights will hurry up and happen) and it has been great fun watching Micheal Bisping play the bad guy a little bit on the show and then read fans boo him on the internet.  In fact, that is one of the best things about following Bisping, you are never short of a bit of news or some comments threads to read, because there is always someone ready to have a go at him.  Of course, Bisping loves the attention and the higher profile, sponsorship deals and pay that the attention brings.  Fair play to him.

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Micheal "The Count" Bisping vs Jason "Mayhem" Miller

If you do not know who Mike Bisping is now then you have probably not spent any time anywhere near the MMA bubble for the last few years.  He is the UK's biggest MMA star and came into the UFC with a perfect 10-0 professional record by way of The Ultimate Fighter.  He spent the beginning of his UFC careers climbing the Light Heavyweight ranks, before losing to Rashad Evans and dropping to Middleweight.  Since 2008, he has been hovering around the upper echelons of the Middleweight division whilst suffering setbacks to Dan Henderson's crushing right hand and Wanderlei Silva.  He first gained momentum as one of the chief baddies of the UFC while coaching a UK vs USA Ultimate Fighter.  Although Bisping has made it quite clear in the past that he thinks that was a bit of a silly premise for the season, he has taken full advantage of his role as the bad guy and played it up to pantomime levels on this season's show.   In between his two coaching appearances on TUF, he has garnered more animosity with a pretty abrasive personality and spitting on the ground in the vague direction of Jorge Rivera.

Take away the cartoon bad guy part of him and what is left is a fighter with serious talent who comes into this fight as a massive favorite.  Bisping is a striking specialist and his style is much derided by many fans as 'jab and run'.  Roughly two thirds of Bisping's twenty-one career wins have come via KO or TKO and although he would be the first to admit he does not have the heaviest hands in the division, his ability to pick fighters apart from the outside means that his strikes can have a heavy cumulative effect.  He has survived against fighters with good wrestling and ground games, primarily due to his great take down defense as he showed in his bout with the Matt Hammill, a great wrestler who he was much smaller than.

The "Mayhem" fight is an interesting one for Bisping.  He believes he is on the march towards a title show with Anderson Silva but took the TUF gig as a way to continue to improve his profile.  This fight then, is a strange one.  Miller is a decent pro who has fought all over and has plenty of experience as Bisping details below.  However, a fight with Miller could well be lose-lose.  It probably does not put him anywhere closer to the fight with Anderson Silva that he craves should he win and a loss could well be devastating given Miller is seen by some as more of personality than a fighter.

Miller is a decent fighter and, despite his media career he has fought some top guys.  However, he has not proven himself against a fighter of Bisping's calibre for some time.  There is no excuse, even wild optimism from an MMA public that seems to vehemently dislike "The Count", for believing Miller is the more likely victor on Saturday night.  Miller's last fight was against a very beleaguered looking Sakuraba (so much a shell of a former self that Miller looked decidedly like a bully when beating him up).

That was over a year ago at Dream 16 and even before that Miller was indulging in a pretty part time schedule.  He did look quite good against Jake Shields in a match for the vacant Strikeforce Middleweight title two and a half years ago but clearly Bisping will be less obliging in taking the fight to the ground and is much more menacing standing up.

Miller's game is based around pretty solid, albeit slightly unorthodox, striking and a strong ground game.  The missing link is probably wrestling and he will have considerable trouble getting Bisping to the ground.  Should he get the Englishman down then submitting the Brit is going to be pretty tricky.  It is not for nothing that Bisping has never been submitted in a professional fight.  He does a good job of staying away from dangerous positions, is quick to get up and is crafty enough on the ground.

I should note here that Miller is clearly a really sound person and is a well respected fighter even by Bisping.  In spite of the heavy editing of the show it is quite clear that there is respect between Bisping and Miller and that the two fighters have enjoyed the over the top rivalry they have created.  The reason Miller was able to get a fight at this level for his return to the UFC was because his personality has won him plenty of fans and even as a fan of Bisping, I will be as chuffed as anyone if Miller puts up a peace sign while sitting on top of the Brit.  It is just pretty unlikely.

Bisping wins by TKO in round 2 or 3.

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