I’m not going to lie: Like a few other people, I am damn excited for Michael Bisping vs. Jason “Mayhem” Miller.
I remember what a big deal it was to watch the BJ Penn/Jens Pulver fight on free TV, way back in that forgotten time known as 2007. Even if the once-hyped rematch had lost some of it’s lustre, it still felt like a “big fight” we were getting on free TV. It was also very fitting to have the season finale end with the battle of the coaches, rather then having to pay for the fight a month later.
In short, having the coaches fight on the finale is like drinking beer in the shower: it might not happen very often, but it just feels right.
And it’s even more fitting when you consider that this is the swan song of “The Ultimate Fighter” on Spike TV. If you want to go out “with a bang”, then there may be no better way than having a fight like this drop the curtain. Mayhem vs. Bisping is a PPV caliber fight – hell, in today’s PPV climate it could very well headline a card with Sean McCorkle vs. Mike Russow as co-main.
So be thankful and all that. TUF finales on Spike are old hat at this point, comfortable and familiar, like a pair of well-worn sweatpants with the crotch worn out. Once they move onto FX, well, who knows what we’ll be getting?
What we’re getting tonight – in addition to the bantam and featherweight finals – is an interesting middleweight clash with a lot of question marks.
Jason “Mayhem” Miller hasn’t fought in the UFC since April of 2005. he lost that night, against some guy named “Georges” something. He hasn’t fought, period, in over a year. His last win of any note was over Tim Kennedy in 2007, unless you count submitting Sakuraba’s ghost as a “win of note”. He may be more known today as the host of “Bully Beatdown” than for any of his fighting accolades.
And Bisping? He’s riding an impressive 3-fight winning streak. Unfortunately, when you ask the average schmuck walking the street, the name “Bisping” is likely most associated with spitting on Jorge, getting robbed against Hamill, and oh yeah – getting Hendo’d.
Who’s got the edge? Let’s break it down category by category, starting with…
This is a tricky concept when applied to MMA, and it’s even more tricky when applied to these two gents. Jason Miller comes from a Team Quest background but has always been more of a BJJ man. And Bisping? He’s British – nuff’ said.
And yet both men possess what I would consider to be solid wrestling skills. Bisping can look foolish in the wrestling department sometimes – like when he lunged for takedowns against Hendo, or got footswept against Wanderlei.
Yet he also has turned in some solid wrestling, managing to (mostly) stifle Rashad Evans, and control solid grapplers Dennis Kang and Dan Miller. As a wrestler, Bisping is a bit like a coffee from McDonald’s – you never know if you’re getting a nice beverage or a cup of p*ss.
Funnily enough, Mayhem is in kind of a similar boat. He’s a guy not known for his wrestling skills, yet he has turned in some very good performances in the wrestling department. Remember when he picked up Jake Shields and slammed him like a ragdoll? Even GSP himself couldn’t take down Jake as authoritatively as Miller did.
So who takes this one? Well, like so many categories , it’s pretty damn close. Though many out there may disagree, I give the edge in the wrestling department to Mayhem. He’s shown solid work in the clinch, solid takedown defense, and a good shot when he chooses to use it. Bisping has many of those tools as well, but not as many, and not quite as polished. Mayhem’s Team Quest background gives him the edge over the Brit.
Yet another arbitrary distinction in MMA, forced upon me, if I’m honest, by you damn casual fans. Most people who watch (and write about) MMA break down grappling into “wrestling” – that is, offensive and defensive takedowns – and “BJJ/Grappling”, namely mat acumen and submission skills. Really, it’s pretty hard to separate wrestling from BJJ in the context of modern MMA, but what the hell? You guys want it, you guys got it.
And again, we have a real close horse race here. The initial inclination is to pick Mayhem, a BJJ black belt with a majority of his wins via submission. But Bisping is no slouch on the mat, even if he doesn’t have a highlight reel of submission victories to his credit.
But effective grappling is more than slick subs, and Bisping has well-rounded skills to his credit. He’s underrated off his back, able to shut down even top level grapplers like Denis Kang. He’s got good submission defense, and has survived close calls against Charles McCarthy and Wanderlei Silva (fun fact: both those guys have BJJ blackbelts. Weird, I know). He’s never actually submitted anyone in the UFC, but then again, neither has Miller.
Mayhem may be one of the most underrated BJJ players in the game today. Yeah, that’s the kind of broad, sweeping statement that usually sends up the “I’m a tool” flag for readers, but hear me out. Who else has gone the distance with both “Jacare” Souza and Jake Shields almost entirely on the mat and not only survived, but held their own?
Sure, “Jacare” turned him into six different kinds of human pretzel – but he couldn’t tap him, which speaks volumes about Miller’s submission skills. And Miller had Shields in a full-on, sunk in rear naked choke before Jake was saved by the bell. Those are two impressive accolades you won’t get just by reading Jason Miller’s Wikipedia page.
Who takes this one? Once again, I’m going to (possibly) rile some feathers and say Miller. He’s the more credentialed BJJ player, has the better defensive skills, and has proven submission finishing ability.
For all you angry Brits out there, don’t worry – “The Count”, down by two in my arbitrary, irrelevant comparison, comes roaring back in this category.
Hey, don’t get me wrong, Mayhem isn’t chopped liver on the feet. He has functional standup skills, mixes it up well, and has a solid chin that can eat a few punches. He’s not the most economical mover on the feet but he doesn’t have to be. Usually, Miller is looking to take his opponent to the floor.
Bisping, on the other hand, is a top-level striker in the middleweight division. Yes, I said “top level striker” and “Mike Bisping” in the same sentence. Yes, I fully realize this is the chap who got “H-Bombed” in the single greatest KO in the history of ever.
Still, consider this: It took Hendo five times as long to knock out Michael Bisping as it did to knock out Fedor Emelianenko. Keep that in mind next time you harangue Bisping for getting Falcon Punched out of his boots at UFC 100.
That aberration aside, Bisping has looked solid on the feet, especially as of late. People complain about him “being on his bike” and having “pillow fists”, but the facts just don’t match that premise. Bisping has an 80% finishing rate over his career, and since he doesn’t have many submissions – well, those “pillow fists” must be good for something.
Punches in bunches is the name of the game for Bisping, and it’s a style that’s served him very well. In his last 7 fights, Bisping has faced someone who could be considered a good striker (ok, maybe not Dan Miller. But he’s an all-round badass so he makes the list). With the exception of Hendo, he wasn’t outstruck by any of them.
Ok, he got outstruck by Wandy. And Denis Kang.
Still, my point remains: in a heads up comparison with Jason Miller, Bisping has the better hands on paper. Rule Britannia!
Intangibles (Cardio/Mental Strength/Gameplanning/Whatever)
It’s simple. Both men are highly confident. Both men are accomplished showmen. Both men have experience fighting all over the world. Both men have won fights they should have lost, and given away fights they should have had. In the “mental game” department, it’s a stalemate.
As far as gameplanning, it’s Team Wolfslair vs…wherever Miller trains now (Kings MMA, according to the internets). Again, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a toss up.
Which leaves cardio as the only deciding marker. Both guys have good cardio, but the edge here has to go to Bisping. Love him or hate him, he shows up ready to go each and every time…except this time, where Bisping initially missed weight on his first attempt and could have kneecapped his cardio as a result.
Still, let’s go Bisping, just to make it even.