The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale opens their facebook fracas with a trio of solid featherweight action at Mandalay Bay Events Center with a mixture of veterens and prospects.
These two did not have a good year in 2012. Both men suffered two losses in the only two fights they had last year. To say their future hangs in the balance understates the stakes.
Miller was especially bad, taking losses against Nam Phan and Steven Siler...two fights that were very winnable. Part of Miller's problem, despite being quite talented, is that he fights a bruiser style without having the body for it. He wants to charge in wrecklessly, to create chances, but that only works if you've got sturdy chin and are durable.
'Bartimus' faced tougher opposition, but he seems to have fallen off after an impressive run in the UFC, and a fantastic debut in the UFC Vitor'ing Tyson Griffin.
Both guys are well rounded. Miller exposed the myth that Jorge Gurgel sabotages himself by not going to the ground when Miller submitted him and took his lunch money. But in addition to having an active guard, he's got decent pop on the feet. As I said, the problem with Miller is that he wants every fight to be a war. Granted, that's a fine attitude for us bloodthirsty observers, but it gets him into trouble.
I'm not sure Bartimus can capitalize though. With Miller using his reach, I don't expect Bart to get inside and put together combinations. On the ground, Miller's the superior grappler. I know people will think I'm crazy to pick Miller but I think knowing it's a do or die fight, he'll battle to his strengths.
Prediction: Cole Miller by Guillotine, round 2.
Lawrence entered TUF with a good amount of hype. In his bout to get inside the house, he displayed strong chops on the feet with his diverse kicking attack. He's coming off a loss to Max Holloway.
His opponent is coming off back to back losses. Pineda entered the UFC with a nice run, winning his first two bouts only to lose his next one in a spirited effort against Mike Brown.
Both guys are pretty good at throwing unorthodox strikes. So it should be interesting to see that particular contrast of styles. However, one of the things that gives Pineda the edge here is durability. In all of Lawrence's losses, including his loss on TUF, he's battled hard early only to fade late.
Despite the KO loss to Carvalho, I like Pineda being able to control the cage, mixing up his strikes, and keeping the pressure on with takedowns. The only question is whether or not he'll get caught. When he strings his combinations together, he sort of flails with his head down. Lawrence can easily capitalize on that. I waver on this one because I know Lawrence will be a threat on the feet, but Pineda can end up running away with the fight, especially in the transitions, where he's got some of the more fluid movement on the ground in the division.
Prediction: Daniel Pineda by Decision.
It's amazing to think Blanco was thought to be a real blue chip prospect at one point. His flare on the feet, and his stout wrestling made him a potential all star when in the division. Away from Japan, however, he''s been wildly mediocre, suffering a quick loss to Pat Healy (who to be fair, is quite good), and then engaging in one of the more lackluster scraps of 2012 losing to Marcus Brimage (with more action after the fight than during).
Sicilia is another TUF product who enters this fight with a reputation for having significant power in his hands.
To me, this is the perfect fight for Blanco, should he return to form. Sicilia has good power, so Blanco will be forced to respect him the feet, which hopefully keeps him motivated. Blanco is slick on the feet, and won't get caught standing around against Sicilia, who is fairly limited to a big right hand.
With his arsenal of spinning back kicks, front kicks, and more spinning back kicks, expect Blanco to maintain his range, and win comfortably.
Prediction: Maximo Blanco by Decision.