When we last left our heroes...When Cole Miller isn't talking smack about Massachusetts or begging to fight Conor McGregor who he believes the UFC is trying to exploit, and thus has dubbed him Colin McGoober, he's a fighter who does a good job of revealing what TUF can be when it's done right; finding quality fighters who may not set the world on fire but exemplify why we cheer mixed martial arts combatants.
Miller has turned into an interesting Kit Ramsey level firebrand. He's always kind of had that simmering rather than boiling vindictiveness about him. He wanted that Junie Browning fight, and when he got it and won, many fans recall him shouting in Junie's face after choking him out in celebration. Nobody liked Junie, and Cole took it on himself to beat Junie for the MMA world's collective pleasure.
I mention Miller's personality because his win over Andy Ogle was a bit nondescript, and I'd rather not spend several paragraphs talking about it. He's 3-3 in his last six.
Opposite Miller is Sicilia, who is also an example of when TUF gets it right. Sicilia won't ever break into the top 10, but he's a really good fighter and ultimately this is why we gather around the digital campfire.
He had an impressive showing against Godfredo Castro, beating him silly in under two minutes. He's 2-2 in the UFC, and 1-0 against multiple fratboys at once.
What both men can do: Miller is the kind of fighter who benefits from the "best defense is a strong offense" mentality. While he's a tough kid who can grind out a victory, he's much better getting takedowns, scrambling on the ground, and winging punches.
As everyone knows, he's excellent on the ground, with superb hip movement off his back, and proved as much when he broke the spell that was the "if only Jorge Gurgel would fight to his strengths he would be awesome!" narrative. Cole is one of the more passionate fighters in the game, and it's the type of abstract quality that allows him to really dig for wins at times, like he did against Ross Pearson.
However, he's up against Sicilia's right hand, which thankfully Maura Renallo doesn't get to talk about on a public broadcast, otherwise we'd never hear the end of arbitrary comparisons between his right hand and forms of nuclear fission.
What both men can't do: Sam moves well, which is an element in scoring lots of knockouts and TKO's...being able to land punches is a consequence of positioning in the same way a submission is set up by proper placement. Sam obviously understands this but his problem is that he keeps his hands low and doesn't always close the distance. Maximo Blanco, who has been a bit of a bust in the UFC, had no problems keeping Sam at bay.
I like Miller in this one because I think he's starting to become a fighter that is more calculated. While he doesn't have the skill on the feet to replicate what Blanco did, I think he'll replicate the rhythm rather than the actual song, which will be enough to at least avoid getting knocked out and finding a scramble that puts him in a position to take control on the ground.
Sam has solid takedown defense, so it's not an easy pick for me. Certainly if Efrain Escudero could blitz Miller, Sicilia can too. But I feel like Miller has evolved in subtle ways to avoid that same outcome.
X-Factor: It's a strange fight insofar as I feel like it's easy to overvalue Miller and undervalue Sicilia, but if there's anything that can ruin a perfectly good fight, it will be an early stoppage. Miller's a tough kid, and capable of battling through a big shot that puts him down, but I could easily see the ref not giving him the benefit of the doubt.
In-Fight Soundtrack: Boom....just in case Sam lands that right hand.
Prediction: Cole Miller by RNC, round 3.