I have a confession to make: I’ve been very, very lazy. So lazy, in fact, that not only have I not written fight previews for tomorrow’s TUF 14 Finale show, I haven’t even watched most of this season of The Ultimate Fighter. One reason for this is the change from SILVA 1.0 to SILVA 1.1. The change was large and substantive enough that it would have taken a good amount of time to process each TUF 14 participant’s new SILVA score… so I decided not to worry too much about the TUF season, and instead focus on each upcoming UFC event.
The other reason is that I’ve just been lazy.
With that said, I can at least preview the main event of tomorrow’s show, between Michael Bisping and Jason “Mayhem” Miller, and produce all of SILVA’s predictions for the show in a separate post.
Michael Bisping is a fighter who seems to have settled into the second tier of the UFC middleweight division. Bisping is good enough to consistently beat fighters like Denis Kang, Jorge Rivera, and Jason Day, but when he steps up and faces a highly-ranked opponent like Rashad Evans or Dan Henderson, he falls short. When he faces a mid-level UFC opponent like Wanderlei Silva (sorry Wanderlei), he ends up fighting a very close fight.
The problem for Bisping is a notable lack of KO power. Bisping’s style is to stay on the outside and out-box his opponents with volume striking. This was a good approach against Chris Leben – Leben’s gung-ho style played right into what Bisping wanted to do, as he capitalized on Leben’s aggression to frustrate him, shut him down, and win a decision. Against more patient opponents like Henderson and Silva, Bisping’s volume striking didn’t work so well. When Bisping faces an opponent willing to wade through his counter striking and retaliate with power in close range, he suddenly becomes very vulnerable.
What makes this fight in particular so easy to preview is that I know exactly what each fighter wants to do. Bisping will want to keep the fight standing and beat Miller on points. Miller will want to take Bisping to the ground and play the submission grappling game. That’s not to say Miller is a horrible striker… I would call his striking “adequate.” But if Miller stands and bangs with Bisping, he’s pretty much asking to lose a decision. Miller falls well short of the KO power possessed by Henderson and Silva, as he has just five wins by KO/TKO in 30 fights, and to make matters worse, here’s the list of fighters Miller has actually beaten by TKO:
- Tim Stout
- Katsuyori Shibata
- Hector Urbina
- Egan Inoue
- Todd Carney
Consider further that the wins over Carney and Inoue were corner stoppages, and what you have is a fighter who simply doesn’t have finishing KO power.
So Miller will want to take Bisping to the ground, as he has 14 wins by submission. This figures to be a tough task – opponents don’t have a history of beating Bisping that way. Even Rashad Evans landed six takedowns, but ended up skating by with a split decision victory. If Miller is able to take Bisping down and submit him, it will be a remarkable feat, because nobody has done it before.
How likely is Miller to successfully land the takedown? This largely depends on how many times he tries – a fighter who has a 10% chance of landing a takedown will still get takedowns if he tries over and over again (unless it’s Diego Sanchez against B.J. Penn and he goes 0 for 27). Think Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Tim Sylvia… Nogueira needed quite a few attempts to bring down the big man, but with perseverance, he was able to do it and eventually finish the fight by submission.
Still, this is where things get dicey for Miller. According to Fight Metric’s preview for the fight, Miller is successful on 40% of takedown attempts, while Bisping is able to defend 58% of the time. Even more damning for Miller is his relative lack of attempts to take fights to the ground, landing just 1.34 takedowns per 15 minutes of fighting. Put it all into a formula, and what you get is a predicted two takedowns landed for Miller in the course of a 25 minute fight against Bisping. That just isn’t good enough if Miller wants to win the fight by submission or decision.
Miller’s fight history doesn’t provide a lot of hope either. In his last ten fights, Miller has clearly stepped up in competition three times – against Frank Trigg, Jake Shields, and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Those also happen to be Miller’s last three losses. He does have a win over Tim Kennedy on his record, which is encouraging, but after that, it’s slim pickings. Beating Kazushi Sakuraba just doesn’t mean much anymore, and after that, you get a bunch of names that would struggle against low-level UFC competition: Tim Stout, Kala Hose, Hector Urbina, Hiromitsu Miura, and the particularly bad Katsuyori Shibata.
SILVA PREDICTION: MICHAEL BISPING (61.51) OVER JASON “MAYHEM” MILLER (51.30)
This is an example of a fight in which every statistic possible points in one direction, and that’s toward a Michael Bisping victory. Jason Miller is a talented grappler, and if he can take the fight to the ground more frequently than I anticipate, he could very well win by decision or perhaps even submission. But Bisping is tough to take down, and he’s very good at getting back to his feet when he does get taken down. So while there is a path to victory available for “Mayhem,” it’s much more likely that Bisping keeps the fight standing, picks Miller apart over five rounds, and wins a decision in a very Bisping-esque fashion: by simply landing more punches than the other guy.