This Saturday night the UFC presents their second edition of Fight for the Troops out of Fort Hood, Texas. The card may lack the typical plethora of mainstream contenders, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because names such as “Rampage” Quinton Jackson (29-8) or “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (21-2) are not on the card that this is a lackluster event. UFC Fight for the Troops 2 presents a who’s who of fighters ready to take their game to the next level. In the main event the Greg Jackson protege “The Young Assassin” Melvin Guillard (25-8-2) takes on the rising star of Evan Dunham (10-1). Former NFL star and The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 stand-out Matt Mitrione (3-0) will encounter King of the Cage veteran “The Thrashing Machine” Tim Hague (10-4) and the newly acquired WEC featherweights will make their UFC debut with Mark Hominick (18-7), currently riding a four fight win streak, against another TUF alum in George Roop (11-5) who is returning to the Octagon after a second round head kick knockout of “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung (10-3). Two of the UFC’s heavyweight colossuses will encounter in a fan-friendly stand-up war when “Hype or Die” Pat Barry (4-3) meets with “The Mexicutioner” Joey Beltran (10-3), but the honors of kicking the main card go to three-time Submission of the Night winner “Magrinho” Cole Miller (17-4) and three-time Fight of the Night winner “Handsome” Matt Wiman (12-5). These two not only will be given the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of America’s servicemen and women at Fort Hood, Texas, they will set the bar for the night to follow.
At First Glance: Both of these lightweights have more on their plate now that the UFC added the former WEC lightweight class to its roster; and while Wiman and Miller are no pushovers in any right, it takes only one faulty performance to see a loss on their record and a possible pink slip from the organization. What gives this fight hype is that it can be fought in any aspect of the game – Miller and Wiman have each shown that they possess the ability to finish the fight standing or in their respective preferred fashion: grappling. With striking set aside, Miller/Wiman can become an encounter between two grapplers seeking to prove who is the master of his domain. If either man plays his cards right, they can see themselves ready to take on the top contenders of the lightweight division.
In Depth: Since their stay in Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter both Wiman and Miller have made leaps and bounds in the sport and now are on the cusp of the UFC lightweight contender ranks, but they need just that one win to get them there. While both seem to be mirror images of each other in terms of skill level, the physical characteristics of the fighters will likely play a role in how the fight ends up. Matt Wiman’s shorter and more muscular frame will allow him to be more explosive in his strikes and takedown shoots like in his knockout against Thiago Tavares (16-3)at UFC 85 but he will have to contend with the significant reach advantage Miller has over him. Cole Miller’s angular frame allows him a reach advantage best suited for his technical striking and set up for his Jiu-Jitsu game. Like “The Spider” Anderson Silva (27-4) and “Bones” Jon Jones (11-1), Miller’s lean, lanky body type gives “Magrinho” an edge in most aspects of the fight. In exchange for power, the reach and technique of Miller’s striking can poke and prod Wiman enough to keep him at distance, tagging “Handsome” repeatedly and possibly stunning him enough to land a knockout victory. This reach also aids Miller in luring his opponent into a faulty takedown; on the ground, Miller’s long legs would allow him to secure Wiman’s posture and have better control in terms of setting up the submission or escaping rather dangerous situations Wiman may set up. Miller’s recent bout against “The Real Deal” Ross Pearson (16-6-1) showcased these attributes notably where his reach kept Pearson’s superior striking at a distance. By the second round, Miller was able to stun the British powerhouse long enough to sink in a Rear Naked Choke. Both Miller and Wiman exemplify a working knowledge of the optimal use for their respective physique and capitalize on any given opportunity to end a fight, whether that be with striking or slapping on a submission at a moment’s notice.
The Wild Card: It’s no secret that the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt Cole Miller plans to employ his reach advantage in every aspect of his fight against Matt Wiman. This match, however, is by no means a lost cause for Wiman. What the “Handsome” one must exploit in this fight is his opponent’s somewhat uncharacteristic but nonetheless notable difficulty to remain in the game after being rattled. Miller is known for being able to maintain an uncanny sense of calm even when in troublesome situations, but this in fact does a disservice to him when his mentality refuses to go into survival mode to stay in the fight. Case in point: Miller faced “J-Lau” Joe Lauzon (19-6) in The Ultimate Fighter quarter-finals. The two men engaged in a competitive first round, but in the second stanza after Lauzon landed an illegal elbow and Miller took his necessary recovery time, the resumed fight showed a seemingly checked-out Cole Miller. Lauzon immediately took his opponent down with relative ease, landing a barrage of clean shots. Instead of fighting back, Miller covered up and after refusing to defend himself or improve his position, the referee called a stop to the fight. The loss resulted in Miller being eliminated from the TUF competition. Should Matt Wiman pressure Miller enough out of his comfort zone, he might be able to best the Jiu-Jitsu enthusiast. That is not to say that this is all it takes for him to win. Wiman has to be sure not to get too comfortable against the American Top Team lightweight because just one mistake in this fight could be his last and could very well cost him the fight should Miller grab hold of Wiman’s limbs and go for the kill.
The Verdict: While both lightweight stars are ready to set the Fight for the Troops 2 card ablaze, it will be Wiman’s flame set to snuff. Both might appear to be similar in terms of style or success but it is the disciplined training offered by American Top Team that will lead to Miller’s rise in the division’s ladder. Be it striking or Jiu-Jitsu, “Magrinho” will be able to dampen any offensive threat presented before him. Wiman has to come within Miller’s proximity to strike or attempt a takedown but Miller’s reach advantage will keep him at distance forbidding him to do so or trapping him within. By the time it’s over Wiman will likely have left the Octagon, taking that long walk to the locker room with the knowledge that he tapped out as the sound of Joe Rogan’s voice gives that post-fight interview to the superior fighter. Miller via Submission (Triangle), Round 3.