BlackSportsOnline.com MMA Insider Alex Donno breaks down the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 14 on Spike TV.
The Ultimate Fighter reality show will say farewell to Spike TV on Saturday, December 3rd. After 14 seasons of ups, downs, occasional big ratings and occasional big let downs, Spike TV is set to air a live “TUF” finale for the final time. In 2012, TUF will move to FX as part of the UFC’s deal with the Fox family of networks. A change of network and a revamping of the format will likely bring new life into what most MMA fans consider to be a stale reality franchise. But even so, it’s worth looking back on the Spike TV era of TUF with fond memories. Afterall, without the epic TUF Season 1 Finale fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar back in ’05, the UFC may not even be in business today. UFC President Dana White credits that fight as the savior of MMA. At the time, the UFC was struggling for survival and fighting for relevance. When Griffin and Bonnar engaged in a three round war on cable television, it brought more eyes to the sport than any single fight before it. It marked the beginning of the UFC’s Spike TV era, and got the ball rolling for six great years of free fights on cable. Although pay per view is the UFC’s primary source of revenue, their pay per view business may have died out long ago if not for all the new fans created through free fights on Spike. Even though the UFC is moving on to greater heights with free fights on the Fox family of networks, fans will always remember Spike TV as the network that saved the UFC, and helped build the sport of MMA into what it is today.
In its 14th season, The Ultimate Fighter, for the first time, featured featherweights and bantamweights as contestants. It’s something they should have done long ago. The little guys provided fast paced, action packed fights in every episode. And the coaches, Michael Bisping and Jason “Mayhem” Miller, did a fine job keeping things interesting behind the scenes. Their hatred for one another intensified throughout the season. It didn’t take long for Bisping’s smug attitude to drive the “Bully Beatdown” host crazy. On Saturday night, they’ll settle their differences in the Octagon.
The “Coaches’ Fight” has always been a TUF tradition. But traditionally, the fight between coaches has been reserved for pay per view. For only the second time in TUF history, we’ll see it for free on the Spike TV live finale. And it makes sense. Although Miller and Bisping are both well known to MMA fans, they won’t be fighting for a UFC title, or even a shot at a title. The only things at stake between them are bragging rights and the promise to move a rung higher on the middleweight ladder. Putting them in a pay per view main event would be a tough sell, yet a free fight between them feels like a gift. What this fight lacks in stakes, it makes up for in personality. Miller is a fan favorite with an enthusiastic cult following. He’s one of the few fighters out there to build a rabid fanbase outside of the UFC. His brilliant walkouts in Japan and success as the host of “Bully Beatdown” on MTV have painted fans a likeable picture of his endless personality. Now that he’s returning to the big stage of the UFC, the possibilities for his growth in the public eye seem endless. Bisping, on the other hand, has been a UFC mainstay since 2006. But as a loudmouth, trash talking Brit, American fans have found great joy in rooting for him to lose. He’s only been defeated three times in 24 fights, but his knockout loss to Dan Henderson in 2009 was a highlight reel moment that his critics will never let him forget. Jason “Mayhem” Miller will be the loveable babyface. Michael Bisping will be the cocky, trash talking heel. The table is set for a fun fight.
As for the fight itself, the matchup looks interesting on paper. Miller is the grappler and Bisping is the striker. But of course, in the modern era of MMA, it doesn’t always play out that way. In numerous interviews leading up to the fight, Miller has promised that he will make Bisping so uncomfortable in the standup, that he guarantees Bisping will be the first to shoot for a takedown. Miller hasn’t fought since September of 2010, so it will be interesting to see how his striking has evolved under the tutelage of famed standup coach Rafael Cordeiro. Cordeiro has trained some of MMA’s best kickboxers, including Anderson Silva, Shogun Rua, and Wanderlei Silva. Miller has also worked on his striking with Muay Thai standout Siyar Bahadurzada. Not surprisingly though, Bisping is confident that his striking will be far superior to Miller’s. History certainly backs up his claim. Bisping mixes up his standup attack well. His combination of angles, punches, kicks, and rhythmic footwork gives opponents fits. His only visible striking weakness is a lack of one-punch knockout power. His typical road to victory is a three round decision, while picking opponents apart along the way. This fight with Miller will be a five round main event, so perhaps the extra ten minutes will lend themselves to a Bisping finish. Of course, two extra rounds might also play into Miller’s favor. If his takedowns are landing, an extra ten minutes to work for submissions could be a great blessing for him. But it’s worth noting that Bisping’s defensive wrestling is far better than people give him credit for. He stuffs takedowns well, and his constant movement and footwork make it tough for opponents to grab hold of him. The key for Miller will likely be whether or not he can get Bisping to the ground. His top control is smothering. If and when he gets Bisping to the mat, getting up won’t be easy.
On the televised undercard, two Ultimate Fighter winners will be crowned; one at bantamweight and one at featherweight. At bantamweight, Greg Jackson trainee John Dodson takes on Team Alpha Male standout T.J. Dillashaw. Dillashaw is unbeaten in four professional bouts, but will give up a significant experience advantage to the 11-5 Dodson. Dodson will be hoping that his experience and his speed make up for what he lacks in size. Even by bantamweight standards, Dodson is tiny. He would surely be a flyweight if such a weight class existed in the UFC. The keys for Dillashaw will be to use his size to bully Dodson in the clinch, take him down, and work from top control. Unfortunately, that won’t be easy, as Dodson is a former State Champion wrestler. If Dillashaw can’t take Dodson down, he will have a hard time dealing with Dodson’s speed in the standup. He fights like a Tasmanian devil, darting in and out of the pocket with accurate punches and kicks. No matter who wins, expect a feverish pace.
In the featherweight final, Diego Brandao meets Dennis Bermudez. Out of all the contestants from TUF 14, Brandao appears the most UFC ready. He demolished all three of his opponents in the house within a round, two of them within a minute. To say his striking is explosive might be an understatement. And his aggressive striking is complemented by solid takedown defense and black belt level Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Bermudez is an excellent wrestler, and will need to put Brandao on his back early and often if he has any shot here. He showed great durability in his semifinal win over Akira Corassani, surviving an onslaught of strikes early in round 1 before bringing the fight to the mat and winning by submission. However, if he takes similar shots to the chin from the harder hitting Brandao, it will be a short night for Bermudez.
The four TUF 14 Finalists are fighting for a six-figure UFC contract, and of course, the bragging rights that come with being named “The Ultimate Fighter.”
The live Spike TV broadcast for The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale begins at 8:00pm Eastern Time on Spike TV. Before the two final round fights and the coaches’ fight, the broadcast will feature a battle between TUF 14 contestants Johnny Bedford and Louis Gaudinot, and a special lightweight attraction between TUF 13 winner Tony Ferguson and long time MMA veteran Yves Edwards.
As a bonus, here is the aforementioned Bisping knockout at the hands of Dan Henderson.