Cole Miller has fallen on hard times, losing three of his last four. |Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Just one week after setting up shop in Sweden, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will once more touch down on home soil for “The Ultimate Fighter 17” Finale.
In the words of new Bellator MMA middleweight title contender Doug Marshall, that means “America.” Although, if there is any way we could all simply forget about Marshall’s post-fight speech and the accompanying chest-pounding altogether, I feel like the human race would benefit to a great degree. I am sincerely sorry I brought it up.
“The Ultimate Fighter 17” Finale takes place Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas and is headlined by a bantamweight showdown between former title contenders Urijah Faber and Scott Jorgensen. Here are five reasons to check out the prelims, which hit Facebook and Fuel TV prior to the FX-broadcast main draw:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: ‘The Ultimate Fighter 17’ Finale Free Fan Pick’Em
Time for Mr. “Magrinho” to step it up, wouldn’t you say?
Cole Miller finds himself in unfamiliar territory heading into his showdown with World Extreme Cagefighting veteran Bart Palaszewski. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace has lost three of his last four fights after winning six of his first eight bouts inside the Octagon.
Miller made the cut back down to 145 pounds last year after an extended stay at lightweight, and the decision has not yet paid off. The 6-foot-1 fighter first found himself continually beaten to the punch by Steven Siler at UFC on FX 2 and then dropped a heartbreaker of a split decision to Nam Phan in August at UFC on Fox 4.
Even considering Miller’s entertaining track record, few men are afforded three straight losses in the big leagues without afterward receiving their walking papers. Can “Magrinho” get the job done or will Palaszewski send him packing?
‘Bartimus’ to the Bone
At some point in every man’s life, he must make a decision about the role he will play. Is he Kirk Douglas or Tony Curtis? Russell Crowe or Joaquin Phoenix? Ric Flair or Barry Horowitz?
Eventually, everyone acquiesces and puts a check next to the beta names on that list. It just takes some guys a lot longer to pull the trigger on admitting that deep down they know they are not Spartacus or Maximus or “The Dirtiest Player in the Game.” Whether it is gradually brought on by age or made crystalline by a single significant experience, the transformation is inevitable -- unless you are Flair, of course, in which case you just ignore it to the horror of pretty much everybody else.
I made this call very early in life, likely upon taking my first sack as a junior varsity quarterback in seventh grade. I did not care for getting hit, and I did not particularly want to nail the guy back who planted me in the turf like a tulip.
“Oh, that’s right. I’m a beta male,” I said to myself. “How can I get out of this situation?”
Palaszewski is one of those guys I could see clawing at the cage door as a 90-year-old man. You can never, ever count him out of a fight. In 52 professional bouts, he has been stopped just four times. His never-say-die approach was on full display in his most recent outing, during which he kissed the canvas several times courtesy of Diego Nunes. Though outclassed that night, “Bartimus” went out on his shield, pressing the action in the third frame to the bitter end.
Like Miller, Palaszewski has also lost three of his last four fights. Can “Bartimus” persevere yet again and pick up a much-needed win?
The Pineda Problem
The former two-division Legacy Fighting Championship titlist made his Octagon debut in impressive fashion, taking out fellow UFC debutant Pat Schilling in just 97 seconds to kick off 2012. Pineda’s sophomore promotional effort was arguably more impressive, as the Texan dropped WEC veteran Mackens Semerzier with a hard left hook before punching his way into mount and rolling into a triangle-armbar to force “Mack Da Menace” to relent.
Since that victory, just about all the momentum garnered from Pineda’s seven-fight winning streak has come to a screeching halt. “The Pit” was first outpointed by former WEC king Mike Thomas Brown in spite of a solid effort and was most recently knocked flat by onetime Shooto title contender Antonio Carvalho at UFC 149 in July.
Returning to the cage after nine months on the sideline, can Pineda get back in the win column against young gun Justin Lawrence?
Speaking of Lawrence, there is another up-and-comer in need of a win.
Once viewed by many as the alpha dog on “The Ultimate Fighter 15,” Lawrence was brought down to earth during the show’s quarterfinal round, when he fell victim to Michael Chiesa and his mounted beard strikes. Yes, I am kidding about the beard strikes, but those punches were real.
In true karate-man fashion, Lawrence internalized all of his bleeding and came back with a win in his official UFC debut. Though his overall performance against castmate John Cofer was by no means sterling, the result proved satisfying, as Lawrence laced a round kick upside Cofer’s cheek early in the third round that made a most delightful sound.
However, Lawrence’s limits were again exposed in his most recent outing, as Max Holloway put him down with a nasty left hook to the guts at UFC 150. Will “The American Kid” rebound from the defeat or is his kenpo no good in the UFC’s dojo?
Hope or Hype
After literally stomping people into the mat during his Sengoku career, Maximo Blanco has yet to find that type of success since debuting in the United States.
Though he has shown flashes of what made him such an exciting commodity in Japan, the Venezuelan nevertheless posted losses to Pat Healy and Marcus Brimage in his last two bouts. Particularly frustrating was his gymnastics tete-a-tete with Brimage following a 15-minute duel devoid of any real fireworks.
Still, the fast-twitch is there. So are the hard-swinging murder punches, and so is the killer instinct. Can “Maxi” pair those natural gifts with some tighter technique and a bigger gas tank? If he can, I think fans could be looking at a serious threat to a lot of featherweights. Before anyone can start talking that way, though, Blanco must first get past fellow brawler Sam Sicilia.