Wiman vs. Miller could steal the show

Kevin Iole
Cole Miller (above) presents Matt Wiman with an interesting set of challenges

One of the great things about mixed martial arts is that performance, not record, is what matters. Unlike what happens all too often in boxing, where prospects are coddled and fed a series of easy bouts to build up phony winning records, most MMA cards are about the fights.

Fights down near the bottom of the card that frequently get ignored in boxing are often the most talked-about matches in MMA.

And on Saturday, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will put on another such bout on its Fight for the Troops 2 card at Ft. Hood in Killeen, Texas, when it matches lightweights Cole Miller and Matt Wiman.

It's hardly the most high-profile bout and neither guy is all that recognizable to a casual fan.

Those interested in great fights, though, should circle this one on the calendar. Wiman, who is 12-5, is one of the sport's most entertaining strikers, as evidenced by the fact that he was in the Fight of the Night three times in a row, against Thiago Tavares, Jim Miller and Sam Stout, respectively.

Does the fact that he lost two of those three, to Miller and Stout, make you want to see him any less?

I didn't think so.

On Saturday, he'll meet Miller, his cast mate from Season 5 of "The Ultimate Fighter." Miller is 17-4 overall and 6-2 in the UFC, where in his eight fights for the promotion he's gotten Submission of the Night three times and Knockout of the Night once.

In a combined 17 UFC fights between them, they've garnered seven fight night bonuses.

If history is any guide, Saturday's bout will be the eighth.

"On paper, it should be the Fight of the Night," Miller said. "It could be Submission of the Night or Knockout of the Night, too. We match up pretty well that way on paper."

Miller has a brown belt under Ricardo Liborio in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has won by submission in 12 of his 17 victories. His last win came over Ross Pearson, the winner of TUF 8, via submission, but it was set up by his striking.

Pearson was widely believed to be the better striker and had the early advantage over Miller. But Miller's hands are far better than he's given credit for and he used his striking to batter Pearson and set up the ending by rear naked choke.

Miller raves about Wiman and calls him "an awesome fighter." Win or lose, though, he's not expecting to get a more significant bout in his next outing, unless one happens to consider Donald Cerrone a step up from Wiman.

Clearly, Miller does not, and though a win over Wiman should be enough to propel him into a significant bout, he believes he'll fight Cerrone regardless. Cerrone called Miller out after defeating Chris Horodecki at WEC 53 last month.

Cerrone has had it in for Miller since Miller defeated Leonard Garcia, Cerrone's training partner and best friend, on an Ultimate Fight Night card in 2007.

"We've been going at it for a couple of years now, so it was expected when (Cerrone) called me out," Miller said. "He's been saying he wants to fight me in his first UFC fight, so I expected him to say that. He had told me a long time ago to my face he wanted to fight me. Whenever we see each other now, we talk (expletive) to each other, so it was no surprise what he said.

"He's a (expletive) bully, one of those schoolyard guys who turns you upside down for your lunch money. Yeah, I beat Leonard, but there have been a couple of guys who have beaten Leonard and you don't see him calling them out. I think he looked at me and thinks I'm some sort of weak link."

If Cerrone truly feels that way, he hasn't been paying attention. Miller has won four of his past five bouts and has looked increasingly impressive each time out.

Wiman, though, will present a difficult challenge, because of his wrestling skills and heavy hands. And while Miller dismisses Cerrone as little more than a bully, Wiman said he believes he'll be able to bully Miller on Saturday.

"I just feel I'm better than him everywhere," Wiman said of Miller. "I'm a bully and I have a big heart. My jiu jitsu and my wrestling and my standup is better than his is. I have a lot of respect for him as a fighter and I think a win over him would be a great step forward for me.

"Where that puts me, I have no idea. I try not to over think things too much. I don't worry about what the fight means or where it will put me or anything like that that's really out of my control. I just go out and fight my fight. I don't take a backward step. I would fight in an elevator if I could."

The beauty of this fight is that neither guy likes to back up and each guy likes to put on a show.

There is no such thing as a can't-miss event in sports, but if you're looking for one fight to watch on Saturday, the Miller-Wiman pairing is as close to a can't-miss as it gets.

I can't wait.