When Jason "Mayhem" Miller faces Michael Bisping at The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale on Saturday, there will be a lot on the line: pride, money, reputation, honor, and possibly a shot at title contention for Michael Bisping. Our own Thomas Myers has argued that if Bisping wins he will deserve a chance to fight Chael Sonnen with the winner getting a crack at Anderson Silva's title.
That's all well and good, but let's not forget that there are two men stepping into the Octagon on Saturday night and Mayhem has an excellent chance at winning the fight. The oddsmakers have Mayhem as a +160 underdog to Bisping who's a -200 favorite. That means you win $1.60 for every dollar you bet on Miller but that you have to bet $2 on Bisping to win $1. Those odds reflect a moderately close fight.
Despite his 0-1 UFC record Miller is a formidable, experienced middleweight with 24 wins and 7 losses on his professional resume. He's beaten Tim Kennedy, Kazushi Sakuraba, and Robbie Lawler. He's taken Georges St. Pierre, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Jake Shields the distance in hard-fought losses.
Also, unlike Bisping, Miller has experience going the distance in a five-round fight. His November 2009 bout with Jake Shields saw him maintain a brutal pace in a grappling war right to the end of the fight. Miller even had Shields in a rear naked choke when time expired in the third round.
Bisping definitely has the edge in the stand-up striking battle and he's no slouch on the ground, but if Mayhem can turn the fight into an ugly grappling affair and drag Bisping into the later rounds, he has a very good chance of slapping a submission on the Brit.
The very real possibility of a Mayhem win begs the question of what to do with him should he prevail.
Miller hasn't fought in the UFC since 2005 and did so as a welterweight. He hasn't fought in the U.S. since beating the unknown Tim Stout on the untelevised undercard of Strikeforce: Nashville back in April 2010. His last MMA fight was a win over the aging Sakuraba at Dream 16 in September 2010. While his tenure on The Ultimate Fighter has raised his profile with UFC fans, he relatively unknown and certainly untested in the deeper UFC waters.
The "X factor" in weighing Miller's popularity with UFC fans and pay-per-view buyers is his star turn as the host of MTV's Bully Beatdown for three seasons. He's certainly got a much higher cable television profile than the usual UFC newcomer.
Should he beat Bisping, Miller can make a claim to being in contention in the UFC's 185lb class, but he will be more than one fight from a title shot unless UFC matchmaker Joe Silva makes the uncharacteristic decision to rush him into contention. This is one case where the business interests of the promotion argue in favor of pushing a well-known and popular fighter faster than his competitive resume justifies.
With Anderson Silva nursing an injured shoulder and likely out for the first half of 2012, don't be surprised to see Mayhem Miller pushed to the front of the line if he gets past Bisping this Saturday.