Cole Miller (17-4-0) vs. Matt Wiman (12-5-0)
Cole Miller has won back-to-back contests and earned a larger profile in the process, both because he’s looked very impressive in those two victories, but also because he’s been calling out guys who don’t finish and gotten called out by Donald Cerrone too.
The proud American Top Team student looked tremendous when he submitted TUF 9 winner Ross Pearson last time out; Miller used his length and improving striking to keep Pearson off-balance and pounced on a rear naked choke when he had the chance early in the second round. He earned a second straight Submission of the Night award in that bout and could certainly make it a hat trick here.
Matt Wiman is one of those guys who perpetually gets forgotten in the murky depths of the lightweight division. Despite having competed with Miller on Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter and holding a 6-3 record inside the Octagon, the Colorado native is seldom discussed as a challenger in the 155-pound ranks.
Yes, his last fight was stopped early, but that doesn’t change the fact that Wiman has beaten Michihiro Omigawa and Thiago Tavares, and been a part of three Fight of the Night contests in this last five outings. A win here over the emerging Miller would force fans and critics to take notice and push Wiman into the Top 20 within the division.
Pat Barry (5-2-0) vs. Joey Beltran (12-4-0)
This should be all kinds of fun!
Both guys had entertaining performances in their last outings, but ultimate came out on the wrong side of the results; Barry was submitted by his idol Mirko Cro Cop, while Beltran was outscored by Matt Mitrione. The duo should meet in the middle of the Octagon and spend the majority of their time there exchanging power shots, with Barry mixing in an assortment of exceptionally powerful leg kicks.
Beltran has an edge in the grappling department, but that isn’t saying a great deal; Barry has looked out of place on the ground in his two losses, and while “The Mexicutioner” has decent wrestling, he tends to throw far more hands than he shoots for takedowns.
Neither guys should be in jeopardy of getting cut here, as the division is somewhat thin once again and both fighters are engaging personalities outside of the cage. That said, no one wants to have their losing streak extended to start the new year, so we should see some fireworks from these two big boys.
Mark Hominick (19-8-0) vs. George Roop (11-6-1)
Whenever Jose Aldo makes his Octagon debut, the winner of this bout could be the one standing across from him. While no promises have been made, Dana White said a win for Hominick all but assures him of that opportunity, and that decision should motivate both men.
Hominick has looked tremendous since returning to the WEC three fights ago, dominating both Leonard Garcia and Yves Jabouin in that stretch. He seems to have hit his stride as a fighter in the last two years, finally putting it all together with impressive results. “The Machine” has great hands and changes levels exceptionally well, but his talents will be tested by the length of his opponent here.
After washing out of the UFC after a run on Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter and a 1-2 record through three fights, Roop has shown improvement since finding a home at featherweight. His split draw with Leonard Garcia was iffy at best, and he proved “The Korean Zombie” could be knocked out with a well-timed headkick in his most recent appearance.
Standing six-feet-two-inches tall, Roop will have a six inch height advantage on Hominick, and he’s shown in his last two outings that he knows how to use his size to his advantage. If he can keep Hominick on the end of his lengthy jab, Roop could pull the upset here and potentially force the UFC to consider him as a challenger to Aldo’s featherweight title.
Matt Mitrione (3-0-0) vs. Tim Hague (12-4-0)
After a pair of previous cups of coffee with the UFC, Hague is welcomed back for a third time after earning back-to-back first round knockouts with Aggression MMA in Edmonton. While some will surely discredit Hague’s chances because of his history of releases, the former kindergarten teacher is a quality athlete who has improved in the last year, and quickly choked out Pat Barry in his UFC debut.
Heading into Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, no one would have predicted that Mitrione would emerge as an intriguing competitor with an unbeaten record after three fights. Hell, some wouldn’t have predicted Mitrione to last three fights.
The former New York Giant has shown marked improvement through each of his fights, displaying heavy hands, improved kickboxing, and a developing ground game. We learned on TUF 10 that he can take a punch, and he proved that again against Beltran last time out; after getting rocked and losing the opening round, Mitrione rebounded to win the final two frames and the fight.
Don’t be surprised if this bout ends up being an absolute barnburner.
Evan Dunham (11-1-0) vs. Melvin Guillard (26-8-2)
Dunham was supposed to be facing off with perennial contender Kenny Florian, but the MMA Live analyst was forced off the card with an injury. Guillard steps in for Florian and provides a different, but still formidable challenge for the emerging 155-pound contender.
Pretty well everyone thinks that Dunham won his last fight with Sean Sherk; everyone except Sherk of course. The Xtreme Couture student has a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, with strong striking and all kinds of heart to go along with it. He smiled and laughed his way through the final two rounds of his fight with Sherk, enjoying the battle as blood ran down his face.
Guillard has won three-straight and six of his last seven, the lone loss coming when he gift-wrapped a guillotine for Nathan Diaz. “The Young Assassin” has shown a great deal of improvement since joining Greg Jackson’s team in Albuquerque. Though he took a more measured approach against Jeremy Stephens, it was the right approach for the once careless TUF 2 competitor and one that he should replicate here.
Dunham is on the cusp of contending and a win here will put him in the mix, while Guillard is a notch below him in the divisional hierarchy. With the logjam at the top of the food chain, both fighters will be waiting their turn for at least the first half of the year, if not longer, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see a great fight from them here.
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