On Wednesday, September 15, 28 lightweights will embark on a journey that they hope will end with a six-figure contract to fight in the UFC, as The Ultimate Fighter: Team GSP vs. Team Koscheck premieres at 10 p.m. ET on Spike.
Less than an hour before, Cole Miller wants to give them something to shoot for.
A quarterfinalist on TUF 5: Team Penn vs. Team Pulver – the first season of the show to feature an all-lightweight cast – Miller will face TUF 9 lightweight winner Ross Pearson in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Marquardt vs. Palhares. Coming off a win against Dan Lauzon at UFC 108, Miller is looking for his third two-fight win streak since signing with the UFC, one he hopes that will the beginning of greater sustained success than he’s enjoyed thus far in the Octagon.
Miller took time this week to talk to UltimateFighter.com and Bleacher Report.
Just for starters, how’s training going?
Training is going awesome. I’ve never felt better going into a fight. No injuries, my cardio’s on point, my jiu-jitsu’s on point, my striking’s on point. Everything’s coming together, right at the right time.
And what kind of sense have you got about Ross Pearson and how you match up with him?
On paper, it’s a pretty classic striker vs. grappler matchup, when you look at his style and my submission wins. He’s a very talented striker. He’s very technical. He’s good at everything in that he doesn’t just box or just have good leg kicks. He can box, he’s got good kicks, he’s got good knees and elbows in the clinch, and he’s got pretty decent takedown defense. Those are the problems that he presents. Also, I’ve never seen him overcommit, which is probably something I need to work more on. He doesn’t really try to take much risk to go for the finish. That’s something that I do, to an extreme, which can be an asset for me.
You mention the takedown defense. A lot of guys from his camp at Team Rough House - guys like Dan Hardy, Paul Daley and at UFC 118, Andre Winner - they lost to guys who really exposed a wrestling weakness. Do you not see that with Ross, or does he, to some extent, have what some people see as a general trend among the U.K. fighters, where the wrestling isn’t what you get from a fighter from the U.S.?
Well, they don’t have the most solid wrestling, but neither do I. I’ve never been a wrestler, I didn’t wrestle in high school or at any kind of college level. I don’t think that wrestling is going to be the big deal in our fight, but for the country as a whole, yeah, that’s a big problem for them. They don’t have a lot of wrestling, but the good thing is, they’re starting to work on anti-wrestling: their ability to get back to the feet or to stop the takedown in the first place, make the wrestlers work real hard for their takedowns. Sometimes, even when they get the takedown, it doesn’t do them any good, because a lot of these British guys are popping right back up to their feet to deliver more pressure with the strikes. So a gameplan like that, I don’t think is something that one should try to push against me, because I’m not going to be trying that hard for the takedown.
Now, you’ve fought a lot of guys who, like you, came in through The Ultimate Fighter, guys like Junie Browning and Efrain Escudero and Jorge Gurgel. Is there anything you’ve found different about fighting guys who came in through that route than fighting guys who came into the UFC through other means.
I don’t really see a difference between the two. The guys that I’ve fought off The Ultimate Fighter have all been talented. The least talented guy was probably Junie, but Jorge Gurgel was probably my toughest fight, and then Efrain Escudero, obviously, he’s got a win over me, he’s got some talent there also. I don’t really see a difference between fighting guys from The Ultimate Fighter and guys who didn’t fight on the show.
Now, there is another season of lightweights that’s going to be starting right after Fight Night. Any thoughts on seeing another group of, in this case, 28 lightweights going into that situation?
I think that lightweights is awesome for The Ultimate Fighter and for the sport. I think that it’s a total package because with the bigger guys, you don’t always get the best fights. But when you deal with the lightweights, you get exciting fights, and you get the reality TV portion.
Why do you think the lightweights make for good reality TV?
I don’t think lightweights make better reality TV than anyone else. I just think that the good thing about the lightweights is that they come in shape and they come ready to fight. I think you get the same drama, the same reality TV aspect with the lightweights as you get in the other weight classes. I just think the lightweights tend to have better fights, because being lighter, that’s going to force you to be more technical, so I think the fighters are going to have a wider array of skills coming in.
You mention guys coming in in shape, and I guess that plays in to this question: What were your thoughts on seeing some of your old housemates fight last Saturday at UFC 118?
Man, Nate Diaz looked awesome. Really, really good. You could tell he came in shape. Marcus Davis is quite an opponent, and he was able to get in there, open up a cut, kept working on that eye, showed some good boxing, some good range, and obviously everybody knows how good he is on the ground, and he finished with an amazing submission. That was a big win for him. Also, with Gabe Ruediger and Joe Lauzon, Gabe’s been doing great fighting on the other shows, got some solid wins, and I’ve seen a few of those fights. He just wasn’t able to get off. It was Joe’s fight: he came in, you can tell that he was in shape, he looked really strong, and he just never really gave Gabe enough room to get off any kind of offense. Props to Joe, he looked awesome too.
And thoughts on seeing a guy who was in the house with you, Gray Maynard, get a title shot?
Gray got a big win over a guy that’s fought for the title twice in Kenny Florian. Great for him. Gray’s an awesome guy. Hopefully, I can join my TUF 5 castmates with a big win coming up here soon.
Well, since you’ve been in the UFC, it seems like you haven’t been able to really get momentum. You had two wins to start out with and then took a loss, and then two wins and another loss. Do you think you’re getting to the point where you’re going to be able to build up some momentum and start to make your run?
Yeah, that’s been a problem. I’m 5-2 in the UFC. It seems like something always just comes up. I get two wins, and I’ve got a loss, I get another two wins, another loss. After a couple of these wins, like Gurgel and then Dan Lauzon, I’ve had some setbacks. I had to have knee surgery after the Gurgel fight, and then I had a hand injury that set me back eight months since January when I fought at UFC 108, but I feel like I’m starting to flourish and come into my own here, so I’m hoping to develop that level of consistency and get some momentum going, and what better way to start than with a win over an Ultimate Fighter champion like Ross Pearson?