It took all of about seven minutes for the "Mayhem" to drain out of Jason Miller at “The Ultimate Fighter” season 14 finale.
In a bout scheduled for 25 minutes, that wasn’t even close to long enough. Now, two days removed from his hard-to-watch, third-round TKO loss to Michael Bisping on Saturday, we’re still waiting for an official verdict on whether Miller’s long-awaited UFC comeback will end after just one fight.
As impossible as it is to imagine that it would, UFC President Dana White doesn’t sound overly optimistic about his chances.
“I don’t know; we’ll see,” White told Heavy.com, when asked if he’d give Miller another fight. “He didn't have a good performance against Georges St. Pierre [at UFC 52] and he definitely didn't have a good performance against Michael Bisping."
Point taken. Yet it would be pretty harsh if, after a six-year absence, the UFC chose to judge Miller solely on the basis of a 2005 fight against St. Pierre and his Octagon return versus Bisping. After all, the roster is littered with guys who’ve been undone by GSP and UFC debuts (of which Miller now essentially has two) are notoriously difficult.
Not to let him off the hook for this woeful performance, but the "Mayhem" we saw in the cage on Saturday seemed a different guy than the one we'd come to expect after a 10-year, 31-fight career. A contender of his caliber deserves one more chance to prove he belongs. If he doesn’t get it, that’ll be a shame.
If Miller gets cut now, we might never know why he wasn’t ready to go two full rounds (let alone five) at Bisping’s pace on Saturday. Was it an aberration, brought on by ring rust, an adrenaline dump or the dreaded "Octagon jitters"? Is it indicative of some larger problem in his training or, worse yet, his overall ability? Or is Bisping really just that good?
It seems worth it to get another look at Miller in order to find out.
Before the bottom dropped out on him midway through the second, things weren't going so bad for Miller. His spastic offense caught Bisping off guard in the early going and Miller scored with kicks and looping punches. He sprinted into the teeth of Bisping’s attack, basically daring the Brit to knock him out, and even took him down a minute, 45 seconds into the fight. While he never had Bisping in any serious trouble, he controlled the bulk of the opening round from something approaching the mount and should've gotten the nod on most scorecards.
That momentum may have been fleeting, and the endgame stages some of the ugliest in recent memory, but the first round -- while wild and a little sloppy -- showed that Miller can still compete. After spending the last few years making a cottage industry out of just being himself, this loss doesn’t totally undo him as a popular and marketable fighter, either. He remains a singular figure in the sport and could still be quality asset for the UFC, so long as he can right the ship in the near future.
His first fight back in the Octagon left us with unexpected questions. Hopefully, the company lets Miller stick around long enough for us to get some answers.