Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
NEW YORK -- Most trainers hope and pray for a quick win when their fighters step into the arena of combat. Mike Constantino is no different. His ideal scenario would see his AMA Fight Club charge Jim Miller walk into the cage at Saturday's UFC on FOX 3 and knock out opponent Nate Diaz with his first punch.
That's what he'd like to see happen. But he's also a bit of a realist, and looking at the way the two main-eventers stack up against each other, he can't help but think the fight could end up going in a completely different direction. That it could result in a five-round war of attrition, the kind of epic fight that audiences talk about for years.
It's been a feeling that's been nagging at him as Miller makes his final preparations for the bout.
"For some odd reason, deep down inside I feel like it’s going to be the second coming of Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar for the masses," he said. "The first wave of the crazy ‘wow’ was Ultimate Fighter. Now you have FOX television, and something is telling me it’s going to be one of those great type of fights.
"It just has all the makings to be one of those fights," he continued. "They’re both hard to submit, they both have good standup, they both have good cardio, teams, coaching, everything. It’s a great fight, so competitively matched up."
While it's not necessarily something he wants to see for the sake of his fighter, it would certainly be a welcome development for the UFC, given the reaction to the first two FOX main events. In the first, Junior dos Santos captured the heavyweight title with a KO of Cain Velasquez, but given the relentless leadup to the fight, the 64-second win seemed anticlimactic. Then, in January, Rashad Evans and Phil Davis went to a somewhat uneventful five-round decision.
Few other sports are so critically judged on entertainment value, but such is the state of MMA in 2012. Even UFC president Dana White alluded to it a bit when asked about some of the backlash from the two previous FOX main events.
"If this fight sucks, I don't know what to tell you, man," he said.
Constantino's reference to Griffin-Bonnar I is practically a sacred one when it comes to the company's history. Back in April 2005, the bout essentially changed the UFC's fortunes forever. At the time, the organization was finishing up the first season of The Ultimate Fighter but had no guarantee of another. Literally minutes after the heart-stopping three-round fight concluded in Las Vegas, UFC president Dana White and Spike executives walked outside the Cox Pavilion and hammered out the basic details of an extension that ensured the promotion's survival and ultimately led it to thrive.
While concerns around the company's long-term health no longer exist today, the UFC would certainly like to showcase a wide range of MMA skills to a huge audience on free television in an effort to widen its audience base.
This week, even Diaz and Miller were bluntly honest in their assessments of each other as a venerable opponent.
"He’s a very resilient guy," Miller said. "He's dangerous from bell to bell. You can’t sleep on him for a second. I’m definitely going to have to fight on point the whole time and never let him get the upper hand."
"There’s all kinds of things that could happen," Diaz added. "He could come in, try to punch his way in and work on the inside. Body locks, takedowns. He could stand there and box with me. I figure he’s got good standup and he hits hard. He’s a good fighter. He can do a lot of different things, but so can I."
The even nature of matchup is what has Constantino thinking we could be in for something special on Saturday, even if he hopes he's wrong.
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