By Dwight Wakabayashi
Before the six-figure contract gets handed out to either Urijah Hall or Kelvin Gastelum, or Ronda Rousey’s next victim is declared, or another headline sighting of Urijah Faber takes place on Saturday night, two well-known veterans will fight to save their jobs on the TUF 17 preliminary card.
Veteran featherweight fighters Cole Miller and Bart Palaszewski will face each other Saturday at The Ultimate Fighter 17 finale from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Both fighters come in on two-fight losing streaks, and with the way the UFC has been quick to hand out walking papers recently, neither one can afford to lose this weekend.
Miller is an experienced 28-year old veteran of the game, with career wins over Leonard Garcia, Dan Lauzon and Ross Pearson. The American Top Team member has been up and down in his UFC career, with recent losses to Steven Siler and Nam Phan putting him directly on the UFC bubble. His 13 submission wins speak to his ground prowess, but Miller has shown flashes of brilliance on the feet as well in his fights against Pearson and Phan. Miller has all the tools to turn things around and become a contender in the division, and it would be a shame to see the young fighter from Georgia released at this point in his career.
One year Miller’s elder, Palaszewski is slightly more battle worn than Miller with 52 professional mixed martial arts fights under his belt. Palaszewski holds more wins in the cage (36) than Miller has had fights (25), although I don’t think experience will be a huge advantage in this one. For some fighters, experience equals damage and I believe that to be the case with Palaszewski. He has been in many tough wars throughout his career including many in the WEC before he signed with the UFC in 2011. Wins over Anthony Pettis, Tyson Griffin and Ivan Menjivar highlight a career that also includes close losses to Chris Horodecki twice, Jim Miller and Ricardo Lamas.
Back-to-back losses to Hatsu Hioki and Diego Nunes have put Palaszewski on the chopping block for the first time in his career.
With the way that the UFC has been releasing fighters from the roster in recent weeks, these two men better be ready to bring it with a purpose this weekend. There may be some slight leeway given here for exciting performances as Palaszewski is coming off a Fight of the Night bonus in his loss to Phan, and Miller has won five bonuses in 12 UFC fights.
If these two men come out and fight like there’s no tomorrow, they could easily steal the show and save both their jobs in the process. Miller will want to utilize his reach and seamless transition early to keep Palaszewski off balance before he goes in for the takedown and finish. Meanwhile, Bart will be wading in and loading up for that one big shot for the kill.
Two veteran featherweights fighting for their UFC lives is often a recipe for a fight we will never forget and don’t be surprised if the Fight of The Night comes from the undercard.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report UFC and regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca’s UFC section. Follow him on Twitter @wakafightermma.