The worst kept secret in MMA was confirmed last night when the UFC officially announced that Conor McGregor will face off with American fighter Cole Miller in a featherweight main event in The O2 on Saturday July 19th.
Miller has been one of several fighters forming a queue to face McGregor since the Dubliner's debut with the organisation in April of last year. The delay in announcing the much-touted contest was due to McGregor requiring doctor's clearance for the torn ACL in his left knee he suffered in his decision victory over Max Holloway last August but now, nine months since the injury, McGregor is itching to get back into the Octagon.
Much like his opponent, Cole Miller isn't adverse to some strong words either. When asked by SevereMMA's Andrew McGahon about McGregor, Miller was dismissive of his talents.
"I know a show pony when I see one", said Miller. "I know that's what he is. I see this guy walking around, looking all 'GQ', flying to this place, flying to that place and then he's calling out my team-mates, talking crap about Nik Lentz, talking crap about Dustin Poirier. Those dudes will run through [him]. [He] hasn't tested himself against no kind of fighter, especially not one like me."
When questioned on comments like these by UFC Tonight's Kenny Florian on Fox Sports, McGregor responded in typically philosophical fashion.
"That man [Miller] opened his mouth under the influence of post fight adrenaline. It has the same effect as alcohol. It makes you brave. He spoke with bravery. But guess what happened? It wore off and now he's faced with the reality that he's going to face me on July 19th. [I'm coming back] as a man possessed. I'm going go in there and I'm going to break him in the very first exchange."
Miller will be an underdog as he walks into the cage but what sort of skills does he bring to the fight? The 6"1' fighter will have a height and reach advantage over McGregor and, with 16 UFC fights under his belt, is the more experienced fighter under the bright lights of the UFC.
A member of the world famous American Top Team Miller is a rangy fighter with an excellent submission game, having submitted 15 of his 29 opponents thus far. As strong as his submissions are, he's been knocked out twice (Jeremy Stephens and Efrain Escudero) during his tenure with the UFC and has also come up second best in contests with strikers like Nam Phan - who most observers would agree has a less robust skillset than McGregor.
McGregor isn't fazed by any perceived stylistic advantages Cole Miller may bring to the cage. "It does not matter", he said on UFC Tonight. "He does not have a reach advantage. He's slow. He's scared. I'm fast, I'm fearless. It's no contest."
The one variable that most commentators point at when discussing this bout is the possible effect that McGregor's time away from the cage while rehabbing his knee injury might have on his rhythm going into the fight - but McGregor isn't worried.
"The knee, to me, is a distant memory", McGregor told Kenny Florian. "I am done talking about the knee. I got the all-clear. Somebody's going to pay. First in line is Cole Miller, July 19th in my hometown."