By Roy Billington
For years Michael Bisping has been probably the most underrated fighter on the UFC roster, and in what seems to be a recurring pattern, whenever he fights in a number 1 contender fight he gets beaten. On the first occasion, Bisping met Dan Henderson at UFC 100, in a fight that ended with what many fans seem to consider the most brutal KO in UFC history. Then the Englishman faced former PRIDE FC standout Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva at UFC 110 in Australia, and on that occasion he was outpointed. Most recently at UFC on FOX 2, Bisping lost a controversial decision to Chael Sonnen. On Saturday night at UFC on FX 7, Bisping faces “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort in a number one contender bout in Sao Paulo. Will Bisping finally stand up and be counted, or will he fall at the final hurdle once more?
Once upon a time, Bisping was the name most synonymous with UK MMA, but how things have changed. No longer is British MMA a one name game; there has been a rise in popularity across the UK, with an abundance of new stars coming through in the last few years. The English flag is being flown by such names as Jimi Manuwa, Paul Sass, Dan Hardy, Che Mills, and many more, so Bisping no longer faces the pressures of being a poster boy. It’s ironic in a way that as Bisping is at his most popular in the US, his popularity has began to wane in the UK. There are a few factors behind this. Firstly, Bisping hasn’t fought in the UK since UFC 120 in 2010, and on top of that, Bisping made the big decision to move out of his home in Clitheroe in Lancashire, to move full time to America.
A lot of hard core fans and figures within UK MMA have chastised both Bisping and Hardy for leaving their homes in the UK for greener pastures, but I think it's a decision that deserves to be applauded. Bisping especially has benefited from the abundance of quality sparring partners available to him.Since his fight with Silva in Australia he has improved immensely, and is probably approaching his prime as a fighter, and even though Bisping is no longer a UK resident, a title fight with Anderson Silva could well be the boost the UK needs, and it would, in my opinion, mark the first time MMA will get widespread attention from the mainstream media. This could also help garner the UFC a deal with the UK’s number one viewed sports station “Sky Sports.” Sky Sports is owned by News Corporation, which owns UFC’s US broadcast partner FOX, so a move to them seems inevitable down the line.
The question is, can Bisping beat the beast that is Vitor Belfort? I believe so. With that being said, it is probably the most dangerous fight “The Count” could have taken, and he deserves a lot of credit for stepping up to the plate and facing Belfort when he could easily have taken an easier route to a title shot.There will be no suprises come Saturday night. This fight will start just as every Vitor Belfort fight does: he will use his footwork and speed to get in tight before throwing power shots, and if Bisping can get through this initial onslaught (which is a tall order) then he has the clear advantage. While Bisping is a notorious slow starter, Belfort seems to often blow his wad in the first round. Rair that with the relentless pace Bisping pushes, and we’re left with an interesting conundrum. Mark my words: If Bisping makes it out of the first round, he will beat Belfort, and set up a title fight with Anderson Silva on the 4th of July weekend in Las Vegas.
January 18, 2013
By Roy Billington