March 2, 2016

UFC Fight Night 84: Down For "The Count" -- Nick Diaz vs. Michael Bisping is a Fight Worth Making

By Michael Ford

At UFC Fight Night 84, Michael Bisping won his fight against former champion Anderson Silva, but lost the war in the eyes of many fans. His five-round 48-47 decision wasn't viewed as a robbery by most observers, but he came dangerously close to being knocked out at the end of the third round, clearly being saved by the bell. The takeaway for many fans wasn't that Bisping established himself as an elite fighter with the win, but that in defeat, Silva demonstrated just how far he has fallen. That is hardly the catapult for Bisping into the title fight that has eluded him thus far, but he's probably as close as he has ever been. And yet, the UFC has been noncommittal about granting him the title shot. Enter Nick Diaz.

Both men can boast having gone five rounds with the Spider, but Diaz's No Contest against Silva was marred with the controversy of two positive drug tests. However, Diaz had his suspension reduced, and he could return to the Octagon as early as the summer. And of course, Diaz can brag about not almost being finished by the past-his-prime former P4P king, which he did when he posted a meme on Twitter:

Clearly offended, the Brit posted a challenge to the 209's own bad boy of MMA, and Bisping immediately created a talking point beyond getting potentially passed over for a title shot. In Diaz you have a fighter with one of the most rabid fan followings in the sport, as well as someone who courts controversy at every turn. Bisping has always been a fighter that MMA fans love to hate, and he has no qualms about behaving like an asshole to get under an opponent's skin. In a week where Nate Diaz essentially trash talked his way into a main event against the sport's biggest star in Conor McGregor, it would be fitting if his older brother talked himself into a high-profile matchup with a similarly polarizing fighter from across the pond.

In the Octagon, you'd have a fight featuring two men who primarily conduct their business on the feet, with Bisping the technically proficient and tactical kickboxer and Diaz the volume boxer/brawler with deceptive power. Bisping is not above point fighting, and against a counterstriker like Silva who inexplicably wouldn't turn up the heat even when he hurt Bisping, he was able to capitalize. But Diaz is much more aggressive, and his penchant for taunting often baits opponents into fighting his style, trading strikes, and eventually getting punished. Bisping has been known to get fired up in the cage and paying the price for lowering his guard. Whether or not that would play out against Diaz would be the primary source of intrigue for the twenty-five or fewer minutes the fight would play out.

For many fans, even in victory, Bisping didn't do enough to be considered the next challenger for Luke Rockhold or Chris Weidman. Many believe that a prime Silva would have embarrassed him, as a Silva who lost a few steps was moments away from closing his show. Diaz is obviously one such person, and in making his opinion known, may have kicked off a war of words that could culminate in a big money fight. For Diaz, it's a chance to make an impact coming out of an 18-month suspension, and for Bisping, it's a chance to stay relevant and shut up some haters en route to scoring that elusive title opportunity. For the fans, however, it's a chance to see two of the sport's biggest trash talkers tear up press conferences before stepping into the cage and delivering a fight that lives up to the hype. Who could ask for more?

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