And despite the antipathy toward Bisping from the fan base, Bisping is improving. The only fight he lost conclusively was the knockout loss to Henderson, when he circled the wrong way and got drilled by a powerful right hand. The other losses on his 19-3 ledger are razor-thin defeats to Rashad Evans and Wanderlei Silva.
The loss to Evans was by split decision and came at UFC 78. In his next two outings, Evans knocked out Chuck Liddell at UFC 88 and then won the light heavyweight title by stopping Forrest Griffin at UFC 92.
The loss to Silva came at UFC 110 in Australia and was one that could have gone either way.
"Anyone who thinks Michael Bisping isn't a world-class fighter is just hating," White said. "Look at what he's done."
And Bisping has gotten better since the loss to Henderson, which he showed both in the loss to Silva and in impressive wins over Kang and Miller.
He's still not perfect and would be a massive underdog if he were facing Anderson Silva, but Bisping has always been a hard hitter and he's now begun to show growth in other areas of his game.
I'll have to disagree about Bisping always being a hard-hitter. This is the man the nick name "pillow hands" was invented for. He's recently begun to improve his punching power and his ground and pound has always been formidable.
That's not to mention his underrated guard game. Bisping is good enough off his back to have merited a Judo Chop for his fight against Denis Kang:
I wasn't about to let Michael Bisping's incredible guard work against Denis Kang go unremarked. The fight was a classic example of the way the momentum can shift in an MMA bout at the highest levels and the way victory goes to the fighter who excels at defense as well as offense.
He'll likely need that strong guard to beat Akiyama though if this Bisping interview with the UK Mirror is an indication:
"I did one session of Judo before I thought 'he won't get any throws'. I messed around with it for a bit but I am not going to worry about his game plan. I am going to play to my strengths.
"I am confident in my footwork. I know he will need to clinch with me or get me against the cage to pull off his Judo but I'll be ready with a well timed knee if he tries. Even if I spent the whole camp learning Judo defence and counters he would still be miles ahead of me. I need to focus on imposing my will."
Akiyama's judo is no joke as we learned when we talked to U.S. Olympic Judo Coach Jimmy Pedro about Akiyama's use of trips in his two UFC fights. Bisping is sounding a lot like Chris Leben before his fight with Akiyama:
"Well, he's a judo guy and I've trained with a lot of judo guys and as much respect to them as possible, I don't know how much of judo necessarily carries over."
Leben ended up spending much of the fight on his back thanks to Akiyama's judo skills. Fortunately for Leben, his guard game and cardio were strong enough to submit Akiyama in the third, but if not for that he'd have been on the wrong end of a decision.
Does a similar fate await Michael Bisping?