With his third round TKO victory over Jason Miller at the UFC Ultimate Fighter Season 14 Finale this weekend, Michael Bisping re-established himself as a name at the top of the Middleweight division. And now, fans may not like to hear it, but it has to be said:
Michael Bisping is in line for a shot at the title.
This is sure to annoy many, but it is the reality of the Middleweight division and its current lack of depth. We now know that Chael Sonnen and Mark Munoz will meet early next year, likely to determine the next challenger for Anderson Silva. If Sonnen wins there, that should lead to the big Silva vs. Sonnen rematch, which is a great title fight. But after that, you have to consider Bisping as next in line.
Bisping has a few things going for him on a path to the belt. First off, he has a strong regional fanbase. He's no Georges St. Pierre, but fans in the UK have responded positively to Bisping's rise, and a Silva vs. Bisping headliner on a UK card would be heated.
Second, he's hated. Next to Sonnen, he may be the most despised person by many fans - and given Chael's cult appeal, there's a good chance Bisping moves past him in this area. It's possible he is so hated that fans won't tune in, but there has always been a big appeal in combat sports to seeing the loud-mouth get shut, the "bad guy" finally get his. Pro wrestling built their entire world on that formula, and it's also the reason many people tuned in to Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito this weekend. There's a significant portion of fans that will revel in Silva viciously demolishing The Count, especially after the inevitable lead-up trash talking and disrespect from Bisping.
But more than anything, he benefits from being around for awhile in a shallow division. Silva has defeated Maia, he's defeated Belfort, he's defeated Okami, he's defeated Sonnen (and may do so for a 2nd time). Bisping is a fresh contender in a division woefully short on fresh contenders. Because honestly, who else is there? Mark Munoz is possible, and he'll get there before Bisping is he beats Sonnen. Brian Stann seemed like he had a shot, but was derailed by Sonnen. Mayhem doesn't look to be getting near the top anytime soon. So we are left with Bisping.
Which is unfortunate. Because the way Mayhem was landing those looping, sloppy punches on Bisping in round 1 should tell you all you need to know about a possible Silva vs. Bisping fight. There's simply nothing Bisping has to offer The Spider other than a warm body for Silva to perform his art against. Of course, that's nothing new for Silva, who has been facing less than worthy competition throughout his UFC run - it's one of the drawbacks of being the best in the world.
If we do get an Anderson Silva vs. Michael Bisping UFC Middleweight title fight, we can at least cross our fingers that Bisping will go down in spectacular James Irvin style fashion, which will provide a moment of satisfaction to so many fans. But there's a real danger it will go the other way. So I'll be praying Bisping doesn't limp his way to another Thales Leites snoozer, and keeping an eye on who might provide that next challenge.