SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 27: Michael Bisping of Great Britain punches Jorge Rivera of the USA during their middleweight bout part of at UFC 127 at Acer Arena on February 27, 2011 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Jorge Rivera wanted an angry Michael Bisping in the cage with him last night in Australia. He got what he asked for, but maybe not what he wanted. Bisping dominated the two round fight in style, winning the standing exchanges and taking the Team Alchemist fighter down with impunity. Bisping was in a rage all week and that didn't change when the cage door closed.
We've seen this kind of buildup in the past, guys talking trash and getting fans talking in turn, although Rivera's South Park homages were a unique spin on an age old art. Usually, unfortunately, it's brought to a close with a hug, an assurance they didn't really mean it, and UFC announcer Mike Goldberg telling the audience what a great display of class we just saw.
Bisping wasn't playing that old game. He worked himself up over Rivera's constant internet attacks, used his rage to power him in the cage, and wasn't willing to let bygones be bygones. On a night of upsets, it's probably a good thing he found something to motivate him. On paper, Bisping far outclasses Rivera. It would have been easy to glide through a perfunctory training camp and become another victim on a night full of them. After all that went down, Bisping was going to do whatever it took to win the fight.
He hit Rivera with a blatantly illegal knee and showed zero remorse. Normally Goldberg and Joe Rogan are quick to call any illegal strike "inadvertent." Even they, company men who can find no wrong in any of the UFC's gentlemen athletes, couldn't go that far this time and the absence was telling.
After the fight there was no exchange of pleasantries. Bisping spit at Rivera's camp, blaming them for their part in the offensive videos, and continued yelling at Jorge in the cage. Across the internet, indignation came fast and furious. Me? I liked it. We need fights like this, legitimate and not manufactured grudge matches, to breathe life into the sport. I certainly enjoyed it more than the technically superior but dull Jon Fitch.
Rivera, hopefully, learned an important lesson last night. Opponents used to be scared to death to talk trash to Michael Jordan. The Chicago Bull great would eviscerate anyone for the slightest perceived disrespect. Michael Bisping has a little bit of that in him too. Fitch is a great points fighter. But sometimes that's not enough. Sometimes I want to see passion, anger, and emotions boiling over. That's what Bisping gave us last night. The sport needs a bad boy or two and Bisping's the best we've got.