When I wrote a piece previewing Mike Bisping's most recent fight against Jason Miller and posted it on Bloodyelbow.com, I got quite a lot of criticism for suggesting the Brit would win pretty easily against a severely under matched opponent. In large parts of the MMA media and online community, it sometimes seems like people's dislike for "The Count" confuses their judgement of his abilities. Well, this weekend at UFC on FOX 2, Bisping has a chance to prove his detractors wrong by defeating a legitimate elite middleweight, before a massive mainstream audience and earn the chance to fight for the title. For Bisping fans like myself, this fight has the feel of being the main event this Saturday.
Picture from MMAmania
- Bisping is on a 4 fight win streak with his most recent loss coming at the hands of Wanderlei Silva.
- He has finished his last 2 fights by TKO.
- Sonnen lost to Anderson Silva by triangle at UFC 117 while appearing to be ahead on points, having successfully grounded (but not necessarily pounded) the champ.
- Sonnen was suspended for having elevated testosterone levels after the fight but returned with a dominant submission victory over Brian Stann.
Micheal Bisping gets some stick for just jabbing and moving but there is much more to his approach than that. Those who criticise his style overlook the fact that he does have the right combination of aggression, power and work rate to finish fights (more than 80% of his wins are by TKO or submission) as well as the cardio and endurance to go the distance when necessary. Bisping fights with a very mobile and dynamic Muay Thai. He employs great movement to avoid big punches and avoid being taken down (cue GIFs of Dan Henderson knocking him out at UFC 100). Once people get a hold of him, Bisping has shown that he is tricky to get to the mat and harder to keep there.
One fight that I feel will gives us a clue into Bispings chances against Sonnen was his bout with Rashad Evans, way back at UFC 78, Rashad had some success with taking Bisping down but really struggled to keep the Englishman down or make it pay off. Evans ended up winning a split decision of course and it was some time ago, but there was proof there that Bisping is not the kind of strike-centric fighter who provides fodder for strong wrestlers. In fact, it make have been the fact that Rashad was able to hang with Bisping to some extent on the feet, that helped him sneak the decision.
With Chael Sonnen you know what you will get. He has great wrestling, with an ability to shoot from distance or wrestle Bisping down from the clinch. He is uncommonly gifted at smothering guys so that they cannot work (it took Anderson Silva four and a half rounds). He does not, however, possess great power and, untill the Stann fight, had not demonstrated the ability to submit guys at the top level.
Head to Head
It is absolutely astonishing that Mike Bisping started at 4-1 to win. Sonnen himself has been pretty vocal about the fact that the Count wins fights. Chael Sonnen's record is pretty vocal about the fact that he loses fights. No, this fight represents a step up in class for Bisping since his last few fights but he does belong in this level of fight.
I already said that this fight has the feel of the main event about it. One of the biggest areas of anticipation is around whether Chael can take Bisping down, or more likely, how frequently? After that, how long can he keep the Brit there and can he do any damage? Realistically, a guy like Chael Sonnen will take you down. I feel like this fight will go similarly to Bisping's fight with Rashad Evans, except for the fact that Sonnen does not possess the standup game to present Bisping with problems. "The undisputed, undefeated champ" will be successful in taking Bisping down, but I don't think he will be able to hold him there, much less finish him there. That leaves the bits of the fight in between. I am pretty sure Bisping will comfortably out strike Sonnen and that his movement will keep the fight on the feet long enough for that to matter. The balance in this fight will be between the take downs of Sonnen and the amount of aggression Bisping is able to show on his feet. Oh, with the joker of a possible submission from Bisping from the bottom.
I am really unsure, I really think this will be a close decision. I suppose I think Bisping will be a little busier, so I'll go for Bisping by split decision.
Why watch it?
It's one of the strangest, love/hate personalities in the sport against the best fighter Britain has to offer (or the most hated fighter in the UFC, depending on how you look at it).
This article originally appeared at http://jim-ma.blogspot.com, where there will be a preview of the rest of the main event from Friday afternoon.