Bisping and Sonnen both have a reputation, deserved or not, as guys who can’t finish fights. Bisping’s preferred jab and jog strategy sees him land a high volume of low power strikes, while Sonnen prefers to maintain top control and land enough low power ground and pound to avoid a stand up. These strategies have served these men well. Even when they don’t finish fights, they tend to make it to the decision, and decisions favor them.
Nick Diaz once said something like, “the guy who looks more fucked up at the end of the fight is the loser.” This one sentence expresses the entirety of Stockton Rules—a popular alternate rule for radical fight fans who think that hurting someone is the point of fighting, and are tired of fighters winning because of whatever “octagon control” is. Under Stockton Rules, Sonnen and Bisping are both big losers.
Sonnen has two notable fights in his current UFC run where he controlled his opponents from the top, scored points, and won rounds under the unified rules, but would have lost under Stockton rules. One was against Anderson Silva. Sonnen was close to a dominant decision victory before falling victim to his classic blunder: getting choked with a triangle. The other was against Nate Marquardt. Sonnen actually managed to not get choked and won a decision. But after both fights, despite supposedly dominating his opponents, Sonnen looked extremely fucked up. Despite proclaiming that he can punch holes in peoples’ faces (or, at least, Anderson Silva’s) Sonnen has failed to punch even bruises into anyone’s face, while Marquardt and Silva both managed to elbow cuts into his face from their backs.
Bisping may be an even greater Stockton Rules loser. To paraphrase Jorge Rivera, “Every fight you’ve won a decision in, you’ve lost.” The man has a point. Watching Michael Bisping win decisions after reeling around the cage eating power punches like crumpets from men like Akiyama and Hamill, it’s easy to think that landing more punches than your unscathed opponent shouldn’t be enough to win.
If both men try to implement their prime strategies, their ability to win under unified rules leaves us with something of a stalemate. Conventionally, takedowns score higher than dozens of jabs, which obviously favors Sonnen’s preferred strategy. But with neither fighter actually capable of hurting the other with their A games, we’re sure to have a Stockton rules stalemate.
But what if they don’t end up using their primary attacks?
As it happens, under Stockton rules at least, both men’s ancillary weapons might be better than their primary weapons. Sonnen recently bragged that he’s never been out struck. He did try pulling guard against Terry Martin, but he was injured, and the point is debateable. That it actually is debateable is a)unnerving, and b) a testament to how good a striker Sonnen really is. While Anderson Silva got the better of Sonnen overall in their fight, Sonnen managed the impossible by actually stumbling Anderson. Chael has a singular aversion to the truth, but when madmen hint at the truth it’s always profound.
Bisping is like a bizzarro world Sonnen. For all the power he lacks in his standing strikes, he can sure beat the shit out of a grounded opponent. His fight with Dennis Kang is probably the best example of this. Kang lit Bisping up for the first round, knocking him down and making him look like a chump. In the second, Bisping took a page out of his fellow Wolfslair fighter, Kongo’s, book by pretending to be a wrestler when he got out struck. The result was Bisping brutalizing Kang and making him look like a chump. For another example, look no further than Bisping’s crushing knee that changed the course of his fight with Jorge Rivera. Devastating power.
For fans of Stockton rules, this could be a fight with no real winner, where nobody gets fucked up. On the other hand, both of these guys could end up actually hurting each other if, for whatever reason, they choose to fight outside of their typical styles. Sonnen could Hendo Bisping. Bisping could manage to ground Sonnen and smash him, legally or not. For what it’s worth, I think the former is far more likely. Bisping getting Sonnen down is a long shot, and keeping him down is longer.
But if either fighter successfully implements his primary strategy, will anyone actually enjoy this fight?
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