If you had gone by the betting lines leading into this fight – some of whom had Sonnen as a -400 favorite – then you’d assume this was as foregone a conclusion as rain, taxes, and the Kardashian divorce.
And in the end, I suppose the oddsmakers got it right. Chael Sonnen got his hand raised after three rounds, like most folks thought he would.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story, which simply put is this: fans, media, pundits, critics, and whoever owe Michael Bisping an apology – and I’m counting myself in this lot, too.
Turns out you can wrestle pretty damn well, after all.
Everyone remembers the argument about wrestling leading into Bisping vs. hendo at UFC 100. Everyone remembers scoffing at the notion that the Brit could compete at wrestling with the American wrestler. Everyone remembers laughing when Bisping threw out that half-hearted shot attempt and was easily stuffed by Hendo.
It would have been a more memorable moment had Hendo not followed it up with the Falcon Punch heard ‘round the world.
Still, that image forms the basis for the “Bisping can’t wrestle” mindset me thinks, even though he held his own with guys like Rashad Evans and Matt Hamill.
And what’s more, Chael Sonnen isn’t just another good wrestler. He’s the best functional wrestler at middleweight. He’s a guy who faced Yushin Okami, Dan Miller, Nate Marquardt, Brian Stann and oh yeah, Anderson Silva, and he wrestled the living crap out of all of them.
He didn’t wrestle the anything out of Mike Bisping last night.
Oh sure, he took him down enough to win a decision, and landed enough ground n’ pound to avoid the “lay and pray” label.
But he didn’t succeed on every shot. And when he did, Bisping was always quickly back to his feet. Even in the third round, after getting the best wrestling effort Sonnen could put together, Bisping ended the round on top of Chael. In the clinch, it was even more evenly matched – so much so that it was tough to tell who was the Greco-Roman national champion and who was the cocky guy from England.
If Anderson Silva had done as well wrestling-wise against Chael as Bisping did, I doubt that fight ends with a Hail Mary triangle choke.
So allow me, Mr. Bisping, to on behalf of the MMA blogosphere (of which I, obviously, am spokesperson) apologize for so totally writing you off in this fight, and ignoring the great strides you’ve clearly made in your wrestling. You may not have won this fight but I think you won more than a few detractors over to your side last night, and proved that you really belong at the elite level in MMA.
If nothing else, you’ve got some fans screaming that you were the one who got “robbed” in a decision instead of your opponent for once, so enjoy that while it lasts.
By Elton Hobson