I recently got into a discussion here on BE about the extent to which UFC middleweight Michael 'The Count' Bisping gets easy or 'gimme' fights. I thought I'd extend my thoughts in a fanpost rather than hijack a thread. I hope this prompts some good discussion
Michael Bisping is not a popular fighter amongst the BE community and MMA fans more widely. His brash, cocky personality was accentuated during his time on The Ultimate Fighter and his subsequent KO at the hands of legend Dan Henderson has become a staple gif to be inserted during any discussion of him. Although a magnanimous loser, Bisping knows how to hype a fight and plays up his 'heel' image in the run-up to almost every match-up. The only time he has show real animosity is towards Jorge Rivera following some fairly ugly trash-talk leading up to their bout in Australia.
That many fans dislike Bisping is therefore not in doubt. However, my contention is that this colours all discussion of his merits as a fighter and the way in which he is matched up inside the Octagon.
A long-standing meme is that the Count gets fights where his opponent is either of insufficient quality or a favourable stylistic match-up. Furthermore, it is argued that this stands in stark contrast to the rest of the Middleweight division. This is attributed to his 'protected' status as the flagbearer of UK MMA. I think this is a myth and here's why.
Let's have a look at the current top ten (as chosen by Sherdog), extend it out a bit to cover others that have recently been 'in the mix', and consider their last 5 fights (brackets are outside of MW)
Silva – (Bonnar) Sonnen Okami Belfort Sonnen
Sonnen – Silva Bisping Stann Silva Marquadt
Weidman – Munoz Maia Lawlor Bongfeldt Sakara
Belfort – Bisping (Jones) Johnson Akiyama Silva
Bisping – Belfort Stann Sonnen Miller Rivera
Munoz – Weidman Leben Maia Dolloway Simpson
Okami – Belcher Roberts Boetsch Silva Marquadt
Rockhold – Kennedy Jardine Souza Bradley Taylor
Stann – Bisping Sakara Sonnen Santiago Leben
Philippou - Boetsch Fukuda McGee Hamman Rivera
Boetsch - Philippou Lombard Okami Ring Grove
Lombard - Palhares Boetsch Prangley Taylor Vitale
Belcher - Okami Palhares MacDonald Cote Gouveia
A few things stand out here: firstly, the denizens of the lower echelons of the top 10 have all fought mid-level guys pretty recently, as have Munoz and Weidman, and have few 'top ten' wins (although Leben was a good win a couple of years ago). Secondly, it's not unusual for guys to get at least one and possibly two winnable fights after losing a big one (Stann and Okami being cases in point here). Thirdly, Bisping's last three fights are as tough as anyone's.
Bisping does gets more strikers than wrestlers, but his ability to nullify Sonnen suggests that's hardly favourable. In fact, he's more likely to lose a fight standing up through his poor defence.
One point I will concede. There's no doubt that the UFC would like Bisping to get a title shot and his profile reflects this. He is almost always the main or co-main and so it is very noticeable when he gets matched-up with a mid-level guy. I think this is part of the reason why he is considered to get an easy ride. But is that so different to a guy like Belfort or Stann? I'd argue not.
To conclude, I'd argue that in the last couple of years BIsping's competition is comparable with his peers. The quality of his opponents reflect his true position in the bottom half of the top ten. The days of him being fed guys like Kang and Akiyama are receding into the distance.
Or are they?!