When we last left our heroes...Every sport has its array of villains. Athletes who makes you wish you lived in a universe where you were physically superior to your current sedentary self, and could conceivably punch them in the face with the confidence that them punching you back wouldn't be fatal.
Bisping seems to be that guy for a lot of people. I can kind of get behind the umm...'criticism'. The spitting incident was bizarre, and I'd sooner believe in lesbian nazi hookers being abducted by aliens and forced into weight loss programs than that Bisping's knee to Jorge Rivera's head was completely accidental.
So yea, Bisping can be an unsavory dude, but I've always been embarrassingly in his corner. I mean, it's not like he's ever been wholly unrepentant after being convicted of mortgage fraud or anything.
So obscure pop culture references and snide remarks aside, let's talk history.
Bisping is a quietly stellar 14-5 in the UFC. His losses have come against big name opponents. For a guy who didn't seem primed to make much noise in a very thin TUF roster, he's had a very good career.
As for Tim Kennedy, he's another fighter who has led one of those paradoxically "quiet but stellar" careers. Since 2007 he only has two losses: Ronaldo Souza, and Luke Rockhold. And in between he's scored some pretty big wins, including most notably, Robbie Lawler. Apparently he was in the Army too.
What both men can do: Bisping used to be billed as a striker, and he's maintained that style throughout his career despite having very little power, and never circling in the right direction. It's kind of unfortunate for Bisping: he's actually very good on the feet, but even slobbering couch potatoes like me criticize him for the technical gaffe of moving right into Dan Henderson's power hand.
Despite his jumpy, erratic movement that sometimes makes it look like he's a kid in a Pump it Up store, his striking has improved in major ways over the years.
He's got a good jab, and a right hand that he throws with more confidence than he used to. He's also very effective in the clinch. I never would have said this in 2007, but watching him clinch brawl with Chael Sonnen opened my eyes. I've always felt like that was one of his better performances. In addition to all that, he moves his hips very well on the ground, and from his back. I get the impression he's still learning to be more aggressive passing guard, but his ground game is still an asset in general.
A lot of the same things can be said about Kennedy. Tim only has 6 KO finishes in a total of 21 bouts, but he's got enough power in his fists to keep Bisping honest. Like Bisping, he's also technical on the ground. Rockhold and Souza are excellent grapplers (Souza is simply other wordly), and Tim never panicked. Also like Bisping, his cardio is top notch.
What both men can't do: I'm afraid some of Bisping's old habits will rear their left-side hating ugly head again. I don't at all expect Tim to knock out Bisping. For one, despite the many (admittedly great) memes that have developed over the years highlighting Bisping being knocked out, he has a very good chin. In fact, he took a monstrous shot from Henderson before finally getting knocked out. But it won't be wise to test Tim's ability to do so either.
There's also his tendency to back straight up, which is basically how Wand won their bout. If Bisping doesn't do that, he wins, plain and simple.
However, I still like Mike in this one. Bisping's plan is similar to Rockhold, where his ability to out volume Tim will be the difference. I don't think Bisping is as good as Luke, but I think he's more than capable, and not that removed from Luke in terms of talent and status.
In addition, Tim can often resort to plan B, which is the ground, where he's capable at everything: chokes, guard passing, you name it. But Bisping has developed a talent for keeping the bout on the feet, even if his balance is completely questionable.
Kennedy has developed an image as the ultra durable veteran, and he certainly has the mentality of a guy who could fight 25 rounds if asked, and yet I'd argue Bisping is every bit as durable, and more so. He's faced comically better competition over the years, and has rarely looked out of his element. Expect Bisping to win the tug of war.
Prediction: Michael Bisping by Annexation.