An Ideal First Title Defense for Michael Bisping

Fightland Blog

By Peter Carroll

Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC

Further word came through yesterday via MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani pointing to an imminent announcement regarding UFC 204’s main event clash between newly crowned middleweight champion Michael Bisping and former Pride and Strikeforce champion, Dan Henderson.

Helwani’s report stated that both men had verbally agreed to the fight that has been targeted for October 8 at the Manchester Arena, which holds 21,000 spectators.

After Bisping dethroned Luke Rockhold with a first round knockout at UFC 199 back in June, there were plenty of people who thought the Brit wouldn’t be able to defend his belt given the shark tank that exists at the top of the bracket.

However, with seemingly everyone else unavailable, Dan Henderson is a far more beatable opponent than many were expecting to stand across from ‘The Count’ when it came time to fortify his championship status.

There will be many who believe the legendary American’s highlight reel knockout of the Englishman from their first clash back at UFC 100 is enough reason to see them rematch. However, with Henderson going 2-3 in his last five bouts, pockets of the MMA Universe have scrutinized the 45-year-old’s contender status.

FloCombat.com later reported that despite the event taking place in Europe, UFC 204 would still take place at times appropriate for US TV audiences, like January 2015’s stadium show in Stockholm, which was headlined by Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson.

Although he probably isn’t used to taking to the Octagon at five o’clock in the morning, everything else seems poised for Bisping to have a successful first title defense.

Undefeated on Home Soil

Bisping’s performance at UFC London underlined how difficult he is to beat on home soil. Against a man long considered the greatest middleweight who has ever lived, Anderson Silva, ‘The Count’ came back to claim a decision win despite appearing to be knocked out at the end of round three of the main event showdown.

In eighteen professional tests in the UK, Bisping has never come up short. In his two previous outings in Manchester, the English middleweight came away with ‘Fight of the Night’ honors for his TKO wins over Denis Kang and Elvis Sinosic, which could bode well for the fans ahead of UFC 204.

Bisping has always brought a vocal crowd to back him for each of his UFC events in the UK, and the fact that this will be his first appearance on his old stomping ground with a gold belt wrapped around his waste will guarantee the promotion a sold-out Manchester Arena in October.

The last pay-per-view event that took place in the UK came nearly five years ago when Chris Leben took on Mark Munoz in the main event of UFC 138, and UFC will want to make a big splash in the market due to their long wait for a championship bout.

The last time the UK audiences saw a fight contested for a title was back in February 2013 when Renan Barao defended his championship against Michael MacDonald, which again will only add further interest to the event.

Ahead of UFC London, Bisping spoke of how he gets something “extra” when he fights in front of his home support.

“The one that really sticks out for me is my first English UFC fight, it was UFC 70 at the MEN Arena in Manchester. I’ve been very lucky that the crowd has always given me a lot of vocal support in the UK and I’m forever grateful for that, but at UFC 70 it just blew me away. I had no idea of the support I was going to get and it blew my mind.

“Really, every time I’m blown away by the UK fans. They give me something extra every time I step into the Octagon in front of them.”

Beatable Opponent

Compared to the fighters at the top of the bracket—Rockhold, Chris Weidman, Ronaldo Souza, Yoel Romero—Henderson is a very achievable win for the middleweight champion. After being a shock addition to the middleweight rankings following his comeback victory over Hector Lombard, who competed at 185 lbs for the first time in two years that night, Henderson hasn’t quite underlined his intentions for the division’s gold.

Although he proved that he still has his KO power against the Cuban, his own chin has been looking pretty suspect lately. With recent first round losses to Vitor Belfort and Gegard Mousasi at middleweight, Henderson’s respected durability may have begun to slip from his grip. Yet, after surviving an early storm from one of the most powerful fighters on the UFC’s books, Lombard, we probably shouldn’t completely write off the contender.

With his recent knockouts coming over Lombard and Boetsch, Henderson will surely have a trickier time putting hands on Bisping. In his last two outings, he has shown increased sophistication in his boxing game from his work with Jason Parillo. For that reason he will be confident that he can continue to buck the questions that used to surround his stopping power when he faces Henderson. 


Check out these related stories:

One Last Historic Hurrah for Dan Henderson

A Comprehensive List of the Fighters Who Have Called for Title Shots Against Michael Bisping

Rule Britannia: How Michael Bisping Became the UFC's Middleweight Monarch