One has to feel a little bad for Michael Bisping. Ever since he debuted into the hearts and minds of UFC fans, he’s been the biggest villain on the UFC roster. Outside of his native England Bisping gets booed by the majority of fans no matter where he goes, it seems, and going into the “Ultimate Fighter” finale he was in a similar spot as he was at UFC 100: against an American fan favorite in Las Vegas. Except instead of a devastating knockout loss to Dan Henderson from the same punch that would go on to stop other fighters, Bisping has rallied to go on a fairly impressive winning streak. With a tight decision loss to Wanderlai Silva that many argued should’ve gone his way, Bisping has finished Pride stalwart Denis Kang and longtime UFC resident Jorge Rivera to go alongside victories over Yoshihiro Akiyama and Dan Miller. And now, with a decisive victory over Jason “Mayhem” Miller, there ought to be no path between him and Anderson Silva. But there won’t be. Why?
Because he’s the third man in a scenario that involves Chael Sonnen and Mark Munoz that leaves Bisping the last man coming into the picture. And it’s never the last man to the party that gets the girl, it seems, and Bisping’s commitment to TUF has left him coming in late. You can make the case that each of the three fighters deserve against Silva, nursing a shoulder injury.
Sonnen is the big money rematch, the one with the sizzle that moves the needle. He’s MMA’s bad boy and after nearly accomplishing everything he said he would a year ago against the champion the rematch means a lot.
Munoz is the plucky underdog who has risen through the middleweight ranks impressively. He has the same talents as Sonnen but with much deadlier power in his fists.
Bisping has earned his title shot by beating consistently better competition and many of the same fighters that Munoz and Sonnen beat en route to making their cases. Bisping can be argued to have earned his title shot with as much merit as either American wrestler based on what he’s done. He just dismantled, in Dana White’s words, of one of the few fighters you could’ve called amongst the best middleweight fighters outside the UFC’s umbrella a year ago. It’s the downside of having so few contenders for Silva’s title belt and a champion injured but without an extended recovery time needed.
This isn’t like Cain Velasquez tearing his rotator cuff and forcing a near year long wait for the belt; Anderson will be ready to go perhaps as early as late spring/early summer and a January fight between Munoz and Sonnen leaves plenty of time for both to heal up and be ready for “The Spider.” And it’s almost unfairly punishing a fighter saddled with the unenviable position of coaching on the company’s flagship television program. Bisping, in his athletic prime, can’t afford to wait perhaps close to a year for his title shot. For a fighter who’s been a “company man” in never turning down fights and coaching TUF twice, as well as appearing on it as a competitor, Bisping is unfairly looking in from the outside in the company’s middleweight title picture because of the show and Silva’s injury.
But it perhaps gives him the ability to be set up as the next contender with another fight and the other half of Bisping’s next opponent ought to be fairly simple to pick: The winner of Anthony “Rumble” Johnson or Vitor Belfort, who clash at UFC 142.
If Bisping is to have to take another fight while waiting for the title picture to resolve itself between Munoz, Sonnen and the champion then this ought to be his next fight. Johnson is moving up a weight after being a top 10 welterweight for some time. Belfort challenged and lost to Silva earlier in the year as well holds a tournament title and a short light heavyweight reign. Either fighter would be an intriguing final test for Bisping. Johnson presents a stylistic matchup in the same Rashad Evans did as a heavy handed wrestler whereas Belfort’s devastating knockout power and inconsistency makes for a more commercial matchup.
But really it shouldn’t be that way. Bisping ought to be first in line by virtue of both his resume as well as being saddled with the lame duck season of TUF fostered upon him by the UFC leaving for Fox. Life isn’t fair and you won’t hear Michael Bisping complain about not getting a title shot when he almost rightfully could. But he deserves it more.