This weekend marks yet another title eliminator for Michael Bisping, his second in his last three fights, as the UFC wants to press Bisping into a title fight with Anderson Silva as soon as they can. Bisping has always felt like a top tier guy but never had that big, signature win that says “I’m ready for the Spider.” He looked that way before he fought Dan Henderson, coaching a season of “The Ultimate Fighter” before their bout on the biggest PPV of all time at UFC 100.
And then Dan Henderson hit an “H-Bomb” that changed both their trajectories.
While Henderson went on to leave the UFC, and adding some highlight reel knockouts to a resume already stacked with them, Bisping slowly but surely worked his way back up. Outside of two close losses to Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen, two losses a lot of people gave to him, Bisping has won six of his past eight and could’ve potentially been on an eight fight win streak going into this weekend’s bout with Vitor Belfort. For all his detractors, and his naturally off-putting personality, Bisping has done the one thing that’s indisputable at this point: win. Outside of the Henderson KO he’s never lost decisively, either, as losses to Rashad Evans, Sonnen and Silva were all close enough to give to Bisping as well.
For all the reasons it’s easy to dislike the man Bisping has been collecting scalps en route to being on the cusp of elite right now. He might not be the most embraced fighter over the years, of course, but he’s managed to stay in the middleweight title conversation because he keeps winning. And after a tough win over Brian Stann a short while ago Bisping finds himself in familiar territory: on that cusp of being the next to challenge Anderson Silva. He just needs a signature win.
The matchup with Vitor promises that, a high profile name with a style designed for Bisping to wear down. It’s also the last thing he’s truly needed to get a title shot.
His fight with Sonnen may have been about a title shot but it felt more like the hype train for a rematch between Sonnen and Anderson Silva. And while it was a close fight the aftermath was more about Sonnen’s continued callouts of the champion than Bisping taking his game up a notch and nearly dethroning the biggest rematch in middleweight division history. His marked improvement and ability to put Sonnen in danger multiple times earned him the respect of a lot of people afterwards. And the win over Stann, in a similar spot as Bisping, put him on the right path towards the title once more. I always thought he deserved it more than Sonnen or Mark Munoz (at the time) but had to take time away because he coached TUF instead of taking (and presumably winning) a fight or two after crushing Jorge Rivera.
But it was arguable, even then, because he didn’t have that big win. Every good title challenger generally has one and the best title challengers have a big win behind them. Bisping has the bonafides to be a contender right now, of course, but he doesn’t have that final momentum to cement that status. And that’s what Vitor presents right now: the final piece to the puzzle. A big win here, especially if it’s by a finish, leaves Bisping as the final man standing in the middleweight division to challenge Anderson Silva.