With Bisping coming off a dominant victory over an opponent who is likely the best he's ever defeated, and the middleweight division tied up, the question looms, who's next?
First of all, a lot of people are saying that the best answer for the UFC regarding Bisping, is for Sonnen to get his suspension downgraded to 6 months. That way, while Sonnen is not fighting and serving out his suspension, he can film a truly epic season of TUF opposite Bisping and the UFC could make a ton of money off of a Sonnen/Bisping #1 contender's match this Summer. I agree that that would be a great way to handle a pair of bad situations but that's simply not going to happen for several reasons.
1.) Sonnen is unlikely to get his sentence reduced.
2.) The UFC would be perceived as rewarding a guy for failing a drug test.
3.) Bisping coached a season of TUF fairly recently
So why does such a random fight like Fitch vs Bisping make the most sense for Zuffa? Well I'm already in a list kind of mood so here we go:
1.) All top fighters for Zuffa at middleweight are tied up. Belcher is injured, Sonnen is suspended, Bisping already recently fought Leben and Wand, Okami/Marquardt are tied up with the winner slated for a title shot, and Maia/Grove are tied up. Even if you have Bisping wait out the winner of Maia/Grove you still have problems. Either Grove wins and is unfit to fight someone on the level of Bisping, or Maia wins and you have a situation where Bisping could very well lose to a guy no one ever wants to see in the same arena as Anderson Silva, much less the same cage.
2.)Jon Fitch is a big problem for Zuffa at 170 lbs. After defeating Alves almost easily he's shown that he more than likely will handle any WW not named GSP. He's now at a 5 fight win streak since his beat-down at the hands of GSP and fighting anything less than a top contender would be an insult to him. With GSP eating the division Zuffa can't afford to lose any top contenders to Fitch. So what to do?
3.) Fitch has already said he's interested in fighting at 185 lbs. I think Fitch can see the writing on the wall. If Zuffa actually had any interest whatsoever in Fitch/GSP 2, they would have signed it after Fitch was on a 3 fight win streak, or a four fight win streak, or maybe after he defeated the number 3 welterweight in the world, or maybe even after they actually promised it to him: http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2010/8/5/1607516/photo-by-dave-mandel-of-sherdog. It's Just simply not going to happen and I think Fitch knows that now. After watching the way Silva/Sonnen played out, he probably even thinks he's got a great shot against the 185 lb champ. He might be right.
4.) Zuffa can afford Bisping losing to Fitch. Bisping is no longer the prized British possession that the UFC is trying to coddle into a title shot, that all got blown away in the Dan Henderson fight. Everyone now knows Bisping is a flawed fighter, including UK Fans. More importantly, he's not a prized WW contender like Shields or Kim. If Bisping losses to Fitch, it's just back to the drawing board for him like it was after the Rashad loss, the Hendeson loss, and the Wand loss. He's seen this show before. No shame in losing to the number 5 pound for pound fighter in the world.
5.) Jon Fitch is the number five pound for pound fighter in the world. Considering the fact that Sonnen was the first real title challenger Silva has faced in well over two years, and that even then, Sonnen was a clearly flawed fighter as shown by his high profile and embarrassing defeat at the hands of Demian Maia not too long ago, Silva is in need of a challenger to not only test him but to re-establish himself as a dominant pound for pound champion. Assuming Fitch could get through Bisping (I think he would rightfully be a heavy favorite) Fitch would have to be considered Silva's toughest challenge since Dan Henderson. You may not think of it when you hear "Fitch vs Silva" but that is a fight between the number one and number five pound for pound best fighters in the world.
6.) Fitch is a great way for Zuffa to "sneak" Bisping into a title shot. Bisping vs Silva in the UK for the belt is a dream the UFC has been chasing since "The Count" beat down McCarthy at UFC 83. The problem is, he's just not good enough to win the fights he needs to get there. The top five is filled with guys who are tough fights for Bisping. No one is really going to argue if you picked guys like Sonnen, Marquardt, Okami, Maia, and Belfort over Bisping. Now I did say earlier that I would favor Fitch over Bisping but Fitch does bring two things to the cage that none of the other top middleweights do: A lack of finishing ability and a size disadvantage. Bisping could very well use those two things to outpoint a decision victory over the fifth best fighter in the world. A win over Fitch would finally legitimize Bisping as a title challenger after he was majorly set back at UFC 100 then stumbled yet again against The Axe Murderer. If Bisping can cap off victories over two very solid middleweights with a win over a guy like Fitch then Zuffa would finally have sufficient reason in the fans eyes to put on a massive money-making fight.
So there you go Zuffa, fix two problems at once, set up a main-event worthy matchup, and potentially set up a mega fight or a money fight for a champ you're constantly having trouble promoting.