Michael "The Count" Bisping has most definitely been one of the better success stories to ever come out of The Ultimate Fighter reality show. Not only is the guy a legit talent, but he is despised (or loved, depending on where you're from and what type of fighter you root for) by many and that's not a bad thing in sports or the entertainment business in general if you want to maximize your earning potential. Coming off of a second round loss against future Hall of Famer Dan Henderson back in July, he successfully rebounded with an impressive win against former PRIDE standout Denis Kang in November. Like Henderson, Anderson Silva and other middleweights before him, the 30-year-old Bisping has had off nights. But what will count, ultimately, is how he improves and progresses in his remaining fights. Did he discount Henderson's striking ability a little too much because of Dan's grappling prowess? Was Mike concentrating so much on his striking attacks that he neglected giving proper respect to Henderson's power (he was circling off to the wrong side when he got caught). Any answer to those questions is purely speculation. However, that July night will be the last thing on Mike's mind this Saturday night. He's got his hands full with another legendary veteran. Michael Bisping has professional record of 18-2 with twelve wins coming by way of knockout and four wins coming by way of submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced so far is 64.7%.
For many of us that came up as young fans of MMA in the early years of the burgeoning sport's inception, the name Wanderlei Silva conjures up images of highlight reel finishes (in wins and losses) and constant excitement. Alas, time catches up with everyone. And combat sports are where this truth is often most brutally evident. Still, there are those in the game that will tell you that the 33-year-old Silva has rededicated himself to ending his career on a positive note. He is training with an impressive list of fighters and coaches. One of the biggest problems I've seen with Silva in recent years is that movement has given him real problems. Both Liddell and Rich Franklin were able to control the distance effectively and, despite getting tagged with some nice shots, were able to maneuver their way to decision victories over the former PRIDE 205 pound champion. To win in Australia, he'll likely need to utilize his leg kicks and negotiate the distance effectively enough to land combos (then rinse, wash, repeat). I can't imagine that Mike will want to stand and trade with Silva, but in those instances where Silva is in range, I'd like to see him tie up with Bisping and try some of those infamous knees to the body and head. Wanderlei Silva has a professional record of 32-10-1 with twenty-three wins coming by way of knockout and three wins coming by way of submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced so far is 64.0%.
There are a few ways that this late-career drop to the 185 pound division could go for Silva. On the one hand, as I've mentioned, movement has proven to give Silva some problems in recent years. The fighters in the middleweight division tend to be noticeably quicker and this could cause problems for this veteran fighter. On the other hand, sometimes guys are able to bring most of their striking power with them down to a lower weight class. If that is the case, this excursion into the middleweight division could get really interesting. I see Bisping setting the tone early in this one, controlling the distance, scoring with nice kicks and punches and continuing to circle off, frustrating Silva somewhat. Maybe this is just the nostalgic in me, but I'm thinking that Wanderlei will breakthrough Mike's defense later in the fight and shake him. If Silva gets a fighter shaken, there are few better finishers in the game (I'm presupposing that he hasn't lost that). Expect an impressive performance early from Mike, but my best guess is that it will be Silva with his hand raised in the end. My prediction: Wanderlei Silva by TKO in the third. Who do you like in this one?