This weekend, we’ve got an amazing card with a very intriguing title fight in the main event. I’ve always considered myself an MMA fan, and once upon a time, you could find me watching (or at least trying to watch) every event the UFC put out. These days, that’s just an impossible task to achieve with my schedule, so I catch what I can, and read up on what I can’t. For me, Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson is “Must See” TV, and you can bet I’ll be glued to a big screen somewhere for that card.
The fight has so much more going for it than just the belt. The nostalgia born of their USA vs. Great Britain rivalry during The Ultimate Fighter is there once again, and the vengeance theme is the pièce de résistance of this great match-up. I honestly can’t wait to watch.
TUF 9 was the last time I watched a full season of the show, and that was mostly due to the fact that I was dating one of the contestants at the time. When you watched that season, you either loved Bisping or you hated him, and as the episodes wore on, I found that I couldn’t stand “The Count.” By the time UFC 100 rolled around, I was firmly rooting for Hendo to win, and was not disappointed in the result of that historic fight.
Over the years since that fateful July night, I’ve become quite fond of Michael Bisping, and I’ve noticed that legions of fans have also changed their tune about him. He’s got such an unapologetic, brutally honest take on everything, and to be honest, it’s pretty refreshing. It was great seeing him win the belt.
Dan Henderson is still one of my all-time favorite fighters, and is a living, breathing legend. He’s held belts in a few organizations, but the UFC title represents that brass ring he just hasn’t been able to catch hold of. I’ve seen that he’s retiring after this fight, win or lose. I can’t help but want to see him win the belt in his last contest.
When I first started watching Hendo, I wasn’t even involved in MMA yet; I was just kickboxing and watching from purely a spectator standpoint. He’s a great wrestler with a lot of power, but back then, he was way more of a grinder than he is now. I can remember seeing people call him “Decision Dan,” in a very derogatory vein, and I would think to myself, “Those guys are crazy, that was a great fight.”
These days, Dan is all about throwing those big bombs, and you rarely see his wrestling on display anymore. From the moment the bell rings, he begins walking down his opponents, throwing that right like a rocket. He’s not light on his feet, and you won’t find much bounce in his advances. He looks to get in the pocket, plant firmly and throw massive heat.
He often drops his hands and sticks his chin out; maybe it’s bad form or maybe it’s a lure to draw his opponents in, but he’s been clipped a few times, resulting in some truly scary knockout losses. Don’t get me wrong, Dan is no slouch, and if you get caught at the end of one of those big punches…well, just ask Hector Lombard about that. Or Tim Boetsch. Oh yeah, you could also ask Michael Bisping, lest we forget how their first fight ended.
For Dan to win, he needs to use his low kicks and jabs to set up his power shots, namely that thunderous right. He can’t let Bisping dictate the pace or manage the distance. He needs to get the fight in close quarters where he can box him up in there. If he lets Mike get on his cardio-cycle and work from the outside, this will end up with the champ retaining his belt.
Bisping, on the other hand, has progressed leaps and bounds. Once thought of as a guy with soft hands and an even softer chin, he’s taken those assumptions and made asses out of a lot of fans and “experts.” Him standing in the pocket and going to all-out war with Anderson Silva was one of his most shining performances in my eyes, and is as good or better than one-shotting Rockhold for the belt.
Michael has a great kicking game and is so good at managing the distance. He’s grown quite comfortable in his own power shot game, but he’s not the bull in a China shop that Dan is. His footwork is technically sound, he works the body well and has great instincts.
For him to win, he’ll need to stay out of the way of Dan’s right, and maybe switch stances more often to throw off Hendo’s excellent timing. Stepping in from the outside from angles is how he needs to land his power shots. Perhaps the most important thing for him here, is to get Dan into the later rounds and wear him down. Just set a relentless pace that will weaken him, and potshot away to either a lopsided decision or a knockout. One last thing here…CIRCLE RIGHT!
I know most are picking Bisping to win this, but I’m not. Maybe it’s nostalgia, or maybe it’s because I’m just a teensy bit a bigger fan of Hendo than I am of Mike. Predictions are a very subjective racket, and if history has taught us anything, it’s that you can never count anyone out. The one thing I’m certain of, is that I’ll be stuck to a television until one of them has won that fight.