“I think that last one was just to shut (Michael Bisping) up a little bit.”
-Dan Henderson, after knocking Bisping out.
No, I didn’t pull out my crystal ball and look ahead to Saturday night. That was seven (seven!) years ago at UFC 100, as Henderson talked with Joe Rogan after his victory over Bisping. Whether or not Henderson shut Bisping up isn’t certain (okay, spoiler alert: he didn’t), but Bisping had damn sure done a lot of talking.
Prior to the fight, Henderson and Bisping coached opposite one another on the UFC’s reality competition, The Ultimate Fighter: Team USA vs. Team UK. The narrative wrote itself as easily then as it does now. Henderson, the down-to-earth former Olympian who was already a legend in his own right, going against Bisping, the brash, cocky Brit aiming to establish himself among the middleweight division’s elite. Henderson, the American hero. Bisping, basically Conor McGregor before anyone knew who the fook Conor McGregor was. During the competition, Bisping’s UK team proved superior to Henderson’s USA team, and Bisping constantly ran his mouth while Henderson awaited his chance to shut Bisping up after the show’s conclusion. And boy, did he.
The first round and a half of the fight were rather uneventful, as Bisping circled and Henderson looked to pick his shot. But, as UFC play-by-play announcer Joe Rogan repeatedly pointed out during the broadcast, Bisping was constantly circling to his left- and therefore in to Henderson’s power hand. With just under two minutes left in the second round, like a pitcher throwing a fastball, Henderson uncorked a powerful right hook that caught Bisping flush. Bisping was out before he hit the canvas, and for good measure, Henderson followed him down with one final diving punch. You know, to shut him up.
Bisping and Henderson will meet once again Saturday at UFC 204 in Manchester, England- this time for Bisping’s UFC Middleweight title. The rematch came to fruition at UFC 199, when Bisping upset Luke Rockhold (also in a rematch) by first-round knockout to capture the title after 10 years in the UFC. Earlier in the evening, Henderson defeated Hector Lombard by second-round knockout. Shortly after winning the title, Bisping started saying of Henderson, “I owe him one” (Henderson’s response? “You’ll owe me two after this”). The dominoes began to fall- aided by an injury to former champ Chris Weidman and a suspension to top contender Yoel Romero- and Bisping now has his chance for revenge.
It goes against every bone in my body to say this, but I believe that Bisping wins this fight, and does so rather comfortably. Bisping keeps a high work rate composing mostly of very technical boxing and kickboxing with the occasional takedown mixed in. He has improved immensely as a fighter since his first encounter with Henderson and will surely have a wiser game plan than to circle in to Henderson’s biggest weapon. Henderson, meanwhile, still possesses immense power, but is noticeably slower and less durable than he was in 2009- when he was just 38. I expect Bisping to pick Henderson apart, avoiding Henderson’s power shots until Henderson folds.
Prediction: Bisping by (T)KO, Round 2.
Fun fact: Though Bisping and Henderson fought more than 7 years ago, Bisping is still younger now than Henderson was during the first fight.
The evening’s co-main event features a middleweight fight between two longtime veterans of the sport, Gegard Mousasi and Vitor Belfort. Mousasi is a tremendously well-rounded, if occasionally unspectacular or inconsistent, fighter with 47 fights to his name. Meanwhile, Belfort is a former UFC tournament champion who has long possessed some of the sport’s fastest hands. Between the two of them, Mousasi and Belfort hold three knockout victories over Henderson- the only three of Henderson’s career. However, at this stage in his career, Belfort has shown questionable cardio and grappling defense. I expect Mousasi to weather any early storm from Belfort and eventually wear him down and pound him out.
Prediction: Mousasi via (T)KO, Round 1.
UFC 204 also features a light heavyweight fight with potential title contention implications between Ovince St. Preux and Jimi Manuwa. Both fighters have proven themselves to be just outside the top tier at light heavyweight. St. Preux fought Jon Jones for the interim light heavyweight champiobship in April, losing a one-sided decision. Manuwa’s two career losses have come to top contenders Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson. Both fighters pack a tremendous amount of power, but I think St. Preux’s wrestling will be the difference here.
Prediction: St. Preux via decision.
Also on the main card is a heavyweight fight between Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve and Daniel Omielanczuk. Struve is a UFC veteran of more than 7 years who has been on the cusp of contending on multiple occasions. Typically this has ended with him on another fighter’s knockout reel, but he does hold a 2012 win over current UFC champion Stipe Miocic. Omielanczuk, meanwhile, is 3-2 in his brief UFC tenure, and none of his wins have come over anyone of Struve’s caliber. Struve, who is 7′, also stands a full foot taller than Omielanczuk, and that kind of advantage can’t be taught (or believe me, I would have learned at this point).
Prediction: Struve via (T)KO, Round 2.
Opening up the main card is a featherweight fight between Mirsad Bektic and Russell Doane. Doane takes the fight on short notice, riding a 3-fight losing streak. Meanwhile, Bektic is undefeated at 10-0 and has looked nothing short of impressive in his UFC tenure.
Prediction: Bektic via decision.
UFC 204 features six preliminary bouts, four on Fox Sports 1, and two on UFC FightPass, the UFC’s streaming service. Featured on FS1 is a bantamweight fight between longtime contenders Brad Pickett and Iuri Alcantara. I’m also particularly intrigued by the evening’s opening bout between Leonardo Santos and Adriano Martins. Both Brazilians are on 3-fight win streaks and possess power in their hands to go along with black-belt level Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Should be a good one for those fans who bother to show up for the beginning of the card.
Bantamweight bout: Brad Pickett vs Iuri Alcantara- Alcantara via decision.
Bantamweight bout: Damian Stasiak vs. Davey Grant- Stasiak via submission, Round 2.
Welterweight bout: Leon Edwards vs. Albert Tumenov- Tumenov via (T)KO, Round 2.
Lightweight bout: Lukasz Sajewski vs. Marc Diakiese- Diakiese via decision.
Welterweight bout: Danny Roberts vs. Mike Perry- Roberts via decision.
Lightweight bout: Leonardo Santos vs. Adriano Martins- Martins via decision.
Thanks for reading!