UFC: Bisping shows grit in hotly contested defeat
Firstly, let me get it out of the way. I believe that Michael Bisping and not Chael Sonnen should be this week planning a trip to Brazil in June. With a coveted tilt at Anderson Silva’s 185lb strap up for grabs later in the year, Clitheroe’s favourite son left it all in the cage on Saturday night. In a decision defeat which has left many fans and industry observers scratching their heads Bisping scrapped for every inch of canvas in what I believe to be the most well rounded performance of his career to date.
I’ve watched the fight over a few times since and whilst it can be argued that Sonnen’s smothering clinch and relative takedown success garnered a decision in his favour it must surely have been by the slimmest of margins. How one judge scored it a 30-27 shutout beggars belief. Given the scant preparation time and nonchalant way in which Sonnen had disposed of previous foe Brian Stann, Bisping’s performance was even more commendable. It could of course be argued that over the course of the fight Sonnen’s greater octagon control was ultimately a deciding factor. For a man who has been talking as if he is the middleweight champion of the world, it must be considered a disappointing performance. Having stalked Anderson Silva in interviews and quotes ever since his submission loss to him in August 2010 Sonnen would have been expected to take down Bisping at will over the fifteen minute bout. He found out first-hand what we discussed in last week’s event preview and that is that Bisping is a tough nut to crack who is an easy outing for no-one.
Sonnen will be relieved of course. Similar to an FA Cup semi-final, it is for him surely only the victory and not the performance which ultimately counts. If Silva is able to tag the entertaining Oregonian as regularly as Bisping did with his various flurries, one would have to assume that the Team Quest rep’s chin wouldn’t hold up nearly as well. Bisping has since claimed that Sonnen felt noticeably weaker in the third stanza. This may have been the result of a reportedly difficult weight cut. One must favour Silva heavily over a twenty five minute championship fight in his homeland.
The UFC machine has already moved swiftly to the next card and the implications on the welterweight division of Condit vs Diaz this Saturday night. Bisping and his team will however be reflecting on a creditable performance against the consensus ranked number two middleweight in the world. In the immediate aftermath of the grinding war of attrition Bisping was gracious in defeat for someone who had just had their title hopes dashed. This calm demeanor does give us some food for thought as to the rest of the 32 year olds career at the elite level. Bisping knows that he had the beating of a top level wrestler, who dominated middleweight champ Anderson Silva in their title fight. He also knows that time is on his side and with the 36 year old Silva entering the twilight of his own career his time may come sooner rather than later.
Speaking to assembled media at the post fight press conference “The Count” was defiant;
“Congratulations to Chael first and foremost, he won the fight and did a great job…this is not the last you will see of me, I will be fighting for the title and I will bloody win it”
Elsewhere on the card “Suga” Rashad Evans was workmanlike in his victory over Phil Davis. Whilst Rashad did expose the experience deficit between the pair, watching champ Jon Jones did not appear overly concerned with what he saw. Rashad in my view could make middleweight and whilst his high profile title bout with Jones in April will prove to be a huge draw, he may find a long term home at 185lbs.
In a bout which announced Chris Weidman’s arrival in the realm of genuine championship contenders Demian Maia failed to sparkle under the bright lights of network television. The peerless ju-jitsu ace appears to have abandoned his vaunted ground game in favour of a boxing centric offence which remains basic and unrefined. Given that once he gets opponents to the canvas it is patently clear how talented he is on the ground one has to wonder why he does not play to his strengths more often. Against the former wrestling stand-out he may not have felt able to take the fight down and lost a unanimous decision victory which could set his career back substantially.
This weekend the UFC returns home to Las Vegas as Condit and Diaz lock horns for the interim welterweight title in the injury induced absence of Georges St Pierre. I see Diaz taking this one, although I say that with caution. Condit is under-rated and possesses many of the strengths of his more illustrious opponent.
In the co-main event Roy “Big Country” Nelson faces grappling powerhouse Fabricio Werdum. Don’t blink if this one hits the deck. The last time two elite heavyweight ju-jitsu practitioners did battle in the octagon Frank Mir graphically illustrated the beauty and brutality of this ancient art. I see Werdum triumphing in his UFC return, as in his last outing he was able to do what Brock Lesnar couldn’t… survive with Alistair Overeem on the feet.
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UFC 143 Diaz vs Condit can be viewed on ESPNUK on Sunday 5th February
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