UFC 105 was a potential make or break event for Michael Bisping. Coming off a vicious knockout defeat to Dan Henderson at UFC 100, many critics of the UK star had their knives out and were waiting for him to come undone once again against former Pride star Denis Kang.
In the early stages of the fight it seemed as if that may well have been the case when Kang connected with a right hook to his temple as he lunged forward with a strike of his own. Though his legs buckled sending him to the canvas his spirit did not, and he displayed impressive defense from his back for the rest of the round before taking the fight to Kang in the second.
Though understandably still tentative on his feet in the 2nd, Bisping showed an ability to change up his gameplan by opting to take Kang down and break him down via ground and pound. It was reminiscent of his win over Jason Day back at UFC 85, and the fight ended in the same way, with his opponent turtling up to avoid further punishment, forcing the referee to call a halt to the proceedings.
Showing his relief at having won in a fight in which he was under intense scrutiny Bisping stated in the post-fight press conference that, “I cannot put into words how much pressure has come off me right now.”
With that crucial win under his belt, who comes next for the British fighter? One thing we do know is that he has stated an interest in fighting at February’s UFC 110 event in Australia where his fiancee is originally from.
If that comes about then it would rule out a fight with the man he was originally set to fight on Saturday – Wanderlei Silva. At the time Silva pulled out due to surgery, and has since been booked to fight Yoshihiro Akiyama at the event in Oz.
Bisping admitted after his fight on Saturday that he needs at least a couple of fights before he can have a shot at the title and I agree and suspect that will also rule him out of a potential bout with Nate Marquardt, as well as with Vitor Belfort who is widely expected to face Anderson Silva next.
There are plenty of other options in the middleweight division to keep Bisping occupied though.
One fighter currently looking to return to the octagon in the near future is Patrick Cote (13-5). After getting injured during his title fight against Anderson Silva back in October 2008, Cote has been left on the sidelines for over a year rehabilitating. He has stated several times that he is interested in facing Bisping, and it appears to be a fight that would make a lot of sense for both men.
Another challenging match-up would be against Demian Maia, who, like Bisping was being highly touted as Anderson Silva’s next opponent before suffering a devastating knockout (to Nate Marquardt) at UFC 102. Maia is still a highly regarded fighter though with one of the most highly regarded Jiu Jitsu games in the sport and so a win for either fighter could push them back into title contention. Bisping has shown that he has a solid ground game himself, and after facing two heavy handed strikers in his last two fights he may relish the opportunity to take on someone with less striking acumen.
Chael Sonnen (24-10-1) looked impressive recently in his defeat over Yushin Okami, and with rumors circulating that he could appear at the Australian event in February that could make for a convenient match-up. After his win the outspoken Sonnen bemoaned the fact that it had been hard to hype his fight with Okami which ended up on the undercard of UFC 104, but he would have no such trouble with Bisping.
If Kendall Grove (10-6-1) were to win his fight with Jake Rosholt on Saturday night at UFC 106 then he may be an option, particularly if the UFC are looking to steer Bisping clear of the top contenders for the time being.
Coincidentally, both Grove and Bisping appeared on The Ultimate Fighter season 3, though Bisping competed in the light heavyweight division on the show while Grove fought at middleweight. They both won their respective categories on the show which gives the UFC an interesting storyline to help promote the fight.
Other possibilities include Ricardo Ameida (11-3), Alan Belcher (13-5) or perhaps even TUF veteran Nathan Quarry, (12-3) so it’s clear to see the UFC is not short on options here either to set him back on the road to title contention, or just to put him in relatively entertaining ‘mid-rank’ matches.
Personally I believe Patrick Cote is perhaps the best option (though stylistically Damien Maia is also very tempting), assuming he has regained full fitness by that stage. Though Cote’s title fight with Anderson Silva is noted as a loss it was purely down to an accidental injury, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that until that bout he had recorded five straight victories.
Cote would be a dangerous opponent for Bisping, particularly since he is another fighter with knockout power. On the other hand he would have an advantage in that Cote is bound to have somewhat rusty after such a long period out.
A victory would be significant for either fighter and puts them on the track for a potential title shot in the future making it a win-win situation for the UFC.
Just a few days ago Patrick Cote posted the following message on his Facebook page…
“Next fight in 5 months!! Who I want a fight for my comeback ?? _I_PI_G”
Now we must wait to see if the UFC will grant him his wish.
Article By RossC
Pictures courtesy of sherdog.com