A major middleweight title fight between Michael Bisping and Vitor Belfort is set to go down at UFC 156 in Rio, Brazil on January 19th according to the rumor-mill.
News of the fight first emerged from one of Bisping’s sponsors, ‘MMA Elite’ CEO Alden Halpern during a live stream and has since been reported by other sources, though it should be stressed there’s been no official word from the UFC so far.
Bisping had been campaigning for a title shot at 185lbs after winning five of his last six fights, with his only loss coming in a very close fight with Chael Sonnen, but while Anderson Silva’s camp appeared interested in the bout it appears the UFC feel he needs another big win under his belt first.
Belfort certainly fits the bill in that regard and would mark one of the toughest challenges in Bisping’s career to date.
‘The Phenom’ fought Jon Jones recently in a hastily arranged light-heavyweight title fight that saw him move up from middleweight on four weeks notice, but while he ended up losing convincingly he gained respect for agreeing to the challenge and for putting the champion in the most dangerous spot of his career so far when he caught him in an armbar early in the bout.
Outside of that defeat, Belfort’s picked up three wins inside the Octagon since returning in 2009 against Rich Franklin, Yoshihiro Akiyama and Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson, with his only other loss coming to middleweight champ Anderson Silva.
A win over Belfort would surely be the missing piece of the puzzle that would grant Bisping the title fight he’s long been shouting for, but stylistically it looks like a tough fight for him.
In the past the UK fighter has relied on his superior technical striking to outdo a string of heavy-handed opponents like Brian Stann, Jorge Rivera, Yoshihiro Akiyama and Chris Leben, but in Belfort he is coming up against someone who’s also an elite stand-up technician along with proven knockout power.
He’ll also be facing the Brazilian in his own backyard in front of the passionate Brazilian support so he has his work cut out for him, but it should be an exciting fight that generates added interest in UFC 156 which is expected to be headlined by an excellent featherweight title match-up between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar.