Since winning season three of The Ultimate Fighter almost ten years ago, Michael Bisping has consistently occupied a place in the upper echelons of the UFC rankings. The Cyprus-born, Lancashire-raised middleweight is the most prominent of only a handful of British fighters to fight in the UFC, and is undoubtedly partly responsible for the rapid surge in popularity the UFC has achieved in the European market.
It comes as a little bit of a shock then to think that Saturday (4th June) will be the first time that ‘The Count’ will be involved in a title fight. In the main event at UFC 199 in Los Angeles, Bisping will square off against middleweight champion Luke Rockhold after Chris Weidman – the man from whom Rockhold won his belt at UFC 194 in December – pulled out of the rematch due to a pretty serious neck injury.
The odds are understandably stacked in favour of Rockhold, but an upset isn’t as unfeasible as some people might have you believe. Here are four things Bisping needs to do if he wants to walk away with UFC gold on Saturday:
Don’t let Rockhold take the fight to the ground
Bisping needs to avoid a grappling match at all costs if he wants to win this fight. Rockhold is an extremely high level grappler as well as a jiu-jitsu black belt. He’s a master when it comes to scrambling and can submit guys from pretty much anywhere – something he’s proven in three of his biggest UFC wins to date against Tim Boetsch, Lyoto Machida and none other than Bisping himself in their first fight back in November 2014.
Get in and get out
Bisping is known for throwing a barrage of strikes (most significant strikes landed in UFC history) and that’s something he’ll need to do in this fight to try and overwhelm the champion. He’ll do his best work if he can get on the inside, land a few clean strikes and then get well out of Rockhold’s range. However, that’s a lot easier said than done when you consider Rockhold’s 6’3” frame and his five inch reach advantage.
When Michael Bisping is focused on the task at hand he can be an absolute machine. When he’s not though, things can start to go south very quickly. During the Anderson Silva fight Bisping was dismantling the former champion until his mouthpiece came out at the end of the third round. He then turned his attention to remonstrating with referee Herb Dean and as a result received a brutal flying knee to the face which very nearly cost him the fight as well as the structural integrity of his face.
Try and finish it early
Although he insists he’s in great shape, Bisping is well aware that taking the fight on two-and-a-half weeks’ notice means his cardio won’t be at the same level as the champion’s. The Brit therefore needs to come out firing from the very start in order to make sure the job is done before he gasses himself out.
Watch the UFC 199 press conference: