UFC 207: Cruz vs Garbrandt Preview

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Cruz and Garbrandt will square off in the co-main event at UFC 207.

Dominick Cruz’s (22-1) long and storied career will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest in the sport of mixed martial arts. Despite a slew of injury layoffs and the best efforts of Urijah Faber and the supporting cast at Team Alpha Male, the 135lb champion has remained at the very top of the bantamweight division since its inception into the UFC.

His compelling rivalry and subsequent trilogy of fights with Faber was largely responsible for bantamweight fighters having the opportunity to fight on the biggest stage in MMA. And although Ronda Rousey’s return in UFC 207’s main event is grabbing all the mainstream headlines, Cruz’s bantamweight title fight against Cody ‘No Love’ Garbrandt (10-0) (the latest challenger from Team Alpha Male) is the one that’s generating all the buzz within the MMA community.

A New Challenge

As far as challengers go, Garbrandt is truly unique. His technical ability as a boxer coupled with the sheer power he possesses in his hands is enough to force Cruz into adapting his usual fighting style. The bantamweight champion is famed for his ability to get out of the way of his opponents combinations, but both Faber and TJ Dillashaw had success landing shots on the break from the clinch, or on the way out of exchanges.

While not ideal, this chink in his otherwise seemingly impenetrable armour never proved to be costly against other fighters. However, when faced with the power of Garbrandt, this is a risk that the ‘Dominator’ would be foolish to take.

Cody has won all but one of his fights by way of knockout or TKO, with 7 of those coming in the very first round. The danger posed by his crisp, quick and powerful hands is compounded by his teasing feints and intelligent footwork, making the 25-year-old one of the most dangerous and well-rounded strikers in the bantamweight division.

The most fearsome weapon in his arsenal is his left hook. He uses it extremely effectively on the counter or as the follow up to a straight right when he’s moving forward. The efficiency with which he throws it makes it supremely difficult for his opponent to see it coming, which means that Cruz would do very well to stay on the outside and out of Garbrandt’s boxing range for as long as he can.

Unpredictability

Luckily for the champ though, getting out of the way is something he does better than almost anyone in the sport. Garbrandt may very well be the bull in this scenario, but if anyone can effectively play the role of matador inside the cage then it’s Dominick Cruz.

The unpredictability of his highly unorthodox style of movement makes it almost impossible to replicate in the gym. His ability to cut angles and shoot off into space has been the keystone of his success throughout his career and has meant that despite lacking real knockout power, he is one of the most dangerous men at 135lbs.

Prediction

For Cody, the only way he wins this fight is by KO/TKO. He’ll be most dangerous early on, but still has the cardio to generate knockout power in the later rounds of the fight as well. However, if the fight goes the distance then I really can’t see a way that Garbrandt will have the technical wherewithal to out-point the champion.

UFC 202: Diaz vs McGregor 2 Preview

Diaz mounts McGregorIreland’s Conor McGregor and Stockton’s finest Nate Diaz will once again come face to face inside the octagon at UFC 202 on Saturday night (20th August).

When Nate Diaz (19-10) slid his arm under the chin of a badly beaten Conor McGregor (19-3) back in March at UFC 196, everyone knew what was coming but nobody was quite ready to believe it. With a few reluctant taps of his hand, Conor McGregor relinquished his undefeated UFC record and for the first time since he broke onto the world stage, his supporters fell silent.

MMA fans across the world were left staring slack-jawed at their television screens trying to comprehend how McGregor – whose sharp tongue had convinced many he was invincible – had somehow lost. For Nate Diaz though, this wasn’t an upset, it was just another day at the office.

As he stepped back into the centre of the octagon to give his post-fight interview, the younger of the two Diaz brothers snatched the microphone from Joe Rogan, stared deep into the barrel of the camera and uttered the now infamous phrase, “I’m not surprised, motherfuckers”.

Fast forward five and a half months and we’re on the precipice of the rematch. The bout was initially scheduled to headline UFC 200 in July, but a disagreement between McGregor’s camp and the UFC got the fight pulled from the card – with the Irishman even teasing retirement on Twitter and subsequently breaking the internet.

Now the rivals will face off once again on Saturday (20th August) at UFC 202 in Las Vegas. The major difference between this and the last fight is that Diaz will have the luxury of a full camp to prepare. However, because of the media circus that surrounds a McGregor bout, that time has been eaten into by a slew of press obligations – something the Stockton native has never experienced on such a large scale.

For McGregor, facing an opponent with whom he shares an even remotely similar level of fame is a break in itself. The featherweight champion has taken a noticeable step out of the spotlight in the lead up to this one in order to give himself sufficient time to prepare. He’s even admitted that this is the first time he’s prepared for a specific opponent because, in his words, ‘they all usually pull out’.

The First Fight

In the first fight it was pretty obvious that Conor was winning until he got tired. You can’t really blame him for fighting the way he did, either. Like he always does, he pressured Diaz and threw a barrage of different strikes in the hope that he’d go down in the same fashion as pretty much all of his previous opponents.

However, he was fighting a slightly heavier guy with a notoriously granite chin, so his best shots weren’t causing the damage he was hoping for. By the time he realised this he’d managed to gas himself out and he just broke mentally. He’d hit Nate with everything he had for just over a round, but Nate was still there eating his shots, firing back and goading him on.

Diaz, a typically slow starter anyway, stepped up a gear when he realised McGregor was tired. He found his range and started hitting him with that classic jab and cross combo that he pops off his wrist so well with pretty much no wind up.

After eating a handful of those McGregor decided to shoot for an optimistic double leg takedown, which is where it really started to go to shit for him. Diaz tried to lock in a guillotine, which to his credit, Conor managed to escape from.

However, in doing so he let Diaz get into side control where he expertly slid into mount before McGregor rolled and gave up his back. All that was left to do for Nate then was soften him up with a punch and lock in the rear-naked choke.

This Time Around

If ‘The Notorious One’ wants to avenge his defeat to Stockton’s finest then he’s going to have to prepare for a much longer fight. Diaz has only been knocked out once in his career so it’s going to take a lot to finish him.

We can fully expect Conor to implement the same sort of aggressive game plan, simply because he doesn’t know how to do anything else. But this time he’s going to have to acknowledge the fact that there’s a very real possibility the fight could last all five rounds.

One technique that McGregor might want to implement more this time around is kicks to Diaz’s front leg. Nate had a pretty difficult time dealing with these in his fight against Dos Anjos because he has such a wide boxing stance. As well as hurting his lead leg it will also go some way towards preventing him from finding any sort of rhythm to land combinations.

For Diaz, it’s likely we’ll see more of the same as well. He’ll start slow while he looks to find his range before he starts trying to land a few softer warning shots to show McGregor’s he’s got him figured out.

To compliment his boxing Diaz would be wise to use his massively underrated clinch game. That way he can grind some of the stamina out of McGregor while also preventing him from staying in kickboxing range where he’s most effective.

Prediction – Diaz by submission

As much as it sounds like a cop out, I’m really struggling to pick a winner here. McGregor has already made adjustments in his camp to make sure he is more specifically prepared to fight Nate this time around, so you’d think he’ll rectify some of the mistakes he made last time out. However, Nate has had a full training camp to prepare for this fight – a luxury he was not afforded in their first showdown.

I keep flipping between the two but as I’m writing this I’m edging ever so slightly in favour of Nate – purely because historically rematches often go the same way as the first fight. However, he is fighting a formidable opponent in McGregor so I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him get the win back.

UFC 201: Lawler vs Woodley Preview

LawlerUFC welterweight champion ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler will defend his belt for the third time against fellow American Top Team fighter Tyron Woodley on Saturday night (30th July) at UFC 201 in Atlanta, Georgia.

In a sport renowned for its moments of violence, Robbie Lawler (27-10, 1 N/C) stands out above most for his ability to get involved in brutal fights. The champion’s 15-year journey from hot-prospect to world champion has been decidedly unconventional, but the 34-year-old Californian has never been one for doing things the easy way.

Like expensive cheese, Lawler is a fighter that has most certainly improved with age. His willingness to stand and trade with opponents earned him some impressive knockouts early in his career, but more technical and well-rounded foes often managed to pick him apart with his inability to fight on the ground often being highlighted.

However, since making his return to the UFC and the welterweight division in 2013, ‘Ruthless’ has won eight of his last nine against world class opposition – a feat that has earned him the 170lb belt and the number four spot in the pound-for-pound rankings.

His opponent, Tyron Woodley (15-3), is a man who has patiently been biding his time for a shot at UFC gold. The NCAA Division I wrestler last stepped foot into the octagon in January 2015 where he earned a close split decision victory over Kelvin Gastelum.

Woodley was scheduled to fight former champion Johny Hendricks at UFC 192 in October 2015, but when Hendricks pulled out due to complications with his weight cut, Woodley took the bold step of deciding not to accept another fight unless it was for the belt – a move that surprisingly paid off.

The match-up

Woodley’s best chance of winning this fight is to knock the champion out in the first round. His two biggest weapons are his right hand and his quick double-leg takedown – both of which rely heavily on explosiveness.  As the fight wears on he runs the risk of becoming tired and predictable, whereas Lawler will only become more dangerous.

You can also expect to see Woodley throwing kicks with his right leg. Lawler has had trouble dealing with leg kicks in the past and Woodley should be able to throw them freely without the fear of being taken down.

Aside from the striking, his other option is to try and out-wrestle Lawler for the first couple of rounds in a bid to tire him out. Woodley comes from a decorated collegiate wrestling background and he’s definitely got the size to keep the champion on the mat if he can get him there.

However, it’s getting him there that will prove challenging. Over the years Lawler has developed phenomenal defensive wresting which helped him to continually stuff the takedowns of high-level wrestlers in Johny Hendricks and Rory MacDonald.

Lawler’s Striking

The champion’s most effective weapon is without a doubt his combinations. Those who say that Lawler isn’t an elite striker clearly haven’t been watching closely over the last few years as he’s evolved.

Early in his career Lawler was winning some fights based purely on his sheer will to break opponents. That threat has now been compounded by a newfound ability to cut angles and land hard, clean shots. He’s also very good at naturally moving his head off the centre line which means he often slips punches without even realising he’s doing it.

What makes him especially unique though is that he’s a southpaw who’s naturally right-handed. This means that although his power hand is his left, his right-handed jab is an extremely effective weapon.

When fighting an orthodox fighter (like Woodley) he’ll close the distance by throwing the right jab and getting his right foot on the outside. A lot of the time this will end up forcing his opponent’s head directly into the path of the oncoming straight left.

Prediction – Lawler by unanimous decision

Lawler’s not getting any younger and with the damage he’s taken over his career it’s only a matter of time before we start to see some decline. It’s these two factors, combined with Woodley’s power, that make an early knockout in favour of the challenger a very real possibility.

However, if we see the Lawler that we’re used to seeing on Saturday night then it’s hard to imagine him not retaining his belt. His striking ability and long list of intangibles have made him one of the most fearsome and entertaining fighters in the UFC today, and for that reason I think we’ll see him pick up a unanimous decision victory.

 

 

 

UFC 200: Hendricks vs Gastelum Preview

Hendricks
Johny Hendricks has a point to prove against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 200.

With all the hype surrounding the main card going into UFC 200 it’s easy to forget that the prelims are also playing host to some pretty interesting match-ups. One particular fight that stands out is the welterweight showdown between the division’s former champion Johny Hendricks (17-4) and The Ultimate Fighter season 17 winner, Kelvin Gastelum (11-2).

A win for either fighter could be the catalyst that kick starts a run at the 170lb title. However, given that both men are coming off losses, another defeat would be a major setback – especially for Hendricks who at 32-years-old might have to give up on a shot at regaining the belt.

Hendricks was easily dispatched by Stephen Thompson in his last fight and so another loss at the hands of one of the division’s rising stars in Gastelum could put the writing on the wall for ‘Big Rig’s’ career.

For Gastelum, the repercussions of a loss might not be quite so absolute, but they certainly won’t help him. Both of the 24-year-old’s defeats have been narrow split decisions, the latest of which was against Neil Mangy in Mexico last November.

If he loses again on Saturday it could force him to reconsider his future at welterweight where, like Hendricks, he’s had trouble making weight in the past.

The Match-Up

The first thing to point out about these two fighters is that they’re essentially both wrestlers with heavy hands. However, that’s a description that tars two unique fighters with the same brush and doesn’t do justice to the real range of techniques that these guys bring to an MMA fight.

When it comes to the striking, Hendricks’ biggest threat is his absolute bomb of a left hand. You only have to look as far as his highlight reel knockouts of Martin Kampmann and Jon Fitch to notice that. Where he is limited is in his range of techniques.

Gastelum might not carry quite as much power in his hands as Hendricks but his variety of strikes is a lot better. If he can fight intelligently and avoid getting into a swinging match with ‘Big Rig’ then he should have the advantage on the feet.

Where Hendricks will be more effective is with his grappling. Gastelum has used his wrestling effectively throughout his career but he’s yet to face someone with the credentials of Hendricks. The two-time NCAA collegiate wrestling champion wrestles as well as anybody inside the octagon, and although Gastelum will make it hard, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the former champion land a takedown or two (or three, or four…or five).

Once on the mat both fighters are more than capable of finishing the fight. Gastelum is far more dangerous than Hendricks when it comes to submissions but Hendricks should be able to nullify that threat as long as he’s on top.

Fans should expect this one to go the distance. If the fight stays on the feet then Gastelum should be able to do enough to earn the decision. However, it’s far more likely that we’ll see Hendricks grind away at Gastelum by out-wrestling him and trying to stay on top. It might not be the prettiest fight but the former champion should be able to do enough to get his hand raised and begin his journey back to the top of the division.

Prediction: Hendricks via unanimous decision.

UFC 200: Jon Jones USADA Bust Reaction

Jon Jones

After digesting what feels like a lifetime’s worth of promotional material, fight fans across the globe are finally rubbing their hands together in anticipation of perhaps the most insane fight card MMA has ever seen. We always knew UFC 200 was going to be a huge event but Dana White and the UFC’s primary matchmakers, Joe Silva and Sean Shelby, have put together a fight card that promises to excite from the very beginning.

The paragraph above is something I wrote yesterday before the iron fist of USADA (United States Anti Doping Agency) came crashing down on Jon Jones’ tiny, stupid head. With the anticipation and naivety of a small child I spent the day tapping away at my keyboard, writing about the impending second fight between Jones and the current light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. I fell asleep a happy man with the intention of uploading the article this morning. Then, lo and behold, I wake up to the news that Jones has been pulled from the card due to an alleged anti-doping violation. *repeatedly bangs head*

The injustice I felt at essentially wasting a day burnt up inside of me to the point where I very nearly considered not writing anything at all about this glorious week of fights. Everything else felt frivolous if these two bitter enemies weren’t going to cap it all off by going toe-to-toe inside the octagon. I, like fight fans around the world, had eagerly lapped up hours of promotional content in the lead up to the event and for what? For Jon Jones, perhaps the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, to piss it all up the wall – that’s what.

I felt exhausted and betrayed so turned to Twitter for some light relief and more news on the story as it was breaking. It was at this point, after throwing my self-righteous (and well-deserved in my opinion) tantrum, that I turned my thoughts to Jones’ opponent, Daniel Cormier.

Daniel Cormier is the nicest man in the whole wide world. There I said it. He’s the sort of man who finds out his wife is having an affair but doesn’t say anything because he doesn’t want to upset her. He never steps out of line, always plays by the book and I bet his neighbours love him. However, despite all of this, when put on a stage next to Jones – the man who has literally fucked up more times than anyone else in the sport – he will be booed like a pantomime villain.

On top of that, and on a much more serious note, it’s now looking like he’ll lose millions of dollars because Jones either doesn’t check what’s in his supplements, or because he’s knowingly consumed something more sinister. The trickle-down effect of this means that because of Jones’ incompetence, not only will Cormier and his family go without the payday they deserve, but so will all of his coaches.

It’s unclear what Jones’ punishment will be for this slip up, but as Dana White acknowledged in the emergency press conference called last night, USADA may very well slap him with a two year ban. If that’s the case, I for one can’t see Jones sticking around. But if he does (and it’s a big ‘but’) it’s unlikely the UFC will continue to keep giving ‘second’ chances.

The new main event will be a three round bout between Brock Lesnar and Mark Hunt – a fight that is happening for literally no reason whatsoever. The rest of the UFC 200 card is obviously still insanely good, but it doesn’t really make up for the fact that Jon Jones has managed to prevent this rematch from happening…again.

UFC Fight Night Ottawa: MacDonald vs Thompson Preview

The UFC heads to Ottawa for the first time on Saturday night (18th June) for a welterweight showdown between the Canadian Rory MacDonald and Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. A win would see either fighter thrust into the number one contender spot but for MacDonald there could be even more at stake…

The UFC’s welterweight division has got a reputation for being one of the most talent-stacked and exciting divisions in combat sports. Dominant champions such as Georges St. Pierre and Matt Hughes have consistently been at the centre of some of this young sport’s biggest moments, meaning that the pressure from fans for fighters to perform can be pretty high.

You could forgive the current crop of 170lb fighters then for struggling to live up to the dizzyingly high expectations set by their legendary predecessors. However, a quick scan of the division’s top ten throws up a ton of mouth-watering match ups – the most exciting being right at the top of the division between  #1 ranked brawler Rory MacDonald and #2 ranked karate and kickboxing prodigy Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.

Following in the footsteps of his Tristar team mate, mentor and fellow Canadian Georges St. Pierre, Rory was tipped by many to be the new face of the 170lb division when he made his UFC debut against Mike Guymon aged just 21-years-old. Following a loss to Carlos Condit in his second UFC bout MacDonald went on to win eight of his next ten fights – thus cementing himself as a serious title threat at welterweight.

There is one man in the division who MacDonald is yet to overcome, though. Both of the two defeats he has suffered in his last ten fights have come at the hands of the division’s current champion ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler – the most recent of which was one of the most brutal and bloody title fights we’ve ever seen inside the Octagon at UFC 189 in July last year (I implore you to watch that fight if you’ve not seen it).

The big question going into the fight with ‘Wonderboy’ then is if Rory will come back the same fighter after the damage he sustained in that last fight. There’s no question that the Canadian has the tools and the ability to overcome Thompson – but we’ve seen plenty of fighters return from brutal beatings without the same mental edge plenty of times before.

He needs to dictate the pace of the fight by closing the distance with his boxing before taking Thompson to the mat where he has multiple ways to finish the fight. Getting ‘Wonderboy’ to the mat though has been something that even some of the best wrestlers in the division have failed to do.

Thompson fights long with a very unique side-on karate stance that gives his opponent barely anything to shoot at when going for a takedown – meaning that getting hold of both of his legs is almost impossible. In his last fight against Johny Hendricks, ‘Wonderboy’ dismantled him with kicks and punches and barely allowed the former champion close enough to land a punch, never mind a takedown.

That’s why it’s important for Rory to come out very fast if he wants to win this fight. Letting Thompson get into a rhythm with his kicks is just about the worst thing he could do as it allows him to slowly pick his opponent apart.

Free Agency

A win for either fighter would surely see them pitted against the winner of Lawler vs Woodley for a shot at the belt. However, with Rory on the last fight of his contract a win would give him unique leverage when he tests the free agency market – something a fighter of his calibre has never done before.

This scenario would give the UFC a very big headache should he demand a huge payday. The idea of letting the division’s number one contender walk away and sign for Bellator is unfathomable from a fan’s perspective, especially if it prevents a third fight with Lawler from taking place. Letting him leave would also arguably be the first time an elite fighter in his prime has snubbed the UFC for a rival promotion, and I can assure you that the UFC absolutely do not want that to happen.

Whether Rory wins or loses, you can be certain that Bellator will table a huge offer in an attempt to lure the Canadian to fight for them. Althoug fans want to see Lawler vs MacDonald 3, most would agree that the next best thing would be a clash between Rory and the current Bellator welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov – a man who convincingly defeated Benson Henderson in his most recent title defence.

What’s next for UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping?

bisping

In a sport where one clean strike can adjust the course of a fight, it seems somehow surprising that fans, fighters and the media alike are so often left staring slack-jawed at a perceived ‘upset’ inside the cage. Back at UFC 69 in 2007, when Matt Serra managed to finish Georges St. Pierre to win the welterweight belt, the MMA world was shaken to its core. Then, some six years later, Chris Weidman knocked out a showboating Anderson Silva at UFC 162 to win the middleweight crown and once again the MMA world was in disarray.

Recently though, these upsets seem to be more and more commonplace. First there was Holly Holm’s thunderous head kick at UFC 193 that derailed the Ronda Rousey hype train. Then there was the short right hook of a back-peddling Stipe Miocic that stopped Fabricio Werdum in his tracks at UFC 198 to win the heavyweight title. Now however, we have a whole new upset to talk about.

On Saturday (4th June), Michael Bisping became the first British fighter to wear UFC gold after knocking out his long-standing rival Luke Rockhold. At around three-and-a-half minutes into the first round Bisping landed a left that knocked the champion to the canvas before swarming him with a tirade of punches as the dazed Rockhold tried to stumble back to his feet. The fight was over and Bisping, a ten year veteran of the UFC, had finally realised what he described as his ‘destiny’.

What’s next for ‘The Count’?

With the middleweight division being pretty top heavy there are a few fighters who could be considered for his first title defence. The obvious choice is a trilogy fight between him and Rockhold. They’re one a piece now and each fighter holds a finish over the other. A third fight would decide the better fighter and give the two men the opportunity to put their differences behind them – although considering the bickering in Saturday’s post-fight press conference I wouldn’t bet on it.

The other two contenders are former champion Chris Weidman – who will undoubtedly be itching to get his belt back – and Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza who’s coming off an incredible first round TKO win over another former champion in Vitor Belfort.

However, Weidman’s still waiting on some pretty serious neck surgery and although he’s suggested he’ll be back in time to fight at UFC 205 at Madison Square Gardens in November, it wouldn’t be surprising if an injury of that nature keeps him side-lined for much longer. The next option then is Jacare, who Dana White admitted would have been the UFC’s first choice to replace Weidman at UFC 199 had the Brazilian not picked up a slight knee injury at UFC 198 in his win over Belfort.

Jacare, who has won nine of his last ten fights, is due a UFC title shot but that’s a fight that’s a lot more difficult for the UFC to promote than Bisping vs Rockhold 3 due to Jacare’s inability to speak English and the lack of a rivalry between the pair. The UFC measures itself by pay-per-view buys and as attractive as Bisping vs Jacare is for fight fans, a trilogy fight between Bisping and Rockhold is sure to move the needle a hell of a lot more.

 

UFC 199: Can Michael Bisping beat Luke Rockhold?

BISPING_MICHAEL

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.

Remain focused

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: