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.