When Michael Bisping and Brian Stann step inside the Octagon later tonight (Sept. 22, 2012) at UFC 152 from the Air Canada Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, it will be a battle for the winner to crack into the top five of the Middleweight division contender pack.
In the wake of a credible performance in losing a decision to Chael Sonnen, Bisping finds himself again rebuilding and working his way toward a title shot. Stann, steamrolled by Sonnen in a bout that exposed his susceptibility to a world-class wrestling, has evidenced steady improvement since coming over from the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC).
As both tend to prefer a stand up bout, this one should take place mainly the feet, though Bisping's takedowns can be readily overlooked. Despite what both fighters might want you to believe, neither fighter will be ready for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva just yet, but it definitely sets the winner up for a potential title elimination bout, depending on how the rest of the division's chips fall over the next few months.
Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 152 main card 185-pound showdown between Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann:The Breakdown
Stann's big edge in punching power could be an asset, or a liability, as Bisping's resilience and ability to keep his head in tough situations are well-proven. If Stann decides to press the action early, which is exactly kind of fight he needs to make given their respective tools and styles, Bisping is likely to win a close distance fight.
Another key factor could be takedowns, especially late in the rounds, where nip-and-tuck stand up action leaves little for judges to choose from. From a tactical perspective, Bisping is pretty good at this, almost always remembering to close a round hard to sway the judges. He's also had much more experience in tough bouts against world-class competition, which is something Stann lacks.
Bisping is extremely tough to finish, and given's Stann's lack of takedowns to dominate the action -- as Rashad Evans and Sonnen did against "The Count" -- he will be forced into a stand up bout. Bisping puts emphasis on speed and combinations with technique instead of a brute-force, aggressive approach, and it serves him well with the judges.
Look for a tense feeling-out round with Bisping used movement, angles and his reach advantage to forge an early lead. Stann's big power and explosiveness could create an opening for a finish, but Bisping will survive when necessary and go right back to the game plan.
Stann's improvement in recent fights has been dramatic, but it's hard to see Bisping losing this one, as he flits in and out, piles up points, and survives a wild moment or two en route to a unanimous decision.
Prediction: Bisping via unanimous decision
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Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst.