Heading into his 2012 fight campaign, Michael Bisping stood just one win away from a title shot against Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. Unfortunately, he suffered a major setback when Vitor Belfort popped him and dropped him earlier this year at the UFC on FX 7 event in Brazil.
Just a few months later, he found himself in the UFC 159 co-main event against Alan Belcher, which went down last Saturday night (April 27, 2013) from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. A loss would have not only knocked him out of the title race, perhaps for good, it might have relegated him to FUEL TV cards or obscure overseas events.
Sorry haters, he's not going anywhere just yet.
That's because "The Count" was able to make good on his pre-fight promise and outstrike "The Talent" for the better part of three rounds at "The Rock," and might have left little to talk about had he not pulled a Moe Howard and jammed his fingers in his opponent's eyes (see the slow motion replay here).
The end result was a technical unanimous decision win for Bisping.
His unusual but clear-cut victory over Belcher (watch it again here) puts him at 14-5 under the UFC banner and the "official" UFC rankings (see them here) have him sitting pretty at number four. It also helps that Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva -- two 185-pounders who hold previous wins over the brash Brit -- have recently graduated to light heavyweight.
Yushin Okami is ranked right above him, has just won his last fight, and has nothing to do this summer (hint, hint).
Bisping is not out of the woods just yet. While he didn't get sent to the back of the line after getting smoked by "The Phenom," he can't afford another loss to a contending middleweight. That pretty much sums up "Thunder's" situation, as well, which is why it's a match-up that makes sense.
And one less guy clogging up the mid card, the better.
What did we learn last night at UFC 159? Nothing we didn;t already know. Bisping is a good striker with outstanding conditioning and is a lot harder to put away than people think, despite two high-profile knockouts. You don't get to fight nearly 20 times in UFC by chance alone.
I also wouldn't mind seeing him against Mark Munoz, if "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" can turn away Tim Boetsch at UFC 162, which just so happens to be the same card where Anderson Silva will defend his division title against Chris Weidman.
Heck, if "The All American" can pull off the upset, then perhaps we can get that Bisping vs. "Spider" match-up after all. Whoever he ends up fighting, "The Count" has proven that he can win when he has to and for all intents and purposes, is here to stay. At least for now.
Whether you like it or not.
For all the results and fallout from UFC 159, including live results and play-by-play, click here. To follow our comprehensive story stream featuring recaps, highlights, reactions and more click here.