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UFC Fight Night 55 fight card: Michael Bisping vs Luke Rockhold fight preview

Top-ranked middleweight contenders Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping are looking to take another step towards the title this Friday (Nov. 7, 2014) at UFC Fight Night 55 inside Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia. With so much on the line, what adjustments must either man make to claim victory? Read our fight preview and find out!

Matt King

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold will finally scrap after lots of talking TONIGHT (Fri., Nov. 7, 2014) in the main event of UFC Fight Night 55 inside Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia.

With one of the most impressive resumes at 185 pounds, Rockhold is not far from a title shot. Though his eventual goals include avenging his loss to Vitor Belfort and claiming UFC gold, first on the Californian's list is to shut up a certain mouthy Englishman.

Bisping is the Middleweight division's perennial contender. However, he's not yet been able to overcome a Top 5-ranked opponent and earn his title shot, despite coming close a few times. At 35 years old, this could be Bisping's last opportunity should he lose.

Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each man.

Michael Bisping
Key Wins:
Brian Stann (UFC 152), Alan Belcher (UFC 159), Cung Le (UFC Fight Night 48)
Key Losses:
Tim Kennedy (TUF Nations Finale), Vitor Belfort (UFC on FX 7), Dan Henderson (UFC 100)
Keys to Victory:
Though his wrestling game has evolved quite a bit over the years, Bisping is primarily a kickboxer. Rather than load up on shots, Bisping relies on his excellent conditioning to slow wear out his opponent en route to a finish. Though he does not score clean, one-punch knockouts, Bisping has pounded out an impressive 15 opponents.

As mentioned, Bisping is probably not going to be able to consistently out-strike Rockhold. His opponent is too powerful and similarly technical for that. Nor is Bisping going to fatigue Rockhold with constant work, as the Californian has fought the full twenty-five minutes twice before and only got stronger late.

Basically, Bisping's usual game plan -- the style in which he's most comfortable fighting -- is not likely to be effective here. Taking a look at Bisping's skill set, he seems to have two options.

Wrestle or brawl.

Seeing as neither Souza nor Kennedy had success in taking or keeping Rockhold down, wrestling does not seem to be an option for "The Count." Therefore, Bisping needs to plant his feet, bite down on his mouth guard, and try to take Rockhold's head off.

It may not seem the most appealing choice, but it's Bisping's best chance for success.

Luke Rockhold
Record: 12-2
Key Wins: Ronaldo Souza (Strikeforce: Barnett vs Kharitonov), Tim Kennedy (Strikeforce: Rockhold vs Kennedy), Costas Philippou (UFC Fight Night 35)
Key Losses: Vitor Belfort (UFC on FX 8)
Keys to Victory: Rockhold is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the game. He's a black belt in jiu-jitsu, powerful kickboxer, and one of the finest defensive wrestlers in mixed martial arts (MMA).

He also has a habit of getting his opponent out of the cage quickly, with 10 of his 12 victories coming in the very first round.

If there's one thing Rockhold has struggled with, it's his striking defense. He's not bad defensively, but he's also not elite in that area. Both of his losses came via strikes, and "Jacare" Souza had most of his success rocking the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA)-trained product with punches.

Meanwhile, his opponent -- though a capable kickboxer -- has been mercilessly mocked for his lack of knockout power on Internet boards for as long as I can remember.

Simply put, Bisping is not really the type of fighter to trouble Rockhold. The Californian should have a noticeable advantage in just about every area except conditioning, which is likely a wash. That means that Rockhold can and will attack pretty viciously and try to get Bisping out of the cage early.

Outside of Kennedy and Souza -- an inhumanely tough fighter and positively volatile finisher -- Rockhold has blasted each of his opponents within a round. When Rockhold feels that he's not facing a fighter of elite caliber, he does not hold back in the slightest and tends to put violent beatings on his opponent.

Expect him to attempt to turn Bisping into his eleventh first round finish.

Bottom Line: Though this bout will not likely determine the next immediate title contender -- "Jacare" Souza has probably earned the next shot or will fight in a number one contender's match -- it will figure out who's second in line.

This is a fight that Rockhold is supposed to win; it's not common that a match between two top 10 fighters results in a five to one favorite. For Rockhold to get closer to the title, he needs to not only win, but do so in dominant fashion.

On the other hand, a loss would be absolutely crushing, worse than the Belfort knockout. Belfort has a history of making good fighters look unconscious and was likely aided by TRT. Bisping, meanwhile, has never really beaten a truly elite middleweight.

Rockhold does not want to be the first.

On the bright side, there's very little pressure on Bisping. As the underdog to a young up-and-comer, he's expected to lose more often than not. Were he to win, he might finally find himself in the cage with Anderson Silva, which has been a goal of his for quite some time.

A loss would once again prove that Bisping is not in the elite class of middleweights. He'd still remain in the top 10 and beat a majority of the UFC's 185-pound fighters, but he probably wouldn't get any more opportunities to step up.

At UFC Fight Night 55, Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping will look to silence each other. Which man will move forward in the middleweight division?

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