Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights Michael Bisping and CB Dollaway will scrap this Saturday night (April 25, 2015) at the UFC 186 pay-per-view (PPV) inside Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Bisping has been struggling quite a bit lately, failing to put together consecutive victories since 2011. Admittedly, his losses have come to the division's top contenders.
Prior to his loss to Machida, Dollaway was intent on proving that he was one of the division's elite. He now has another chance to prove he deserves his position inside the top 10 and recover from that disappointing performance.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each fighter.
Key Wins: Brian Stann (UFC 152), Alan Belcher (UFC 159), Cung Le (UFC Fight Night 48)
Key Losses: Luke Rockhold (UFC Fight Night 55),Tim Kennedy (TUF Nations Finale), Vitor Belfort (UFC on FX 7)
Keys to Victory: Bisping is a high-volume kickboxer with excellent conditioning and strong defensive wrestling. While he's never had one-punch knockout power, Bisping has nevertheless worn his opponents down and secured 15 knockout wins.
This fight is largely a test of whether or not Bisping's skills have deteriorated. For years, his excellent takedown defense and even better scrambling ability kept his back off the mat. In those cases, Bisping was usually the superior striker and would out-work his opponent.
In short, Bisping's usual method of fighting -- light on his feet and frequently firing straight, quick punches -- should work well against Dollaway.
Before his loss to Tim Kennedy, Bisping had never been consistently controlled on the mat. Then, Kennedy simply dominated him in largely unexpected fashion.
If Bisping is out-wrestled similarly here, it's a clear signal that the Englishman is no longer at the top of his game. Dollaway is a talented fighter, but he's not a bigger takedown threat than Chael Sonnen, and Bisping repelled the vast majority of his attempts to wrestle back in 2012.
Key Wins: Francis Carmont (UFC Fight Night 41), Cezar Ferreira (UFC Fight Night 38), Daniel Sarafian (UFC on FX 7)
Key Losses: Lyoto Machida (UFC Fight Night 58), Mark Munoz (UFC on Versus 3)
Keys to Victory: Dollaway is a very talented wrestler, having earned All-American status at Arizona State University. In the last couple years, he's made major strides in his boxing, particularly in his counter striking.
In this fight, it's important for Dollaway to be able to adapt. He should definitely look to set up a takedown early on, but if it's very difficult to get or hold Bisping down, Dollaway should probably forget about his wrestling altogether.
If it's strenuous to wrestle Bisping, Dollaway will get tired too quickly to have continued success.
Should Dollaway find his opponent's defensive wrestling is up to snuff, "The Doberman" should then pressure his foe with punches. Bisping is likely the more technical striker, but he doesn't have the power of his opponent.
Overall, Bisping has looked a bit fragile in the last year or so. Dollaway, on the other hand, has been in some real scraps and largely come out on top. Add in the fact that Dollaway seems to be in the middle of his prime while Bisping is exiting his, and there are definitely some factors that favor Dollaway.
It's up to him to pressure Bisping with either takedowns or punches -- depending on where he feels the Englishman is weakest -- and use them to his favor.
Bottom Line: Both of these fighters are on the fringe of the top 10 and are fighting to stay inside it.
Bisping hasn't been able to find consistent success for a few years now, and his last couple of losses have been particularly brutal. If he comes up short against Dollaway -- who brings a skill set that Bisping has handled effectively in the past -- it's quite likely that Bisping will continue to slide down the rankings.
On the other hand, a victory secures Bisping's position. His recent defeats have made it clear that he's not going to contend for the title any time soon, but Bisping draws plenty of eyes to his fights. If he wins, Bisping likely has another couple years of major fights ahead of him.
Despite getting demolished by Lyoto Machida, Dollaway has generally looked very good. If he defeats Bisping, "The Doberman" proves that he has, in fact, turned over a new leaf and deserves his ranking. It's still unlikely that he'll end up battling for the title or even a chance to fight for it, but he would secure some high-level match ups.
Should Dollaway fall to his opponent, talk of him being in the top 10 is at an end. He'll still be a ranked fighter, but it's likely that he'll be shifted into a lower-gatekeeper role.
At UFC 186, Michael Bisping and CB Dollaway will battle to remain relevant in the middleweight division. Which fighter will earn the victory?