Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight rivals Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson will clash TONIGHT (Oct. 8, 2016) at the UFC 204 pay-per-view (PPV) event inside Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
After nearly a decade of toiling away with little forward progress, Bisping put together a quality win streak and captured the strap. Of course, there’s more to it than that — some still argue there should be a knockout loss in the middle of that streak — but Bisping nonetheless stands atop the mountain and will look to push his foe down the steps. Henderson’s legendary career will end tonight. The Olympian and knockout artist will put it all on the line opposite an old foe in the hopes of adding one last title to his impressive collection.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Key Wins: Luke Rockhold (UFC 199), Anderson Silva (UFC Fight Night 84), Thales Leites (UFC Fight Night 72), C.B. Dollaway (UFC 186), Brian Stann (UFC 152)
Key Losses: Luke Rockhold (UFC Fight Night 55),Tim Kennedy (TUF Nations Finale), Vitor Belfort (UFC on FX 7)
Keys to Victory: Bisping has really improved upon his kickboxing, finding some power and becoming a much harder man to hit. With 16 knockout wins to his credit, Bisping definitely has a real chance of finishing this bout.
Despite his opponent's age, this is not necessarily an easy match up for Bisping. Henderson's right hand is a massive game changer, and Bisping needs to find a way to work around that weapon. If he's content to kickbox at range, he'll probably win. He also might get blasted and embarrassed in front of his hometown crowd.
To give himself the best chance at success, Bisping should spend a lot of time kicking early. In Henderson's most recent loss, Belfort simply walked out and blasted him with a left high kick, and I expect Bisping will attempt to replicate that win.
Besides avoiding the boxing range, Bisping could look for a takedown. Henderson is far less effective of a wrestler than he once was, and Bisping has always been a consistent takedown artist. If he can get on top and wear "Hendo" down, the fight will quickly become simple for the Englishman.
Key Wins: Hector Lombard (UFC 199), Mauricio Rua (UFC 139 and UFC Fight Night 38), Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce: Fedor vs Henderson), Tim Boestch (UFC Fight Night 68)
Key Losses: Vitor Belfort (UFC Fight Night 77, UFC Fight Night 32), Gegard Mousasi (UFC on FOX 14), Lyoto Machida (UFC 157)
Keys To Victory: Henderson has evolved quite a bit over his 20-year career. While he relied on takedowns and top control early before moving to his monstrous right, Henderson has now become something of a counter puncher.
His only counter punch is the right hand, but that's all he needs.
Henderson's strategy in this bout seems pretty obvious. He's not going to chase Bisping down; that's exhausting. Instead, Henderson will wait for Bisping to come to him and wait on a hair trigger to drop the "H-Bomb." Simply to keep Bisping from getting too comfortable, Henderson should actively look to low kick as well. His low kicks may be a bit ugly, but he slammed his shin into Lombard's thigh a few times, and punishing kicks like those could motivate Bisping to exchange.
Bottom Line: It’s the oddest Middleweight title fight in recent memory.
Bisping’s ascension was more than unexpected, but now the question becomes how long he can hang onto his strap. He’s been handed something of a softball here — at least compared to "Jacare" or Weidman — and he’s the rightful favorite.
If he wins, he at least has one guaranteed defense before stepping into the Octagon with another truly elite Middleweight.
Alternatively, a second knockout loss to Henderson would be an incredibly bitter pill to swallow. To climb this high only to be shot down by a 46-year-old outside the Top 10 would be an odd, sad end for Bisping’s title reign. Meanwhile, Henderson has confirmed his plans to retire following this bout, meaning there’s little personal fallout. "Hendo" has accomplished so much that a UFC title would be a nice bonus, but it’s hardly make-or-break for his legacy.
TONIGHT at UFC 204, Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson will finally rematch. Which fighter will have his hand raised?