The waiting was probably not the hardest part.
After years of campaigning for the fight, Michael Bisping will finally get a chance to square off against former Middleweight champion Anderson Silva in the main event of UFC Fight Night 84, which takes place this Saturday afternoon (Feb. 27, 2016) inside O2 Arena in London, Engalnd.
The UFC Fight Pass-only show will also see Gegard Mousasi and Thales Leites look to put their recent struggles behind them, while Francisco Rivera squares off with Brad Pickett in a terrific Bantamweight scrap.
The whole thing, nine "Prelims" undercard matches included, can be found on Fight Pass. We gobbled down the early appetizers yesterday right here. Today, we ingest the rest of the dish.
145 lbs.: Makwan Amirkhani vs. Mike Wilkinson
Makwan Amirkhani (12-2) -- currently the only man to defeat super prospect Tom Duquesnoy -- has been more or less flawless in UFC, where he’s scored two finishes in less than two minutes combined. "Mr. Finland" began his tenure in the promotion with an eight-second knockout of Andy Ogle, then followed that up with a rapid submission of Ultimate Fighter: Latin America competitor Masio Fullen in Germany.
He has submitted nine opponents overall.
Mike Wilkinson (9-1) scored one of 2014’s biggest upsets with a one-punch knockout of Swedish sensation Niklas Backstrom, earning a "Performance of the Night" bonus in the process. Injury kept him out of action for all of 2015, which makes this his first fight in 15 months.
He will give up three inches of height to the 5’11" Amirkhani.
This fight essentially boils down to one question: Whether or not Wilkinson can stay on his feet. If he can, he’s got enough pop in his hands to do real damage to "Mr. Finland." If he can’t, Amirkhani’s aggressive submission game is more than enough to dispose of him in a hurry.
I’m leaning toward the Finn.
Wilkinson has been out of action for far too long to survive against someone with Amirkhani’s knack for quick submissions. Expect the Finn to lock up something in transition sometime in the first round.
Prediction: Amirkhani by first-round submission
135 lbs.: Davey Grant vs. Marlon Vera
As Team Ronda Rousey’s second pick on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18, Davey Grant (8-2) submitted Louis Fisette in the quarterfinals, then got a free ride past the semifinals when Anthony Gutierrez failed to make weight. He has not fought since losing to Chris Holdsworth on the Finale, as bouts with Roland Delorme and Douglas Silva de Andrade both fell through.
He has submitted eight opponents, all by form of choke.
Marlon Vera (9-2-1) stopped Enrique Briones in the elimination round of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America, only to be forced out due to a skin infection before the semifinals. In UFC itself, he has dropped an upset decision to Marcio Antonio Beltran and submitted Roman Salazar.
"Chito" has submitted five opponents overall and knocked out another.
Vera seems to have the classic issue of quality Brazilian jiu-jitsu without the wrestling to properly utilize it. The number of guys he’s going to be able to tap off of his back in the modern Bantamweight division are few and far between.
Grant, two-year layoff notwithstanding, does not number among them.
The fight will likely boil down to a takedown battle, a facet of the game in which I favor Grant. Barring cardio difficulties or severe ring rust, he ought to be able to defuse Vera’s bottom game for either a decision win or mid-round submission.
Prediction: Grant via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Scott Askham vs. Chris Dempsey
England’s Scott Askham (13-2) rebounded from his UFC debut loss to Magnus Cedenblad with a brutal first-round knockout of Antonio dos Santos, his eighth career (technical) knockout victory. Four months later, he faced Krzysztof Jotko in Dublin, Ireland, only to lose a narrow decision to the Polish grinder.
At 6’3," he stands five inches taller than Chris Dempsey (11-3).
Following a crushing knockout loss in his short-notice debut opposite Ilir Latifi, Dempsey overcame 3:1 odds to upset Eddie Gordon by decision. The underdog story was not to last, as he suffered a 50-second knockout loss to Johnathan Wilson his next time out.
He has stopped five opponents, three of them via knockout.
Askham’s still only twenty-seven, so he’s got time to develop, but he’ll need to beef up his defensive wrestling in a hurry if he wants to make an impact in a crowded division like this one. Luckily, even his current skill set is more than enough to take out Dempsey, who lacks the durability necessary to grind Askham down without going to sleep.
The Englishman’s knees and punches, combined with his massive edge in height and length, ought to be way too much for Dempsey’s meat-and-potato wrestling. Askham throttles him sometime in the first round.
Prediction: Askham via first-round knockout
145 lbs.: Arnold Allen vs. Yaotzin Meza
Arnold Allen (10-1) entered UFC on a two-fight win streak, but found himself two rounds in the hole against Alan Omer in his promotional debut. The twenty-two-year-old managed to pull off the comeback, securing his third career submission finish partway through the third.
"Almighty" has knocked out five opponents and lost only to recent TUF competitor Marcin Wrzosek.
Yaotzin Meza (21-10) returned to the Featherweight division last April, taking a decision over Damian Stasiak in the latter’s native Poland. He had slightly less luck three months later against Sam Sicilia, who used his superior size and wrestling to take a unanimous decision.
He owns 12 wins by stoppage, seven of them submissions.
Allen, in all likelihood, has a significantly higher ceiling than Meza, but I’m not sure he can avoid the grind. Though Meza spent some time at bantamweight, Allen doesn’t cut much weight, so they should be relatively close in size. Meza’s got solid submission defense, decent takedowns, and a relentless approach that ought to pay dividends here.
Meza, as poor a finisher as he is, can be a nuisance of impressive proportions. Expect him to employ constant takedowns and top pressure en route to a decision victory.
Prediction: Meza via unanimous decision
There are some solid fights and it leaves your Saturday evening free for all kinds of debauchery. What's not to like?
See you there, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 84 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. ET, before the Fight Pass main card start time at 4 p.m. ET.