It wasn't that long ago when Anderson Silva was A) middleweight champion of the world and B) the top pound-for-pound fighter in all of mixed martial arts (MMA). That's why the idea of him fighting anywhere but the main event of a UFC pay-per-view (PPV) was borderline heresy.
And yet here we are gearing up for a Saturday afternoon contest that can only be seen by way of UFC Fight Pass, which is the Hollywood equivalent of going direct-to-video. Blame Chris Weidman, Father Time, or that shady guy from Thailand who peddles penis pills.
Either way, here we are.
Waiting to squish "The Spider" in the UFC Fight Night 84 main event, which goes down tomorrow (Sat., Feb. 27, 2016) inside O2 Arena in London, England, is Michael Bisping, who wanted to fight Silva his entire career but was never good enough to land a division title shot.
In short, "The Count" had to wait for Silva to come down, since he was unable to move up.
That makes a loss devastating for either fighter, at least in terms of their relevancy at 185 pounds. Perhaps the same can be said for Gegard Mousasi, a talented fighter who came into UFC with very high expectations, but failed to meet any of them after a ho-hum 4-3 run.
His performance against the durable Thales Leites will say a lot about his Octagon future.
With that in mind, let's take a closer look at the UFC Fight Night 84 main card, which also showcases a compelling welterweight showdown between Tom Breese and Keita Nakamura, as well as a bantamweight bangfest pitting Francisco Rivera opposite Brad Pickett.
185 lbs.: Anderson "The Spider" Silva (33-6) vs. Michael "The Count" Bisping (27-7)
Nostradumbass predicts: Anderson Silva turns 41 in April and has not had a commanding performance since a 2012 drubbing over Stephan Bonnar. A pair of losses to Chris Weidman would follow, as did a sparring match with a puffed-up welterweight in the form of Nick Diaz.
Diaz, who at one point took a nap on the canvas just for laughs, spent 25 minutes playing class clown, affording Silva the ability to work out the kinks. He looked tentative, but sharp, though we are now required to scrap any intel gleaned from that bout.
Silva was full of so many drugs at UFC 183 he had to be cornered by Duane Reade.
That failed drug test becomes important here, not because it happened, but rather because it now calls into question every single one of Silva's past wins (some were shady). Had "The Spider" come out after his splintered shin and said, "I broke my leg you assholes, it hurt, and I did what I had to do to get back into the cage," I could have accepted this as a one-off.
Instead, he fed us some bologna about penis pills in Thailand, peddled by a masked man he never met, consumed from a bottle with no label. In short, he went Roger Clemens when he should have gone Andy Pettitte.
What kind of fighter will Silva be, north of 40 and drug free? The kind who loses to Michael Bisping.
Silva made a name for himself by out-striking wrestlers, which is akin to being the tallest person in a room full of midgets. Is he still the best striker at 185 pounds? Probably, but this is not a kickboxing bout and his opponent is not stupid.
Drunk on pride, yes, but not stupid.
Bisping usually loses when he tries to be better than his opponent in an area he's clearly not. Attempting to stand and bang with a prime "Hendo," as well as a juiced up "Phenom" come to mind. But when "The Count" fights to his strength and his opponent's weakness, he gets the job done.
Remember the Brian Stann fight? Yeah, like that.
Chael Sonnen said after UFC on FOX 2 that Bisping is one of the strongest guys he's ever grappled with. Couple that with how easy it is to take Silva to the floor -- a lethargic Travis Lutter had him mounted for Pete's sake -- and this is not going to be the laugher "Spider" fans think it is.
From what I've seen this week, I don't know if Silva has fully regained his confidence, which is a very small opening for Bisping, but an opening nonetheless.
After a competitive first round that has the local boy in trouble, old-man Silva is going to slow down, then get dumped and humped over the course of the final four rounds. Think of the Sonnen fight at UFC 117 -- minus the silver platter -- and you have your upset.
Final prediction: Bisping def. Silva via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Gegard "Dreamcatcher" Mousasi (37-6-2) vs. Thales Leites (25-5)
Nostradumbass predicts: Gegard Mousasi has been a disappointment. That doesn't make him any less talented or suggest that he's washed up, but does speak to the lofty expectations most of us had when "The Dreamcatcher" made his way into UFC.
Credit to Uriah Hall, but man, that loss really hurt.
Mousasi has always been a clean, technical striker with a punishing jab, but it troubles me that he's only scored one knockout since departing Japan in 2011, and that came against the deteriorated chin of Dan Henderson. On the plus side, he's come pretty far in the wrestling department.
Just not far enough.
Leites, like Moose, has been around forever and also sports some impressive wins -- as well as some frustrating losses. The difference here is how the Brazilian has turned it up in the second half of his career as opposed to evening out or rapidly declining.
He's not lost in the stand up like he used to be, making tremendous gains on the feet, in much the same way Mousasi patched the holes in his wrestling. If "Dreamcatcher" was a more aggressive striker I might have a different outlook for this fight, but that cool, calm, and collected approach won't do him any favors in a three-round contest.
Pretty sure we're going to the cards.
Mousasi will land, no question, and he's not going south very often. The problem will be the time spent defending his opponent's takedowns while getting smushed into the cage. Leites will likely win two out of three rounds with his relentless mug-and-slug.
Final prediction: Leites def. Mousasi via split decision
170 lbs.: Tom Breese (9-0) vs. Keita "K-Taro" Nakamura (31-6-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: The fact that Tom Breese has ballooned up to a -1100 favorite should tell you everything you need to know about this welterweight contest. The Brit is a 6'3" monster who somehow gets down to 170 pounds and has yet to go the distance in any of his nine pro fights.
This will be no exception.
Keita Nakamura is a talented grappler with an impressive finishing rate of his own, but his bread-and-butter is the ground game and I have a really hard time envisioning a scenario where "K-Taro" secures the takedown, especially when we consider his opponent's defensive wrestling.
In addition, we must also factor in the size and reach disadvantage, so Nakamura is unlikely to land any power shots, or at least any that are clean enough to drop Breese and set up a submission. I hate to use cliches, but every fight starts on the feet.
In this case, it's going to end on the feet, as well.
Final prediction: Breese def. Nakamura via technical knockout
135 lbs.: Francisco "Cisco" Rivera (11-5) vs. Brad "One Punch" Pickett (24-11)
Nostradumbass predicts: This is a tough fight to predict, but for all the wrong reasons. With a combined record of 3-7 over their last five fights, we have to try to figure out which aging bantamweight can still get the job done across the pond.
Francisco Rivera is 34, while Brad Pickett is 37.
"Cisco" was holding his own against Urijah Faber prior to the eye poke of doom, but rebounded with a knockout win over Alex Caceres -- only to get choked out by John Lineker his next time out. Similarly, "One Punch" had Thomas Almeida in all kinds of trouble before eating a knee and taking a nap.
It's hard to pick against the hometown favorite.
I'm expecting Pickett to be energized by the British fans and that will add to what may already be an advantage. Rivera is a slow starter and spends too much time waiting for the counterpunch. I would not be surprised to see him overwhelmed early in the first by way of punches and bunches.
Which may prompt him to give up his back.
Final prediction: Pickett def. Rivera by submission
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 84 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, followed by the remaining main card balance -- also on Fight Pass -- at 4 p.m. ET.
For a closer look at the UFC Fight Night 84 "Prelims" portion of the card click here and here. Latest odds and betting lines for "Silva vs. Bisping" can be found here.
So ... who will sack up and join me on Team Bisping?