British kickboxer and long-time veteran, Michael Bisping, is set to battle with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight kingpin, Luke Rockhold, at UFC 199 this Saturday (June 4, 2016) inside The Forum in Inglewood, California.
For the first time since 2011, Bisping is on a real win streak. In fact, it came against some of the toughest competition of his career, which has helped prove that "The Count" does still have something left in the tank.
Unfortunately, Bisping's most recent loss came to his upcoming opponent. To be frank, Bisping was utterly dominated by Rockhold, and now he faces the unenviable task of figuring out how to prevent history from repeating itself.
Let's take a closer look at the challenger's skill set:
Bisping's lack of punching power has been the butt of numerous jokes, but he's one of the finest volume strikers in the division's history. If his 15 finishes via strikes aren't a strong enough argument, perhaps his most recent decision win over Anderson Silva is sufficient evidence.
On the whole, Bisping relies on his boxing more than anything else. He's a fairly long and tall Middleweight who makes good use of that range, peppering his opponents from the outside and keeping them on the end of his punches. A large part of this is due to his footwork, as Bisping does a nice job staying light on his feet and preventing his foe from closing the distance.
Bisping relies heavily on his straight punches. He does a nice job snapping his opponent's head back with the jab (GIF), and Bisping will follow up with a solid cross as well. This is really the core of Bisping's game -- he generally finds good success on the feet when sticking to simple combinations of long punches (GIF). Simple though they may be, Bisping's feints and activity make these combinations effective.
Bisping simply never stops poking at his opponent with these strikes.
If all of that seems pretty simple, it's because Bisping's boxing game isn't really that complicated. He's not a fighter who thrives because of a particularly deep arsenal or powerful punch. On the contrary, Bisping is just remarkably consistent about maintaining his movements, feints and form.
Those traits were precisely what allowed Bisping to out-strike Anderson Silva for a vast majority of the fight. Silva tried to draw Bisping in and make him sloppy, but Bisping stayed disciplined and kept himself safe from most of the Brazilian's counter strikes.
As Silva failed to land, he became the one getting a bit wild, and that's when Bisping did his best work. Early in the fight, Bisping managed to rock and drop Silva by avoiding his counter punches and catching him off-guard (GIF).
Beyond his boxing, it's worth mentioning that his overall kicking ability has improved greatly over the years. He now mixes chopping low kicks and quick head kicks into his game and movement rather efficiently, which is a nice wrinkle to his game. Against Silva, he frequently used quick, outside low kicks and straight kicks to the thigh. After disrupting his stance, Bisping would follow up with punches, as it was harder for an off-balance Silva to counter.
Bisping is very much a fighter who gets better as the fight drags on. Because of his pace and excellent conditioning, Bisping is able to maintain his output and continue to establish his rhythm even deep into a fight. Meanwhile, his opponent -- even if he doesn't completely gas -- will usually start to slow down, which allows Bisping to land harder shots and become more effective.
As Bisping begins to land more, he builds upon his combinations. Rather than merely peck his opponent from the outside, Bisping will start to commit more of his weight to punches and dig to the body. By increasing his output even more, Bisping grows his advantage as his opponent is forced to do even more work (GIF).
Furthermore, Bisping will even close the distance a bit and work in the clinch. That's an area where he's rather effective with harder punches and knees, further taxing his opponent's conditioning as well.
All together, this makes Bisping a nightmare opponent for men without stellar gas tanks.
Defensively, Bisping has always been a hittable fighter. He has a habit of standing a bit too tall and attempting to back straight out of exchanges, which has left him open to wide counter punches. While he's only ever been knocked out by two of the hardest hitters in the sport's history, Bisping has been dropped quite a few additional times in many of his fights.
Bisping's wrestling grew from a weakness to a strength across his career. He's still not a very active offensive wrestler, but he's managed to shift the momentum of a few fights by scoring some key takedowns and landing with hard ground strikes.
When Bisping does look for the takedown, it's usually for a standard double-leg against the cage (GIF). Bisping does a nice job of disguising the shot by scoring with a lot of dirty boxing in the clinch before level changing, which helps him get deep on his opponent's hips.
Bisping is a very difficult man to takedown thanks in large part to his movement-heavy striking style. Bisping is constantly circling around -- often while he punches -- which makes lining up a double leg rather difficult. Since he prefers volume striking to stepping into power punches, it's not easy to catch him off-balance from punching either. Finally, Bisping's habit of striking at the end of his own range is also very helpful.
To counter his opponent's shot, Bisping has a strong sprawl and whizzer. If his opponent does manage to close the distance into the clinch or against the cage, Bisping is still a difficult man to control. Notably, he did a very nice job reversing the clinch opposite Chael Sonnen and forcing him back into the cage.
For a long time, Bisping was the absolute best at working back to his feet after being taken down. That title likely left his hands -- coincidentally, perhaps to his opponent, Luke Rockhold -- after Tim Kennedy became the first to truly control Bisping, but it's still one of his strongest areas.
Once Bisping is taken down, he begins scooting toward the fence. To do this, he pushes away at his opponent, frames the face/head, and scoots his hips away. As his opponent clings to him, Bisping will dig for an underhook. Once he secures it, he'll lean into it and create space to stand. He may eat a few punches in the process, but this returns Bisping to his feet with an underhook.
If Bisping fails to get an underhook, he'll overhook his opponent's arm and use a whizzer. This still creates the space necessary to stand back up, it just leaves him in a less desirable position in the clinch (GIF).
Perhaps the most important aspect of wall-walking -- and returning to the feet in general -- is to never allow the top wrestler to secure a position. Bisping does not allow his opponent to settle and begin attacking with strikes or submissions, as Bisping has already began the process of standing back up.
Bisping is not much of an offensive jiu-jitsu player, but he's nonetheless proven his grappling ability. When on the mat, he does a decent job working to advance position, though it's usually with the goal of landing ground strikes rather than attempting submissions.
Defensively, Bisping is a very solid grappler. He's only ever been submitted once in his long career, and that was directly after absorbing a nasty head kick from Rockhold. A fairer example of his defensive grappling came against Kennedy, as Bisping repeatedly recovered from bad positions to get back to his guard and avoided the grappler's submission attempts.
In his last bout, Bisping secured the biggest accomplishment of his entire career in defeating Anderson Silva. Controversy or no, it will always stand as a win on his record. However, the long running narrative of Bisping's career is that he's never been able to work his way into a title fight, much less win the strap. This short-notice opportunity is a chance to change all that, and leave a legacy as a champion rather than perennial contender.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an undefeated amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.