Michael Bisping’s first fight in the United Kingdom since October of 2010 was a winning one Saturday, but the middleweight contender had to dig deep to eke out a five-round split decision win over Rio de Janeiro’s Thales Leites in their UFC Fight Night main event at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland.
49-46, 48-47 and 47-48 for the number-nine ranked Bisping, now 28-7; the tenth-ranked Leites, who saw an eight-fight winning streak snapped, falls to 25-5.
The 36-year-old Bisping had a solid opening round, especially when he fired off combinations at Leites. The Brazilian didn’t panic as he stalked the Brit, and even when Bisping set the pace on the mat late in the first, Leites took his time, eventually getting his opponents back just before the end of the frame.
Leites, 33, had success with his strikes in spurts, but Bisping kept outworking him with volume in the stand-up game. The heavier shots were definitely being landed by the former world title challenger, yet a flush kick to the body by “The Count” may have been the hardest strike landed up until that point in the fight.
Going on the attack as soon as round three opened, Leites thudding right hand briefly knocked Bisping into the fence. The Manchester native got out of trouble quickly and went back to work on Leites, with both fighters now sporting cuts over the left eye. Simply stated, Bisping was just putting in more work, and even when Leites got a takedown, which he did with a minute left, Bisping bounced right back up and went back to the game plan. A hard right uppercut by Leites did end the scoring for the round in a big way though.
Despite the bout moving into the championship rounds, Bisping looked to be in his best rhythm of the fight in round four, with his stick and move strategy working well as Leites simply stalked, unable to put his opponent on his back or get off more than one big shot at a time.
Showing a sense of urgency as the final round began, Leites went on the attack and scored well, but Bisping had his moments as well, and his return fire was coming in volume, not one at a time. And while Leites looked to always be inches away from landing a fight-altering blow on several occasions, it never came.
The bout headlined the first UFC event in Scotland.