Bloodied, battered, but unbowed, perennial middleweight contender Michael Bisping won the big one when it mattered most Saturday, scoring a razor-thin five-round unanimous decision over former middleweight champion Anderson Silva in the UFC Fight Night main event at the O2 Arena in London, England.
“I worship this guy,” Bisping said of Silva. “This guy is the greatest martial artist of all-time. This has been a lifelong quest. Anderson, thank you.”
“The mission was given and I thought the mission was completed, but I guess not,” said the 40-year-old Silva, a future Hall of Famer who reigned over the division from 2006 to 2013.
Scores were 48-47 across the board for the number seven-ranked Bisping, now 29-7; the number five-ranked Silva, who is winless since October of 2012, falls to 33-7 with 1 NC.
Bisping fired first, missing a kick to the head as Silva circled the Octagon. “The Count” continued to chase Silva, landing a couple glancing blows in the process. Silva tried to use feints to find an opening, but wasn’t able to land anything until he scored with a body kick two minutes in. Just past the midway point, Bisping landed a couple punches to the head and got out of range quickly, forcing Silva to become a little more aggressive. But he wasn’t able to land anything of note. Instead it was Bisping staggering Silva just before the round ended.
Staying aggressive, Bisping backed Silva up into the fence to start round two, with “The Spider” showboating and dropping his hands as the Brit moved in. Bisping wasn’t having any of it though, and he backed away, refusing to get pulled into Silva’s trap. Back in the middle of the Octagon, Silva got busier, mixing in flurries with his showboating, and he was beginning to get his opponent’s attention. With 40 seconds left, a left hook by Bisping knocked Silva down, and the Brit went in for the finish with ground strikes, only to have the horn intervene.
More from Fight Night London: Watch the fights again on UFC FIGHT PASS | Final results | Post-fight bonus recap | Bisping defeats Silva in five-round thriller | Mousasi, Breese, Pickett take long road to wins | Amirkhani wins; Askham gets impressive KO win in prelims | Octagon interviews: Michael Bisping and Anderson Silva, Gegard Mousasi | Backstage interviews: Tom Breese, Brad Pickett, Makwan Amirkhani, Scott Askham, Arnold Allen, Teemu Packalen, David Teymur
The tense tactical battle continued into round three, Silva biting down on his mouthpiece and getting more serious while Bisping continued to fight a disciplined fight. With the drama heightening, Bisping didn’t allow himself to be distracted by Silva’s fast hands, and he scored well in the final minute until a bizarre sequence when Bisping looked for a break to get his dropped mouthpiece back in and Silva landed a knee that dropped Bisping hard to the mat just before the horn ending the round.
Silva thought the fight was over, jumping onto the top of the Octagon fence, while Bisping tried to recover. When the bout resumed, Bisping’s face was bloodied, and to add insult to injury, he was kicked low in the early going of round four, bringing a brief halt to the bout. When the fight continued, Bisping got Silva to the fence and landed several hard blows, but not enough of them to bother the former middleweight champion. As the round progressed, Bisping continued to press the action, with the only break coming when Silva took an inadvertent poke to the eye. Bisping got right back to work when the round resumed, but as was his custom in the fight, Silva surged in the final minute and made a late charge that had Bisping in trouble briefly.
With Bisping having trouble seeing out of his left eye due to the blood streaming into it, Silva took a nearly flat-footed stance as he stalked and looked for a finish. A visit from the Octagonside physician resulted, but Bisping was cleared to continued. With two minutes gone, a kick to the face sent Bisping sprawling and Silva went in for the finish as Bisping tried to survive. “The Count” weathered the latest storm, and kept moving forward, refusing to run out the clock. And as the crowd erupted in the final seconds, Bisping was able to survive, with his show of heart drawing an appreciative roar from his home country crowd.