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The Blueprint - Sonnen vs. Bisping

The showdown between Sonnen and Bisping is on this Saturday night on FOX. Michael DiSanto breaks it down...

Chael Sonnen (pictured) faces Michael Bisping this Saturday on FOXChael Sonnen and Michael Bisping are two of the best trash talkers in the sport.

Sonnen is more of the comedic type. You know, the guy who has a gift with words and uses that gift to get inside another man’s head, even if there is no real animosity there. Or is there? That’s the beauty of his brand of smack talk – it keeps you guessing.

Bisping is more of the venom-laden type, who talks from a place of anger. He comes across like he really believes what he is saying. Bisping is the kind of guy whose words pick a fight—a very real fight.

It is an awful shame that this is a late-notice bout, because the fans missed out on weeks upon weeks of A-list banter in the media. It could have been an epic buildup, a verbal sparring session for the ages.

It should still be a great fight. Not quite the same circus, but a great fight nonetheless.

Let’s get right to the point. This matchup has Chael Sonnen written all over it. Bisping is a great fighter. I think he could pose tremendous matchup problems for Sonnen, if he fully prepared to fight a dominant wrestler. But Bisping spent 90% of his camp preparing to face Demian Maia, a guy with ethereal submissions but limited wrestling. Sonnen is a completely different beast.

Sonnen is an apex wrestler. His skills were good enough to twice earn Division I All-American honors at the University of Oregon and a spot as an alternate on the U.S. Olympic team for the Sydney Games in 2000.

This guy is completely comfortable in his wrestling skin, too. He doesn’t try to come out and prove anything on the feet. His sole purpose for standing strikes is to close the distance for takedowns, whether Greco or freestyle. And he is almost always successful in executing them.

Bisping is a marginal wrestler, but he has excellent takedown defense, both in terms of a quick sprawl and great balance against the fence. Yet, that defense has to be a bit rusty because there is no way that he brought in top level wrestlers to prepare for Maia. The same thing holds true for his prior camp leading up to the Jason Miller fight. Thus, one must assume that Sonnen, who undoubtedly worked hard on sharpening his takedowns for his original opponent, Mark Munoz, will be successful getting this bout to the ground.

Normally, that wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the analysis because Sonnen has always been questionable in the submission defense department when facing high-level BJJ practitioners. In fact, all four of his UFC losses came via submission. Bisping isn’t going to be confused for Maia or Paulo Filho on the ground any time soon, but he has a vastly underrated ground game.

The problem, once again, is that I can guarantee that Bisping hasn’t been practicing his offensive BJJ game very much for this or his previous fight. It is pure insanity to think that “The Count” prepared for either Miller or Maia by sharpening his transition jiu-jitsu. He wanted to avoid the ground against those guys at all costs. Any material time spent on his back against either of them was a guaranteed submission loss.

Is the picture starting to clarify?

Sonnen-Bisping would likely be a very different fight if the Englishman had his normal two to three months to prepare. I’m not suggesting that this bout is a cake walk for Sonnen. Anyone who believes that hasn’t watched Bisping compete over the years. The advantage he enjoys on the feet is every bit as wide as the margin that Sonnen enjoys on the ground.

Bisping defeats Sonnen in a kickboxing bout 100 out of 100 times. Sonnen’s marginal standup, as mentioned, is solely designed to close the distance for a takedown. He possesses neither the technique nor the power to give Bisping any concern whatsoever on the feet.

Bisping is very skilled at fighting behind and active jab, with a stick-and-move mentality, while circling to his left.  In my opinion, that is his single biggest key to victory. The good news is Bisping is the most effective when he is doing just that, despite the fact that it was his major mistake in his first knockout loss.  In that fight, he was facing a guy with a dynamite-filled right hand, so circling to his left meant that he was walking right into the weapon he so desperately wanted to avoid.

Sonnen isn’t Dan Henderson. He doesn’t have much in the way of a right hand, so Bisping shouldn’t worry about walking into a nuclear bomb while jabbing and circling to his left.  Circling will make it difficult for Sonnen to square up to his foe and either shoot for a takedown or lockup a clinch.

Keep in mind that sticking and moving doesn’t mean pitty-pat strikes.  Bisping throws most of his shots, including his jab, with conviction.  That is obvious by his 75% knockout ratio in his UFC wins.  Nevertheless, he is not a come-forward-at-all-costs predator with a granite chin and bazookas for fists, ala a prime Chuck Liddell.  He needs to set up his strikes with angles and chip away at his opponent until he is hurt enough that Bisping can throw caution to the wind and open up full throttle.

I guess that is a long way of saying that if the fight remains on the feet, Bisping will be the one leaving with his hand raised in what everyone should view as an upset win.  If Sonnen is successful scoring multiple takedowns, then he will leave with the expected victory.  


Chael Sonnen
•    34 years old
•    6’1, 185 lbs
•    74-inch reach
•    27-11-1 overall
•    4-1 in his last 5
•    7-3 in his last 10
•    80% of UFC wins by decision
•    20% of UFC wins by submission
•    Has never scored a KO/TKO in the UFC
•    All 4 UFC losses have come by submission
•    Fight of the Night -- UD3 over Nate Marquardt at UFC 109, LSub5 to Anderson Silva at UFC 117
•    Current layoff is 112 days
•    Longest layoff of career is 427 days

Michael Bisping
•    32 years old
•    6’2, 185 lbs
•    75.5-inch reach
•    23-3 overall
•    4-1 in last 5
•    8-2 in last 10
•    75% of UFC wins by KO/TKO
•    25% of his wins by decision
•    Has never submitted someone in the UFC
•    Winner of Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter (light heavyweight)
•    Fight of the Night – UD3 over Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 120; TKO2 over Denis Kang at UFC 105; TKO2 over Elvis Sinosic at UFC 70
•    Current layoff is 56 days
•    Longest layoff of career is 279 days