Ahead of Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping’s return to the UK at UFC Glasgow, guest columnist Ralph Welch takes a journey through UFC FIGHT PASS to look at some of the fights that defined the Englishman’s career.
The Michael Bisping story is the sort of rags-to-riches fairy tale fight game romantics dream about.
Hardened by a succession of manual labour jobs, working maximum effort for the minimum wage, his fists offered the only hope of a better future for him and his family.
A decade later and the Englishman has achieved longevity at MMA’s highest level that puts him in rare air. From performing in dimly-lit halls in front of a handful of punters to the bright lights and packed crowds of Las Vegas, Bisping has experienced everything this remarkable sport has to offer.
He’s graced the Octagon from Toronto to Sydney and from Manchester to Macau. It’s almost poetic that a man born on a British military outpost (Nicosia, Cyprus) has been at the forefront of the UFC’s global expansion.
The next stop is Glasgow, a welcome return to UK soil after five years away. In that time, contenders have come and gone and champions have fallen by the wayside, but Bisping has been a constant. It’s not been easy. There have been times where defeat and injury pushed him to the brink. In those situations, through sheer force of will, Bisping has refused to fade into the night.
The spotlight is on him again in Scotland where he will face the dangerous Thales Leites, a winner in his eight previous outings, in the evening’s main event. Neither the occasion nor the opponent are likely to faze a man who has seen it – and done it – at the highest level for so long.
Here we look back at just some of the fights that have defined the storied career of Michael Bisping.
(TKO win vs. Elvis Sinosic, April 2007)
In spring 2007 the Michael Bisping business was booming. He’d won the light heavyweight contract on offer as part of the third season of The Ultimate Fighter and had played a starring role in front of the cameras. Reality television and the pressure cooker atmosphere of the TUF house suited a man who never shied away from a physical or verbal confrontation. Upon his promotion to the main roster, he steamrolled through Eric Shafer on his UFC debut at UFC 66 in Las Vegas.
The stage was set for a triumphant homecoming in Manchester. He entered the MEN arena to a deafening reception and the crowd roared their approval when Bisping peppered the Australian with elbows, hammerfists and punches in a dominant first round. Against the odds, Sinosic floored Bisping with a knee in the early moments of the second round. However, drained from the onslaught of shots he absorbed in the opener, he lacked the strength to submit the Englishman. Bisping squirmed free into top position and a volley of punches signalled the end of proceedings. It was his 14th straight win.
(Split decision loss vs. Rashad Evans, 2008)
Following a controversial split-decision win over American grappler Matt Hamill in London at UFC 75, Bisping faced the toughest period of his UFC career to date. There were question marks over his wrestling credentials after Hamill enjoyed long periods of positional dominance during their encounter.
Facing a decorated wrestler in Rashad Evans, Bisping achieved the distinction of becoming the first Briton to headline a UFC event. After some pre-fight histrionics which saw the protagonists separated backstage at the weigh-in, the fight was a tactical affair. Evans edged it through the relentless grind of his grappling, though Bisping impressed many with his improved mat work. The fact that one judge awarded him the spoils was testament to his maturation as a fighter.
Nonetheless, after the fight, Bisping made a decision that would change the course of his career. He called time on his 205 lb. tenure and decided to make a run at middleweight.
(TKO win vs. Jason Miller, December 2011)
Bisping had experienced three turbulent years at 185 lb. Losses to Dan Henderson and Wanderlei Silva left the Englishman clinging on to the coat tails of the middleweight elite.
Back for a third stint on The Ultimate Fighter, Bisping faced another polarising character in the form of Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller. As expected, the two had traded barbs throughout the season with no clear psychological winner.
With tensions running high, the two met in the Octagon to settle their differences and it was a one-sided whitewash in favour of the Mancunian. Shrugging off numerous takedown attempts, Bisping found a home all night long for his arsenal of punches, elbows and kicks. With Miller’s energy reserves severely depleted in the third, the referee stopped the action as another fusillade of power shots rained down from above.
(Unanimous decision win vs. Brian Stann, September 2012)
Having suffered a heartbreaking decision defeat to Chael Sonnen in a title eliminator earlier in the year, Bisping was once again on the comeback trail.
His path to redemption was blocked by former Marine Brian Stann, whose heavy hands had accounted for the likes of Chris Leben, Jorge Santiago and Alessio Sakara.
For years Bisping had relied on the defensive aspects of his grappling game. Against Stann, The Count realised he would have a rare advantage on the mat. After the American wobbled him with a right hand that bookmarked the first round, Bisping resorted to wrestling his way out of trouble. In Rounds Two and Three he nullified Stann’s striking prowess with an impressive stream of takedowns that earned him a clean sweep on the scorecards.
(Unanimous decision win vs. C.B. Dolloway, April 2015)
After a loss to Luke Rockhold had robbed him of his long-awaited shot at the middleweight title, there were calls from some corners for Bisping to hang up the gloves. He ignored the naysayers, opting instead to accept a fight against C.B. Dolloway. The American’s resurgence of late had been derailed by the deadly limbs of Lyoto Machida. For both men, this was a crossroads fight. Victory would keep them in Top 10 contention, defeat would see them tumble into the massed middle tier of the 185 lb. ranks.
It was competitive from the outset. Given the stakes, it was no surprise to see Bisping rely on the high volume approach that had served him well throughout his career. He picked up the points from the outside with accurate strikes only for Dolloway to land a flash knockdown with a minute of the round remaining. Bisping used all of his experience to cling on and resist Dolloway’s submission attempts.
His composure restored, Bisping went back to basics in the second, picking his punches carefully whilst staying wary of Dolloway’s power and showcasing his trademark defensive wrestling. With the result finely balanced both men committed to big power shots in the final frame. Ultimately, it was Bisping’s impressive output and conditioning that earned him the favour of the judges.
It was gutsy rather than glorious. And once again Michael Bisping’s primeval instinct for survival had pulled him through.