New middleweight champion Michael Bisping will make his first title defense on home soil when he looks to avenge his UFC 100 loss to Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 204 in Manchester, England this Saturday.
Henderson landed one of the most vicious knockouts in history when he finished Bisping back in 2009. Now Bisping looks to avenge that loss while Henderson hopes to add a UFC title to his resume before retiring from the sport.
In today's fantasy preview, we're going to examine those fights and several more to see who has the edge going into Saturday night and if there might even be an upset brewing at UFC 204: Bisping vs. Henderson 2.
These are the fights that are just too close to call, but a few minor differences between favorite and underdog could lead one fighter to victory and the other to defeat.
Michael Bisping (-235 favorite) vs. Dan Henderson (+195 underdog)
It's been six years since Michael Bisping first met Dan Henderson inside the Octagon and a lot has changed since that time. Bisping put together an impressive string of victories to climb to the top of the middleweight rankings before winning the title in June, while Henderson has bounced back and forth between wins and losses over the last couple of years. Regardless, “Hendo” still maintains the same knockout power that gave him a win in their first fight.
Bisping has improved tremendously since the last time he met Henderson, especially with his power and patience while striking. When Bisping faced Henderson at UFC 100, he still had solid boxing and good footwork, but he constantly circled directly into his opponent's powerful right hand and he paid for that dearly. Since then, Bisping has adapted a much more unpredictable style on the feet, where he still uses constant movement as a weapon but he's no longer circling to the left or right, but instead moving in all directions to keep his striking fluid over the course of 15 or 25 minutes. Bisping has also developed a lot more power in his hands while working with head coach Jason Parillo, and that was showcased with his first round knockout over Luke Rockhold as well as his striking attacks in his fight with Anderson Silva.
As for Henderson, the same rules that applied to him back in 2009 still apply to him now. He's a world class Greco-Roman wrestler with arguably the most dangerous right hand in the business. Henderson can uncork that right hand from anywhere and it only needs to land with a glance to do maximum damage. Of course, Henderson has seen his chin tested a lot in recent years and he's taken a fair amount of punishment, but he always seems to have the ability to come back, and that's helped earn him impressive wins over names such as Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Hector Lombard.
Make no mistake, Henderson still has the one punch knockout ability to put an end to Bisping's title reign at UFC 204. The key for Henderson is to not get drawn into a fight where he's chasing Bisping around the cage. Bisping uses movement as well as anybody who fights in the UFC and his ability to avoid damage will be a major factor in frustrating and then countering whatever Henderson throws at him. Bisping knows what he did wrong against Henderson the last time and there's little chance he's going to fall into that same trap again.
As long as Bisping is smart and tactical with his approach and hits combinations and then moves away as quickly as possible, Henderson may struggle to find his chin, and over the course of five rounds, he could run out of gas. That's never been a problem for Bisping, and the longer this fight goes, the more he'll dominate. It won't be easy to put Henderson away, but if Bisping can draw him into deep waters in the fourth or fifth round, he could get it done.
Prediction: Michael Bisping by TKO, Round 4.
Gegard Mousasi (-330 favorite) vs. Vitor Belfort (+270 underdog)
Gegard Mousasi has been calling for a fight with Vitor Belfort for several years and now he'll finally get his chance when they meet in the co-main event from England. This matchup seems like it will end up as an all-striking affair, but don't doubt the ground games of either fighter in this one. Still, chances are Mousasi and Belfort will be happy to slug it out on the feet, at least until one of them gets hurt and then the action may crash to the mat.
Mousasi has proven to be one of the most durable and consistent middleweights in the sport. He doesn't do much of anything that's flashy, but he hits hard and he's very accurate on the feet. Mousasi lands just over 3.5 significant strikes per minute with 50 percent accuracy, and he has shown incredibly good defense throughout his career. Mousasi certainly isn't afraid to mix in a takedown here or there, but chances are he's going to want to test his striking against Belfort on Saturday night.
Belfort has gone 1-2 over his past three fights, and while he did struggle against Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and former champion Chris Weidman, there's still plenty left to fear from this Brazilian legend. Belfort is a very good kickboxer, but he's best known for his blazing fast speed and incredible creativity when he's in the cage. Belfort can be a very technically proficient stirker, but when he decides to uncork a big head kick or even a spinning back kick, he hits hard and with precision.
Mousasi actually got caught and finished by a flashy spin kick when he faced Uriah Hall in 2015, but that likely taught him a valuable lesson in expecting the unexpected, and that should help him against Belfort. Mousasi can be an unrelenting, punishing striker on the feet with nasty power and a very overwhelming style of attack if he hurts an opponent and smells blood in the water. Of course, Mousasi has to watch out for Belfort's lightning quick counters, but if he can avoid those flashy strikes, the Dutch veteran should find a way to win all three rounds en route to a decision victory.
Prediction: Gegard Mousasi by unanimous decision
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This light heavyweight matchup between Ovince Saint Preux and Jimi Manuwa could prove to be the toughest fight to pick on the entire card.
Saint Preux comes into this bout after a five round battle against Jon Jones in April where he suffered a broken arm during the fight, but still managed to make it until the end. Saint Preux is a natural athlete who has adapted his overall MMA game to the point where he's dangerous on both the feet and on the ground. Saint Preux has struggled against better wrestlers over the years, but that won't be a problem against Manuwa, who will clearly want to keep this fight standing. Manuwa is a striker with very heavy hands and fast delivery with his punches and kicks.
Manuwa will likely try to keep this fight at a distance while he tries to pick Saint Preux apart before going for the knockout blow. That being said, keeping Saint Preux away won't be easy because the former University of Tennessee football standout actually holds a reach and height advantage in this fight and he has no problem wading to the inside to lock on to a clinch or go for a takedown. While Saint Preux may not be as technically sound as Manuwa on the feet, he still has plenty of power in his striking and he could absolutely win this fight by knockout. Add to that a very slick ground game and Saint Preux simply has more ways to win.
Saint Preux might best be served by mixing things up and keeping Manuwa guessing, and if he can do that with a variety of attacks from the clinch to the takedown to his striking, the American could leave England with a big win over one of their own.
Prediction: Ovince Saint Preux by unanimous decision
The featured fight on UFC FIGHT PASS in England pits local favorite Danny Roberts against hard-hitting Mike Perry, who made a very impressive debut back in August when he blasted through Hyun Gyu Lim.
Perry is still very raw in his overall MMA skill set, but what he lacks in technique, he makes up for with devastating power on the feet and on the ground. He's finished every single fight in his career by knockout, and he continued that streak with his first fight in the UFC. Perry is an offensive machine who comes storming out of the gate and almost always looks for the first round finish as he overwhelms the opposition with his striking.
Roberts will be Perry's toughest test to date, however, as the British prospect brings a very well rounded skill set into the Octagon, with good striking and very good jiu-jitsu on the ground. Roberts is best when he plays a technical boxing game with a long jab and good power in his hands. Roberts has to be careful not to get caught in big exchanges with Perry, because the American hits with fight-ending power. The key for Roberts is hitting combinations and then getting out of the way before Perry can return fire.
Neither fighter is known for their wrestling, so this battle ultimately comes down to who can control the action on the feet. If Perry can swarm on Roberts early, he has plenty of finishing power to make sure this bout never sees the second round. On the flipside, Roberts is a very tough matchup with a three-inch reach advantage on the feet, and if he can keep Perry at the end of his punches and never allow him to start winging away with haymakers, the Brit should be able to pull ahead by the second and third rounds.
Prediction: Danny Roberts by unanimous decision
These are the fights that appear to be a little more one-sided, but remember that this is MMA, where anything can - and usually does - happen.
Stevan Struve vs. Daniel Omielanczuk
When it comes to heavyweight fights there's no such thing as a lock, but Stefan Struve should be a solid favorite heading into his bout with late notice opponent Daniel Omielanczuk. This bout came together after Ruslan Magomedov suffered an injury that forced him out of the fight and Omielanczuk, who is currently riding a three fight win streak, stepped up to face Struve on the card in England.
Omielanczuk is a heavy hitting fighter out of Poland who suffered back-to-back losses before turning things around with a trio of wins in recent fights. Omielanczuk is best known for his powerful strikes, but he's also been to a couple of decisions lately, so he has the conditioning to go all three rounds if necessary. Omielanczuk will be giving up a lot of size in this fight, as Struve will have him by a full foot in height, and the reach is also a major factor that could come back to bite him.
STEFAN STRUVE FEATURED ON KO OF THE WEEK
Struve has certainly faced his share of ups and downs over recent years, but he returned to form with his last fight, where he made short work of Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva in just 16 seconds. At his best, Struve is a very good striker on the feet with a very dangerous ground game off his back. Omielanczuk averages less than one takedown per fight so chances are this matchup won't hit the ground unless the two heavyweights engage in a scramble and they end up crashing to the mat.
On the feet, Omielanczuk obviously has a puncher's chance to land a big bomb on Struve's chin, but the Dutchman is much more technically proficient and he's becoming even more confident in his striking over the past couple of fights while working with the coaches at the Blackzilians camp in Florida. If Struve can showcase his kickboxing while keeping Omielanczuk at a distance, he should pick him apart and get a finish long before the final horn sounds.
Prediction: Stefan Struve by TKO, Round 2
Following a disappointing loss to grappling ace Gunnar Nelson back in May, Albert Tumenov will look to start a new win streak when he faces Leon Edwards at UFC 204. Prior to his bout against Nelson, Tumenov had reeled off five straight wins, including three of those victories coming by way of knockout. Tumenov might be one of the most lethal strikers at 170 pounds and he'll look to showcase his knockout skills against Edwards on Saturday night.
Edwards is no slouch on the feet, where he actually lands with over 53 percent accuracy, but dueling with Tumenov is probably going to be very bad for his health. Tumenov hits like a truck and he loves to swarm on his opponents by trapping them against the cage and absolutely unloading with a barrage of strikes. Edwards' takedowns probably won't save him either because he only has 28 percent accuracy when looking to get the fight to the ground and Tumenov has shown off great wrestling defense during his UFC career.
Look for Tumenov to come out and put the pressure on Edwards immediately, and once he finds an opening, he'll start to unload with a heavy dose of punches and kicks until he lands the knockout blow. Tumenov is the real deal and he should showcase that once again at UFC 204.
Prediction: Albert Tumenov by KO, Round 1
With three wins in a row and a 4-0-1 record overall in the UFC, Leonardo Santos is proving to be one of the top rising prospects in the lightweight division, especially after he ran through highly touted fighter Kevin Lee in his last performance. Santos seems to be developing into the complete package after starting his career as a submission specialist and he’s now developing real fight-ending power with his striking as well.
Given all those accolades, it would be no surprise if Santos won again at UFC 204, but he's got a touch matchup against experienced knockout artist Adriano Martins.
Martins has proven to be one of the toughest matchups in the lightweight division and his only real setback has been against former title contender Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. Outside of that fight, Martins has dismantled his competition, most recently scoring a very impressive knockout over Islam Makhachev. Martins lands with a lot of power and he's good at every range, whether he's in close or hitting at distance.
Now, on paper, it would seem Santos has the advantage on the ground, but Martins has plenty of experience with grappling throughout his career. Santos would still be favored to win if these two end up rolling on the mat for 15 minutes, but Martins has more than enough in his jiu-jitsu arsenal to survive on the ground with him. On the feet, Santos has shown flashes of striking prowess, but if he decides to trade hands with Martins over the course of three rounds, it could end badly for him.
Martins is a devastating finisher, especially if he catches an opponent over pursuing a takedown or desperate to lock on to the clinch, and that's where he could counter and finish Santos. It won't be easy, but Martins has all the ability to surprise Santos and earn his third knockout victory in his past four fights.
Prediction: Adriano Martins by TKO, Round 2