Fighting at UFC 159 are two top middleweights coming off of losses, both looking to get back on track. Michael “The Count” Bisping meets Alan “The Talent” Belcher in the co-main event in what is sure to be an entertaining fight. Any fight involving Bisping is sure to generate some smack talking and sure enough, there’s been plenty of talk going back and forth between the two. They’ll settle their differences in the Octagon this Saturday.
Fight Breakdown – This fight really could go anywhere and it very likely will. Looking at just the stats on paper, Bisping would have the upper hand when it comes to strictly striking. However, Belcher is capable of putting anyone down on a given night – especially a guy like Bisping who has been on the receiving end of two spectacular knockout finishes. If he learned anything from his last fight, Bisping better be on guard for a wide range of strikes that are sure to come from “The Talent”.
Bisping is also the better wrestler of the two (on paper), he gave Chael Sonnen all he could handle in their matchup and lost a razor thin decision. That could be the deciding factor in this fight. Bisping would do well to take a page out of Yushin Okami’s playbook and follow that formula to earn a victory. He has to dictate where this fight goes by avoiding the power strikes of Belcher and catching him with strikes of his own. Clinching with Belcher against the cage, controlling him and tossing in an occasional takedown would be the safest way to earn a victory. Bisping of course has the potential to KO Belcher on the feet, but it’s not his bread and butter.
Belcher, on the other hand, has almost as many submission wins as KO wins. He’s got a certain swagger at times, and a solid all-around ground game. He was absolutely fearless in playing right into Rousimar Palhares’ world, managing to avoid getting subbed by the heel hook/leg lock magician and not only that, but he implemented some brutal ground and pound to earn a TKO victory. Belcher may have more weapons in terms of submissions, but Bisping also has very underrated submission defense. Take a look at Bisping’s record and you’ll see he’s never been submitted – a very impressive feat in today’s UFC.
Belcher does have KO power in his hands and feet, and that may be the key to victory for him, to look for that “everybody go night night” shot that worked for Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort. Where Belcher struggles is against a guy who can really grapple and control him, preventing him from unleashing his strikes and vicious ground and pound. Bisping wants no part of Belcher’s ground and pound, and he should be able to prevent and escape any takedown efforts from Belcher.
Look for “The Count” to play the striking game with Belcher until he decides to clinch and wrestle. If Belcher hasn’t shown any improvement from his Okami loss, it’s likely to be a long night as Bisping is no slouch when it comes to wrestling. Unless he slips up big time, Bisping should ride his superior clinch game to a victory.
Why It Matters – The loser of this fight will be on a two fight losing streak. They’re both high up the middleweight ladder, even after their recent losses, but you’d have to wonder what another loss would do to their status, especially a bad one. Bisping is frustratingly and perpetually on the cusp of greatness; he beats a lot of people and gets a fight away from a title shot, then loses. Sometimes he loses big (Henderson and Belfort) and sometimes he loses small (Sonnen), but it’s kept him on the outside looking in for his entire career. Bisping has to shed the “almost made it” label that’s attached to him and finally take that next step that he’s been unable to do thus far. A loss here and he’s likely headed towards gatekeeper status. A win and he might be looking at a title eliminator next, considering how Anderson Silva has already thoroughly defeated top contenders Belfort and Okami.
Belcher on the other hand, is still only 28 and has a lot of fighting left in him. He’s got an entertaining style and he’s already demonstrated his striking and submission prowess, yet he still has room for improvement. A loss here won’t be the end of anything considering it’s Michael Bisping he’s fighting, a guy who has been very close to a title shot for a long time now. A win over Bisping would be a big leap into the very top of the division and could build momentum for a title eliminator himself. However, it’s no easy task to go from Yushin Okami to Michael Bisping, that’s not exactly a step down for Belcher, while in the eyes of Bisping and many others, going from Belfort to Belcher might be. “The Count” needs to bounce back in a big way and it’s his fight to lose. How he wins (or loses) is what remains to be seen, but look for him to come out on a mission and get his hand raised no matter what it takes.
Prediction – Bisping by decision