This Saturday night, most people will be focused on the main event at UFC 159, as Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen will finally settle some issues dating back to the cancellation of UFC 151 last fall. However, in the fight prior to Jones’ fifth title defense, two old-school vets will be facing off in the middleweight division for what is sure to be a candidate for “Fight of the Night” honors.

At 34 years old, England’s Michael “The Count” Bisping will grace the Octagon for the 19th time, as he squares off against 28-year-old Alan “The Talent” Belcher, who will be stepping onto the UFC stage for a 15th time. Both men have fought for the promotion since the summer of 2006, and both have had exciting careers.

Bisping, training with the Team Punishment guys out of HB Ultimate in Huntington Beach, and Belcher, training out of his own club in Biloxi, Miss., as well as Roufusport in Milwaukee, are coming off losses in their last fights, and both men need a win to stay relevant in the middleweight division.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Bisping – 10, Belcher – 10

Bisping (R) (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

When it comes to striking, Bisping clearly holds the advantage on paper. He has 14 knockouts on his pro record, accounting for 61 percent of his victories. However, Belcher’s no slouch in the striking department.

Bisping has been training as a kickboxer since he was 19 years old, and he has twice won a kickboxing title in Britain. During his stint as a contestant on season three of The Ultimate Fighter, Bisping won two of his contests by TKO and one due to submission by strikes to become the season’s winner from the light heavyweight division.

Belcher, however, has had amazing striking training under the tutelage of Duke Roufus, which earned him a black belt in Roufus’ system of kickboxing to add to his black belt in Taekwondo.

Both men have two knockouts in their last four victories, and in terms of raw power, both men are capable on their feet. Bisping showed unwise footwork in his infamous loss to Dan Henderson, as he continuously circled to Henderson’s right, until Henderson dropped him with one punch. In January, Vitor Belfort dropped him with a head kick, followed by punches. Belcher, on the other hand, hasn’t been knocked out in five years. Belcher’s loss at the end of December was a three-round battle with Yushin Okami, bringing an end to a four-fight winning streak.

Both of these men are aggressive finishers, and in terms of striking, this one could go to either fighter.

Ground Game: Bisping – 9, Belcher – 10

Belcher (R) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Belcher holds a solid advantage in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu department. A lifelong martial artist, Belcher, in addition to his black belts in striking arts, also holds black belts in BJJ, judo and Hayastan grappling. Belcher has won seven times by way of submission, although a couple were by way of punches. In terms of true submissions, his last came nearly three years ago when he choked out Patrick Cote. Bisping has had four submissions in his pro career, but all of them were prior to his time in the UFC.

Belcher has the skills to be the first person to tap out Bisping. Bisping is not known as a grappler, but he has never actually been submitted. His heavy hands and takedown defense have kept a lot of his fights from hitting the mat. However, the HB Ultimate camp is known more for its strikers than its grapplers.

Should this fight hit the mat, Belcher will have the clear advantage. He has more classical training in the grappling arts and has pulled off many submissions at the UFC level, something Bisping has yet to do.

Wrestling: Bisping – 9, Belcher – 10

Bisping (James Law/Heavy MMA)

Neither Bisping nor Belcher has a background in wrestling, which is rare in most modern UFC match-ups. Usually, at least one guy has some wrestling experience.

In the wrestling department, Belcher holds the advantage, primarily due to his extensive training in grappling arts. Bisping’s best wrestling aspect is his takedown defense, but outside of that, he mostly just muscles his way out of precarious situations with no real wrestling skills, per se. Belcher has superior skill on the ground, which includes wrestling.

X-Factor

The biggest X-factor in this fight lies in the fighters’ respective fighting styles. Bisping likes to come forward hard and fast. He’s extremely aggressive, but that doesn’t always work in his favor, as Henderson and Belfort figured out. He sometimes moves with reckless abandon, and that can get him clipped.

Belchers’ style is more calculated. He moves toward finishes early in the fight, but he rarely puts himself in unfavorable situations, which is why he hasn’t been stopped in five years.

Total: Bisping – 28, Belcher – 30

Verdict: Although Bisping was set to get a title shot if he had beaten Belfort, it doesn’t seem practical to say that Belcher is fighting a championship-caliber fighter. Bisping has been close before, but top-10 ranking or not, he is facing a very tough challenger in Belcher, who is ready to bounce back from his loss to Okami. Belcher is younger, just as experienced, and has a more well-rounded game. Look for Belcher to take this one in a “don’t blink” battle.

Top Photo: Alan Belcher works for a guillotine (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator