Michael Bisping antagonizing opponents with verbal spats and pointed barbs on Twitter leading into events is as expected at this point as a Harlem Globetrotter win against the Generals. With his loss Friday night (Saturday local time down in Sydney) to Luke Rockhold, however, is it time to count Bisping out?

“The Count” has struggled to find consistency in the octagon over the last few years. Since 2010, he has nary a win on his record over an active fighter under the age of forty-two years old and not named Cung Le. While the beating Bisping put on Le was impressive, it’s important to keep perspective: Le is a part-time fighter who started in the game extremely late, has other endeavors, and still gave Bisping more trouble than Bisping himself gave Rockhold. Which is why, after their bout went down, the biggest news in the wake of Bisping’s win was the “did he or didn’t he” drug test fiasco.

The last “relevant” victory Bisping has on his record was a 2010 defeat of Yoshihiro Akiyama — a fighter who would lose twice more after meeting Bisping (against Vitor Belfort and Jake Shields), then take a two-year sabbatical from the sport to focus on other ventures, including television work, only to return this year and destroy Amir Sadollah. The scary part of that is, it looks like the Sexyama of today would wreck the current Michael Bisping, despite having a couple of years on him, and having taken two years off from the fight game. We’re also using the term “relevant” very generously.

So what went wrong for Bisping, a fighter who has been given ample opportunity to earn a title shot yet has blown it again and again? He looked listless against Rockhold. After an accidental headbutt in the opening stanza, he seemed more interested in jawing with ref Herb Dean than focusing on the fight. After the affair was all over, with Bisping being downed and caught in a guillotine choke, The Count suggested he felt good in the first round, but he certainly didn’t look it.

At thirty-five, he’s certainly not over the hill, but Michael Bisping has had twenty-two fights in the UFC, an extraordinarily impressive number dampened only by the fact that not one of them has been for a title, and by questions about how much those fights have taken out of him. And with the loss to Rockhold, any and all title fight aspirations may be done — although it’s not a given. If The Count were to go on a run and win some fights at this point he could salvage things, but the outlook is bleak at the moment, and here’s why: after this loss, Michael Bisping’s days as a headliner may be over. It would certainly be questionable to book him in the top spot at this point. The only argument for it is that he’s able to sell fights verbally, which brings with it a number of fans hoping to see him get beat up/knocked out, but if there’s to be any lean towards sport over spectacle, does it make sense for a guy barely in the top ten to take top slot on a card? The best work Michael Bisping did against Luke Rockhold came at press events, and therein lies the problem. He’s a great salesman, but his pitch is getting stale, and the product rarely delivers. In his last five fights, he headlined four of them and lost all but one of those headlining tilts.

That means a step down in competition, which Bisping probably needs. He’s simply not able to take out the best of the best — but title shots don’t always require that anyway, thanks to injuries, and a lack of opponents who haven’t already faced one another. Book Bisping in a co-headlining spot on a card or even lower down. Give him an opponent at the outskirts of the top fifteen. See how he fares. Then give him someone borderline top ten. If he’s unable to pass that sort of test, his days of relevancy in the title picture really are done, though he will still have a solid mid-card career for a few years, and could always be bumped back up to a Fight Pass headliner in a pinch.

Failing some sort of turnaround, however, we might just have to count out The Count.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.