Anyone who ever questioned Michael Bisping’s toughness, heart, or fight IQ will be eating their words after Fight Night 84. In front of a hometown crowd at the O2 Arena in London, England, “The Count” put on a career-defining performance against former longtime middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Bisping stayed focused in the face of Silva’s antics, picked his shots, survived a brutal, near-TKO-inducing flying knee, and secured a decision win in the eyes of the judges. The win puts Bisping at three-in-a-row, and is certainly the most high profile victory of his career.

In Fight Night 84′s co-main event, Gegard Mousasi implemented a smart, stand-up heavy gameplan against jiu-jitsu phenom Thales Leites to earn a decision win. Although the fight was lacking in fireworks and seemed to drag on beyond its intended three rounds, it puts Mousasi back on the winning track after a disappointing TKO loss to Uriah Hall last September at Fight Night 75.   

Now that UFC London is in the rearview mirror, grab yourself a celebratory pint – or a consoling cup of tea – and settle in as we look at what the future has in store for the four main event middleweights.

Bisping survives flying knee, wins close decision over “The Spider”
Potential Opponents: Winner of “Jacare” vs Belfort, Gegard Mousasi

Despite nabbing the decision win at Fight Night 84, Michael “The Count” Bisping took an incredible amount of damage from Silva during the fight – including the aforementioned flying knee and a brutal front kick to the face.

The Silva win is an impressive feather in Bisping’s cap, but it wasn’t quite enough to have fans and media unanimously campaigning for Bisping title fight. It does, however, secure his seat at the middleweight “Top 5” table.  In an ideal world where fighter safety comes first, he would now take a nice 6-8 month vacation with little-to-no sparring before the UFC considers booking his next fight.

But who are we kidding? Unless Bisping sustained a significant injury that prohibits him from fighting, the UFC will probably look to leverage the Brit’s momentum by booking another high profile fight sometime in mid-2016.

That being said, Bisping’s next opponent will primarily be a game of timing, as the top of the middleweight division is more of a crowded lobby than a single file line-up. A title fight rematch between Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman is being teased – although not formally announced – for UFC 199 in June, so those two are off the table for now. Similarly, number two middleweight Yoel Romero is, for the time being, out indefinitely while he tries to clear his name of allegations surrounding inconsistent USADA test results that surfaced last month.

Two top five 185-ers happen to be fighting at UFC 198 in May, and the winner may emerge as a prime target for Bisping. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort are currently ranked 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in the middleweight standings, just behind former of champ Chris Weidman. “The Count” is currently at number seven, but this will certainly change once the UFC releases its updated rankings, post-UFC London. The May timeline would give Bisping time to recover and, depending on who wins the UFC 198 headliner, he would be equally happy to have an opportunity to avenge his 2013 loss to “The Phenom” or derail “Jacare’s” plans for a title run. Further to that, a convincing win over either Belfort or “Jacare” would be undeniable proof that Bisping deserves a crack at middleweight gold.

If Bisping is miraculously cleared to fight sooner rather than later, another potential opponent is fellow Fight Night 84 contender Gegard Mousasi. The Dutch fighter earned a strategic, if not particularly inspiring, decision win over Thales Leites in the night’s co-main event, and alluded to his desire to fight Bisping at the post-fight press conference.

Mousasi appears to have ended the night more or less healthy, so he may be ready to return to action before Bisping. If, however, their timelines match-up, a fight between the proud Brit and the well-rounded Dutch fighter would, at the very least, give the winner some ammunition to demand a number one contender bout, if not a shot at the title.

Silva shows flashes of greatness, but is bitter in decision loss to Bisping
Potential Opponents: Thales Leites, Lyoto Machida, Dan Henderson

If UFC fights were scored solely on accumulated damage, there would be overwhelming evidence – in the form of Bisping’s battered face – that Silva deserved the nod at Fight Night 84. You could also make a convincing argument that the fight should have been stopped after round three.  Silva dropped Bisping with a vicious flying knee as the round came to a close and misinterpreted Herb Dean’s customary stepping in at the end of the round as a stoppage win. Few, outside of maybe Bisping and his corner, would have debated a TKO stoppage at that point, but it didn’t happen, and Silva ultimately lost a close decision to the Brit.  

Silva was clearly displeased with the decision, going as far as to blame the loss on MMA’s “totally corrupted” system. However, in the context of the overall fight, Silva’s loss has less to do with corruption than with a performance plagued by his own complacency: he allowed Bisping to have too much control of the pace of the fight and the cage itself; he repeatedly stood with his back against the fence, hands down, happy to duck and weave while Bisping scored shots; and despite the fact that Bisping entered round four looking slow and sluggish – clearly still feeling the effects of Silva’s knee – the Brazilian was largely inactive for the first half of the round, which gave “The Count” ample time to recover and ultimately steal the fourth – and the fight – on the judges scorecards.  

Silva occupies a strange space in the UFC’s middleweight division. After going 16-0 from 2006-2013, the majority of which were title fights, “The Spider” is now winless in his past four fights – officially, he’s 0-3 with one no-contest; his win over Nick Diaz was overturned due to a failed drug test.  Despite this, his legendary status in the sport means that Silva is always only one or two wins away from a title shot, but his last couple of fights have left many wondering if the 40 year old has the drive to make another legitimate run at the title. If Silva wants to convince the naysayers that he still has what it takes to be a UFC champion, he’ll have to take the fight to his next opponent for all five rounds, or until he gets a definitive finish.

Silva may want to consider the rematch route as a way to both stay active and regain some of his previous middleweight glory. One rematch option for Silva is fellow Brazilian, Thales Leites, who lost a tough unanimous decision to Gegard Mousasi in the co-main event of Fight Night 84. Leites and Silva originally fought at UFC 97, all the way back in 2009, with Silva winning the contest by unanimous decision. A lot has changed in the seven years since their first fight, but both fighters currently find themselves in need of a win if they wish to remain relevant in division’s top ten. A rematch of their 2009 fight would give Leites an opportunity to show how he’s grown as a mixed martial artist since their initial match-up, while a Silva win would prove he’s still a threat to the UFC’s elite middleweight competition.

Another bout featuring two fighters looking to remain relevant in the middleweight rankings is the upcoming fight between Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson at UFC on FOX 19 in April. Depending on how this fight plays out, the UFC could reasonably book Silva against either fighter, regardless of who gets the win.

The Machida fight would be the tougher sell, as he and Silva have trained together extensively in the past. That said, the fight has the potential to be an amazing display of technical striking between two Brazilian legends. If Henderson, who currently stands near the bottom of the middleweight top 15,  beats Machida in April, he still has quite a way to go to prove he’s a middleweight contender. It’s been nearly eight years since Henderson and Silva’s first fight at UFC 82, which “The Spider” won via second round submission. A rematch would give “Hendo” a chance to avenge his loss, and Silva would be eager to prove he’s not over the hill by taking out another legend of the sport.

That’s it for this week’s psychic post-fight breakdown. Keep your eye on The MMA Corner for all our coverage of next Saturday’s monster UFC 196 card. We’ll break out the crystal ball again after the event to see what the future holds for the headlining fighters, including the 170lbs clash between McGregor and Diaz, and the women’s bantamweight title fight between Holly Holm and Meisha Tate.

  • Water Buffalo

    Only in the eyes of the judges and his fellow countrymen… Never will own a belt !
    Should keep his mouth shut and stop the jealous character assasination of fellow fighters, specially Yoel Romero, who is innocent beyond a doubt and I guarantee after all that has been said would be happy to step into the Octagon and hurt him.