UFC 204: Bisping’s Homecoming Smells of Revenge

By: Austin Short

Manchester, England is the host site of Saturday’s UFC 204 and is also home to middleweight champion Michael Bisping.

Bisping, along with legendary mixed-martial artist Dan Henderson, lead the main card, which also features former title contenders looking to notch victories and climb their ways back up the rankings.

Champion Michael Bisping (30-7-0) vs. No. 13 Dan Henderson (32-14-0)

Bisping and Henderson are not strangers. In 2009, Bisping and Henderson were coaches for the ninth season of The Ultimate Fighter. After the show concluded the two fought at UFC 100.

Henderson knocked Bisping out in epic fashion and gave him an extra diving shot for reassurance, something Bisping surely has not forgotten. The main event reeks of nostalgia and revenge.

Seven years later, Bisping is coming off of impressive victories over former champions Luke Rockhold and the legendary Anderson Silva. Meanwhile, Henderson is 3-6 in his last nine bouts. But on the same fateful night that “The Count” captured his first title, Henderson knocked out Hector Lombard with a vicious back elbow.

The 37-year-old Bisping is undoubtedly the best version of himself yet. His jab is as crisp and sound as it has ever been. His footwork has improved tremendously and he finally has learned to circle away from the dominant hand of his opponent, something that cost him the first time he faced “Hendo.”

Henderson has always relied on his heavy overhand right, something that Bisping is all too familiar with. He is also great at striking as he enters or exits the clinch. His Greco-Roman wrestling background has become less and less a part of his game, although he is still very tough from the top when on the mat.

Even though Henderson is not a top contender in the middleweight division, this will be an entertaining fight. Henderson isn’t going to outscore anyone at this point in his career; he will be striving for a knockout like always. Meanwhile, Bisping has always been extremely durable and versatile. He can beat his opponents in a multitude of ways.

Hendo has more miles on him than an ‘81 Honda. Bisping has been around the block for a while too, but I expect him to run circles around Henderson (not towards his right hand though).

Prediction: Bisping wins by unanimous decision.

No. 5 Vitor Belfort (25-12-0) vs. No. 9 Gegard Mousasi (39-6-2)

The co-main event is a battle between middleweight contenders. Belfort, the Brazilian, is known for his fury of strikes. In his last six fights he is 4-2, including two victories over Henderson and a victory of Bisping as well. The 39-year-old has fought some of the best fighters of all time over his career.

Meanwhile, Mousasi is a methodical fighter who focuses on precision and strategy while striking. He is also very sound in the clinch and on the ground. He has a lot of great trips and throws that should put him in a favorable position against Belfort, if utilized correctly.

Prediction: Mousasi third round TKO

No. 5 Ovince Saint Preux (19-8-0) vs. No. 8 Jimi Manuwa (15-2-0)

Both of these light heavyweights have recently faced their toughest opponents to date with little success.

Saint Preux fought former champion Jon Jones for the interim belt and came up short by unanimous decision. Manuwa recently fought Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, the No. 1 contender in the division, and was knocked out cold.

Saint Preux is an unorthodox southpaw. His style keeps his opponents on their toes with kicks and jabs. Occasionally he will push the pace, but he often likes to counter strike with his 80-inch” reach. He is a great athlete with a lot of power. His wrestling is solid, but on his back, he has room for improvement.

Manuwa is also an athletic specimen. Although he isn’t quite as big as Saint Preux, his striking style is more traditional than his opponent. Manuwa also has solid kicks, but where he really shines is in the clinch. Knees and uppercuts in the clinch are common from the London native.

Although Manuwa is good at staying on his feet, Saint Preux’s unorthodox style and imposing figure should allow him to decide if the fight will be on the mat or standing. Either way, Saint Preux’s power will shine.

Prediction: Saint Preux by split decision

No. 12 Stefan Struve (31-8-0) vs. No. 14 Daniel Omielanczuk (19-5-1)

Stefan Struve is a very tall man. The “Skyscraper” is a 7-footer. Omielanczuk is a whole foot shorter. This heavyweight fight will most likely remain on the feet as both fighters prefer to stand and trade shots.

Struve, of the Netherlands, has a penchant for getting into brawls and putting himself into bad spots. But he has gotten better at using his immense range with a variety of kicks and punches to keep distance more effectively.

The Polish Omielanczuk is a tough fighter. He is a southpaw that uses kicks and jabs along with combos. His combinations often involve mixing up strikes from the body to the head.

Neither of these guys will want to go to the ground. If this becomes a real brawl, the advantage could go to Omielanczuk. But I expect Struve to use his giant frame to keep his distance and land bombs.

Prediction: Struve by KO first round

No. 15 Mirsad Bektic (10-0-0) vs. Russell Doane (14-6-0)

This featherweight fight features an up-and-coming prospect against a fighter trying to remain relevant in the UFC. Bektic had won three UFC fights before tearing his ACL. Two opponents pulled out of this card and Russell Doane picked up the fight four days before the event. Doane has lost three in a row and his UFC career is in jeopardy.

Bektic, the Bosnian product, has great potential. He has blazing fast hands and pairs them with raw power for his size. His stifling jab paired with the ability to chain together strikes make him a knockout waiting to happen.

On the ground, Bektic passes with ease and uses his speed and power to his advantage from the top. His strength makes him nearly uncontrollable for other featherweights.

Doane on the other hand is also quick and athletic. He recently switched to a southpaw stance and is looking to strike at a consistent rate throughout the fight. On the ground, Doane is aggressive, especially with submission attempts, which could be a detriment in this fight.

In the end, Bektic should outclass Doane, even though he is coming back from a 17-month layoff. Bektic should be relatively fresh though and is more prepared than Doane, who is coming into the fight on short notice.

Prediction: Bektic by KO second round