Ever since he debuted into the hearts and minds of UFC fans, Bisping has been the biggest villain on the UFC roster. Outside of his native England, Bisping gets booed by the majority of fans no matter where he goes, it seems, and going into “The Ultimate Fighter” finale, he was in a similar spot as he was at UFC 100: facing an American fan favorite in Las Vegas.
But after the devastating knockout loss to Dan Henderson he suffered last time around, Bisping has rallied to go on a fairly impressive winning streak. Since his February 2010 decision loss to Wanderlei Silva that many argued should’ve gone his way, Bisping has scored wins over Pride stalwart Denis Kang and longtime UFC resident Jorge Rivera, along with victories over Yoshihiro Akiyama and Dan Miller. And now, with a decisive victory over Jason “Mayhem” Miller, there ought to be a clear path between him and middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
But there won’t be. Why?
Because he’s the last man entering a title picture that already includes Chael Sonnen and Mark Munoz. It’s never the last man to the party that gets the girl, it seems, and Bisping’s commitment to “TUF” has left him coming in late.
You can make the case that each of the three fighters deserve a shot against Silva, who is nursing a shoulder injury.
Sonnen is the big-money rematch, the one with the sizzle that moves the needle. He’s MMA’s bad boy and after nearly accomplishing everything he said he would a year ago by pushing the champion to his limit, the rematch means a lot.
Munoz is the plucky underdog who has risen through the middleweight ranks impressively. He has the same talents as Sonnen, but with much deadlier power in his fists.
Bisping has earned his title shot by beating consistently better competition and many of the same fighters Munoz and Sonnen beat. It can be argued that Bisping has as much right to a title shot as either of them. He just “dismantled,” in Dana White’s words, one of the few fighters you could’ve called among the best middleweight fighters outside the UFC’s umbrella a year ago in Miller.
This is what happens when there are so few actual contenders for Silva’s title belt.
The champion is injured, but he won’t need an extended recovery time. This isn’t like when former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez tore his rotator cuff, forcing a near year-long wait for the belt; Silva will be ready to go perhaps as early as late spring/early summer and a January fight between Munoz and Sonnen leaves plenty of time for both to heal up and be ready for “The Spider.”
It’s almost as if Bisping is being unfairly punished by the UFC by being saddled with the unenviable position of coaching on the company’s reality show. Bisping, in his athletic prime, can’t afford to wait perhaps close to a year for his title shot. For a fighter who’s been a “company man,” never turning down fights and coaching “TUF” twice, as well as appearing on the show as a competitor, Bisping is on the outside of the company’s middleweight title picture looking in through no fault of his own.
But perhaps the wait gives him the ability to be set up as the next contender. If that’s the case, Bisping’s next opponent ought to be fairly simple to pick: The winner of Anthony “Rumble” Johnson vs. Vitor Belfort, who clash at UFC 142. If Bisping has to take another fight while waiting for the title picture to resolve itself between Munoz, Sonnen and the champion then this ought to be his next fight. Johnson is moving up a weightclass after being a top-10 welterweight for some time. Belfort lost to Silva earlier in the year, and he holds a tournament title and a short light heavyweight reign. Either fighter would be an intriguing final test for Bisping. Johnson presents a stylistic matchup much like Rashad Evans did as a heavy-handed wrestler, whereas Belfort’s devastating knockout power and inconsistency makes for a more commercial matchup.
But in reality, it shouldn’t be that way. Bisping ought to be first in line by virtue of both his resume as well as being saddled with the lame-duck season of “TUF” foisted upon him by the UFC moving the show from Spike TV to FX as part of the deal with FOX. Life isn’t fair, and you won’t hear Michael Bisping complain about not getting a title shot when he rightfully could. But he deserves it more.