QUEBEC CITY – When Tim Kennedy arrived in the UFC in 2013 at age 33 and without a top 10 win to his credit, there were questions and doubts about just where he could go. Was he a grappling machine that could stifle most anyone on his best day, or would he be the type to fall short in the big fights, as he had while in Strikeforce? That story is still being written, but on Wednesday in the TUF Nations Finale main event, he took another step in shattering the glass ceiling that had been placed over his head by so many.
Using his grinding style along with powerful striking, Kennedy took a surprisingly lopsided win over Michael Bisping, earning a unanimous decision by 49-46, 49-46, 50-45 scores at the Colisee Pepsi.
"I hit you with my best shots. You took them," he said to Bisping. "I have nothing but respect for you."
The words ended the rivalry that dated back to 2010, when Kennedy first challenged Bisping despite being signed to another organization. But the night wasn’t all smiles for Kennedy, who was extremely critical of his own performance, and more significantly, likely broke his right hand during the fight’s action, he told FOX Sports.
Kennedy said he expects to get the hand checked out as early as Thursday.
I hit you with my best shots. You took them. I have nothing but respect for you.
- Kennedy to Bisping
But there was plenty of positive. The American set the tone right away, going to his strength in gaining an advantage in the first round. Within 45 seconds, he had Bisping on his back. Bisping is usually a wiz at getting to his feet, but Kennedy kept control of his body and wouldn’t let him up. Though he couldn’t land much offense early, he eventually worked to full mount and landed several strikes before Bisping gave his back. Kennedy briefly hunted a rear naked choke to no avail, but the extended positional control won him the first and sent a clear signal that he could dominate his position of choice.
Bisping rebounded in the second largely by neutralizing that grappling game. Forcing an all-standup round, Bisping chipped away from the outside, backing Kennedy to the fence repeatedly and taking over the aggressor role. But that was largely his last stand.
Kennedy swung the pendulum back his way in the third as he duck under a swing and took Bisping down, holding him on the mat for the duration.
Most expected that Kennedy would produce his best results on the ground, but he also landed the bout’s most impactful standing strikes, rocking Bisping on several occasions, most notably in the fourth round when he had the Brit on wobbly legs.
"I finish fights," he said. "I didn’t finish the fight tonight. I hit him with my best shots. Things weren’t clicking tonight."
Despite that declaration, it serves as his most significant career win, as he takes out a fighter rated above him at No. 5 in the current rankings. It also makes Kennedy (18-4) a perfect 3-0 in a suddenly crowding middleweight division.
Bisping (24-6) has now alternated wins and losses in his last six fights, although on this night he was fighting for the first time in 355 days due to an eye injury that briefly threatened his career.
"It’s a huge win," Kennedy said. "It was the biggest opportunity that Dana’s ever given me. I was really humbled to be in a main event against a perennial contender. I dominated Michael Bisping, a guy who’s been in the top five forever."