Michael “The Count” Bisping (24-5, 14
KO’s, 4 Subs)
When the conversation turns to the topic of Michael Bisping, grimaces and rolled eyes usually abound. He is a polarizing figure to be sure and his arrogance has a tendency to provoke fans to minimize his talent. But inside the Octagon, he has proven to be a formidable foe and a highly successful fighter in both the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions.
However, at the age of 35, Bisping appears to be relegated to gatekeeper status. He has the skill and pedigree to sustain a career that will land him on the main card of every UFC show but getting a title shot may take an uninterrupted string of victories over top level talent. He could always be called in as a late replacement if a challenger gets injured but his track record of beating the uber elite has not been good. His five losses have come at the hands of former light heavy weight champ Rashad Evans (split decision), future Hall-of-Famer Dan Henderson (knockout), former PRIDE legend Wanderlei Silva (unanimous decision), Chael Sonnen and the “Phenom” himself Vitor Belfort (knockout). Certainly there is no shame in losing to that caliber of competition but in order wear the strap, that is exactly the kind of competition one needs to beat.
Tim Kennedy (17-4, 6 KO’s, 8 Subs)
2013 was a successful year for Tim Kennedy. After sustaining a loss to Luke Rockhold via unanimous decision back in July of 2012, Kennedy reeled off three consecutive victories last year over Trevor Smith (submission), Roger Gracie (unanimous decision) and Rafael Natal (knockout). The big KO scored over Natal in the opening round paved the way for this showdown with Bisping. It is no secret that Kennedy has an axe to grind with Bisping and was pining for a chance to close the mouth of the loquacious and abrasive Brit brawler. In a meeting with head shot caller Dana White, his wish was granted.
Kennedy was installed as a -344 favorite in UFC odds when he took the cage against Rafael Natal. At the beginning of the match, Kennedy appeared tepid and reticent about mixing it up with Natal, preferring to jab and dodge. But as the round wore on, Kennedy began to explore a more aggressive approach and imposed his superior strength. And just like that, Kennedy launched a murderous left hook that found its target in stunning fashion as the cagey Brazilian crashed to the canvas and Kennedy subsequently declared the winner.
Free UFC Pick:
As of this writing the UFC odds on this one are scarce but there are a few offshore books making Bisping roughly a 2-1 favorite to defeat Kennedy. This may not be one of the more glamorous matchups but it has the potential to be a highly entertaining fight. Of course there is the emotional aspect between two fighters that - to quote an overused phrase - don’t like each other. In this case, it’s true.
Bisping holds the advantage in technical striking ability while Kennedy has more raw power. But as we have seen in the UFC, the fighter who can score more often is in good stead to win on the judges’ scorecards. This is a five round affair as it is the main event in the TUF Finale so conditioning will certainly factor into my decision. Cardio has never been a problem for Bisping therefore he will have no worries keeping pace with his opponent. As for the ground game, both can be effective when the fight hits the floor but this one will probably remain standing. I would like to give the nod to Kennedy but I believe Bisping is simply too skilled with his hands to lose this one to a more plodding power puncher.
Unless Kennedy strikes gold as he did against Natal, look for Bisping to prevail in your UFC picks which can be had at either Bet365.com or WilliamHill.com.