The UFC has announced a January 19th return to Brazil. The card will feature a main event in the Middleweight division between Vitor Belfort and Michael Bisping, two of the division’s top contenders. Bisping was considered the number one contender by most observers, and was thought to potentially be the next challenge to Anderson Silva‘s title, so the announcement of this bout will come as a disappointment to Bisping fans. What does the Brit have to do to get a title shot? Now, it appears he will have to go to Brazil and beat Belfort first.
Bisping has a 13-4 record in the octagon since he joined the UFC in 2006, and despite the fact that he has been waiting for a title shot, his resume could use one signature win. Belfort could be that win, if Bisping can pull it off.
Examining Bisping’s record, many of his 13 UFC victories are against average opposition, of which many are no longer with the company. Charles McCarthy, Jorge Rivera, Jason Miller, Elvis Sinosic, Jason Day, Eric Schafer are no longer with the UFC. Yoshihiro Akiyama has since gone down a weight class, Denis Kang never fulfilled his potential and Chris Leben is a mid tier fighter who is up and down.
Belfort is a better and more complete fighter than the list above, and Bisping is likely going to come in as the underdog against Belfort.
Belfort really helped himself with a decent performance against 205 lb champion Jon Jones in his last outing. He came out trying to finish, and he hung tough and weathered a lot of punishment before succumbing in the fight.
Belfort seemed to overcome some of the knocks on him, especially that he diminishes after the first round. If he can put a complete fight together, he can win a decision against Bisping, who has trouble with superior athletes. Belfort is a better natural athlete than Bisping.
Bisping has lost to Dan Henderson, Rashad Evans, Chael Sonnen and Vanderlei Silva. In terms of physical explosiveness, Belfort is a lot closer to this elite group than he is to Jason Miller.
Also not to be dismissed in this case is the home field advantage that Belfort will enjoy. Knowing Belfort, a win in Brazil is meaningful to him and will also help bring out the best in Belfort. Bisping is a very seasoned fighter, so the trip and the pressure of the fight build up won’t affect him much, but once the gate is closed and the crowd of 20 to 30 thousand is unleashed and 100 percent against you, it will play a factor.
It is unfortunate for Bisping, who has done everything the company has asked of him and he has chased the title shot carrot that has been dangled in workmanlike fashion. He is going to need a superhero level performance to beat Belfort. Belfort will win this, likely with a finish by strikes in Round 1 or 2. Now let’s wait and see what the oddsmakers think – won’t be long now before we see a line.