Naturally abrasive and easy to hate, Michael “The Count” Bisping (30-7) used to be a tier below the best.
He’s got fast hands, but he doesn’t have the speed that lets him flurry on hurt opponents. He hits hard but apart from the Rockhold knockout, doesn’t show one-shot power. He can wrestle, but not against the best wrestlers in the division. He had fantastic cardio, but that wasn’t enough to take out fighters with better tools.
He was very good defensively except he insists on circling to his left and retracting his jab poorly. The story was always that Bisping could beat everyone but the elite, a kind of “level 2” gatekeeper.
But he’s added a few wrinkles that have helped him get to the next level and win the belt.
His jab still isn’t retracted well, but he’s learned to vary its speed making it difficult to counter. Sometimes he’ll throw full power through the whole punch, sometime he’ll delay the uncoiling and snap through the finish, sometimes he’ll feint and come over the top. This has sharpened his offense while simultaneously covering one of his defensive holes. He’s also committed on his left hook, knocking down Silva and knocking out Rockhold.
Bisping is still the most beatable middleweight champion in recent memory, but he’s more dangerous than people think.
Four years away from the sport and returning to fight in a higher weight class may sound crazy. Well, it is crazy. But Georges “Rush” St-Pierre (25-2) is one of the greatest champions in UFC history so might as well be him.
In his prime, Georges St-Pierre ruled the division with a scalpel-like jab, a ferocious takedown and a top game that would make a fire-blanket jealous. He’d leap in and out with his jab at different angles, shattering noses and orbital bones alike.
He’d punish head shots with takedowns and spend entire rounds smashing their faces in with punches and elbows. This would make opponents more reluctant to start their offense which let GSP run away on points.
This is on top of the fact that, in his prime, he was the best athlete the UFC had ever seen.
People try to hold the win over Johny Hendricks against him, but Hendricks has been plagued by (justified) accusations of PED usage and the southpaw stance jammed his jab. I mean, the only two fights GSP has lost were early in his career to Matt Hughes and Matt Serra. That’s the second greatest welterweight of all time and a man who channeled Rocky (respectively).
GSP brings so many questions to this fight that we cannot answer.
How much of a factor is four years of ring rust? Is he strong enough to wrestle middleweights? Will he tire grappling with a larger man? Can his chin absorb the power of one weight class higher than he’s used to? If GSP wants to win, he will do it by decision. There’s no reason to think he’s capable of finishing Bisping while the champion can sleep GSP.
A St-Pierre win would be incredible, but too much has to go right for that to happen.