In Michael Bisping’s latest outing, he did things. Impressive things. Un-Michael-Bisping-ian things. Before I tell you what those things are, I need to explain to you how momentous and crazy it is that I’m about to say positive things about Michael Bisping. I’ve never been a big Bisping supporter.
The guy just never seemed to care about how he was perceived by fans. Before every single Michael Bisping fight, 3 things are guaranteed to happen:
1. Bisping will boldly predict a knockout victory for himself, despite the fact that he doesn’t have knockout power. When making this prediction, he will say something intended to belittle or besmirch his opponents’ character, most likely having to do with his opponents sexual preference or manhood quotient.
2. Bisping will act shocked and appalled that his upcoming opponent fired back in response to his grouchy predictions. He will throw his hands up in the air, exasperated, and cry foul. He will then whine about how opponents always go out of their way to trash talk him, despite the fact that he opens himself up for this treatment. He will play the victim, right up until the point that he goes into attack mode again, seemingly unaware that he was just playing the victim. He is a man of contradictions.
3. During all of this, spit will fly out of Bisping’s mouth.
(I don’t know this for a fact, but the nasally, biting tone of his voice and cadence goes hand in hand with the kind of guy who unintentionally spits all over every microphone he gets within 50 feet of. Say it, don’t spray it.)
Then he goes out, moves around, pecks away, doesn’t sit down on his punches, defends takedowns well, and wins a decision that usually leaves you thinking “… What’s the next fight?”
His highlight reel is laden with TKO stoppages and ho-hum decision wins over has-beens, UFC color commentators, guys who quit at the first sign of trouble, guys who broke into churches naked … I mean, almost every UFC stoppage this guy has had ended with someone capitulating. Denis Kang, Jason Day, Jorge Rivera, Jason Miller, Charles McCarthy … it’s just a murderers row of guys who always seem to find different ways to lose.
(Over 200 words later, I’m about to say nice things about Bisping. In fact, I didn’t even mean to go down this road. I guess I’m a reflexive Bisping non-believer.)
And yet, he’s only lost to good fighters. A lot of people thought he deserved to beat Chael Sonnen. He went the distance with a still potent Wanderlei Silva. Henderson KO loss aside, he had never gone out and been dominated from start to finish. He’s a gritty competitor and an excellent takedown defender.
Then he fought Tim Kennedy after a long layoff due to scary eye problems. Kennedy took him down repeatedly, grinded away at him on top, and won an easy decision. It seemed to be the end of the “Michael Bisping, perennial top middleweight” discussion. Bisping looked helpless against Kennedy, and did next to nothing in the way of offense.
So when he fought striker Cung Le, I expected Bisping to either play a fools game on the feet and get kicked by kicks (© Ken Shamrock), or use his underrated wrestling and try to win on points. Cung isn’t a great MMA fighter or anything, but he’s still got a dynamic striking game, the kinds of techniques that could stop Bisping in his tracks. You know … spinny shit.
(Hang on, here’s a few more metaphors. He made Cung Le’s face look like a giant, weathered vagina. It looked like it needed some Tampax and a gentle rubbing. He looked like John Merrick’s vaguely Asian cousin.)
He had never shown a willingness to bite down on his mouthpiece and engage in bloody battle. He just isn’t that kind of fighter. Michael Bisping was always really good at hiding what was usually an athletic disadvantage against his opponents, making the fight ugly and avoiding hanging around in the pocket, lest he catch one on the jaw from his (probably) much stronger foe.
So to see him walk right at a gifted striker and beat him like he owed him money was crazy. It’s not like Cung Le fought a bad fight, either. He didn’t wave the white flag at all. He landed several hard strikes on Bisping, and fought back the entire time he was getting taken to the woodshed. And it just didn’t matter. Who was this man that I was watching? It sure didn’t seem like Michael Bisping, a guy who had spent his last 20 fights in a holding pattern of doing just enough to beat decent fighters and making subpar ones fall on their own swords. But it was.
What to expect next from Michael is anyone’s guess. If you ask him, he still believes he can win the middleweight title someday, a proclamation a bit too preposterous to be taken seriously. The middleweight division has emerged as one of the UFC’s best in recent years, and I don’t see Michael competing meaningfully against the Jacare’s and Weidman’s of the world. But he’s fighting Luke Rockhold next, a guy I would have picked to dominate Bisping as little as 2 months ago. Now, I’m not so sure.
Whatever happens with the rest of his career doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that he always has that Le performance to point to as the moment where I was begrudgingly impressed with him. I used to scream about how Bisping ran away like Carl Lewis and had all the athletic gifts of a box of Tide. But you had your finest hour, Michael Bisping, and I needed to take the time to acknowledge it. Hat tip to you. Enjoy getting predictably pissed at Luke Rockhold. I’ll try to ignore it this time.