Michael Bisping v Vitor Belfort
Always the bridesmaid and never the bride. This well-worn idiom fittingly describes Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping’s seven year UFC career so far. Granted, in the middleweight division where Anderson Silva is king, he’ll be cruelly ditched at the alter long before the vows are uttered but at least he’ll get to wear the big dress and ride in a horse drawn carriage. If he wins this weekend.
Bisping’s 13-4 record in the UFC is better than the vast majority of fighters. He has never lost consecutive fights and only once, his knock-out defeat to Dan Henderson, has he been comprehensively beaten. He possesses an unusually good record for someone who has never been given a title shot.
It’s not that UFC president Dana White has anything against Bisping, it’s just that the 33-year old Englishman keeps losing just as he’s on the cusp of getting a shot. Which is where he finds himself once again.
“If Bisping wins, he’ll get the shot.” – Dana White.
Now all the Ultimate Fighter 3 winner has to do is beat The Phenom.
Vitor Belfort, now 35, earned his nickname by winning his first UFC fight at the age of just 19. Securing the UFC 12 heavyweight championship later the same day. Seven years later Brazilian would go on to win the UFC light heavyweight belt and has recently fought for both the middleweight and light-heavyweight belts.
Despite a UFC record of 10-7, Belfort is a top level fighter. He may have been blown away by Anderson Silva in 2011 but he came closer than anyone else to beating light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones last September. His first round arm-bar may not have won him the fight but it has put Jones out of action until April of this year.
This is not an easy fight for Bisping. Belfort is a dangerous striker who has been in against the best of the best over the last fifteen years. Since 2007 his record stands at 7-2 across a number of different promotions. Those two defeats came against Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, which is nothing to be ashamed about.
“Have his testicles shrunk? I think so. Does he have a penis? He is a penis. But just because he is a penis, it doesn’t mean he has a penis!” – Bisping on Belfort after pre-fight press conference.
Bisping will be well advised to continue the more considered approach he has taken in his recent fights, particularly with this being a five-rounder. Bisping’s one distinct advantage in this fight is his cardio. If he can keep things standing but avoid getting in to a reckless brawl, he should start to dominate as the fight moves in to the championship rounds.
18 of Belfort’s 31 fights have finished in the first round (58%). The fight to finish in the first round is 5/2 and Belfort to win in the first round is 7/2. If he does stop Bisping that early then it’s most likely going to come via strikes. Belfort to win via KO is 15/8.
“Let’s stop talking and do this for real. I’m ready for Saturday night. I’m excited for the crowd that will be there with me. The victory is my target and he’s going not going to stand in my way.” – Belfort’s pre-fight comments.
In comparison 11 of Bisping’s 27 fights have finished in the first round (40%), all of which he won. The last of these came 11 fights and four-and-a-half years ago against Jason Day. He has only been stopped once in his careeer. A 2nd round KO to Dan Henderson, a man who possesses one of the best right hands in the sport. So an early finish seems unlikely. The Count to win on points at 13/5 will be a popular bet amongst his supporters but if he can weather the early storm then Bisping will be worth backing to end this fight in the final two rounds. Bisping to win in the 4th round is 11/1 and a 5th round finish is 12/1.