Michael “The Count” Bisping (24-5) has been in positions such as this for years now. After knocking out Josh Haynes in 2006 to claim the TUF 3 Title, Bisping staunchly marched through his opponents until dropping a close split decision loss to Rashad Evans at UFC 78.
From there he dropped weight to 185 and blasted through three opponents (including Chris Leben) at his new weight class, setting up his closest chance at a shot at UFC gold against Dan Henderson at UFC 100. From the opening bell, Bisping kept circling in to the direction Hendo’s illustrious H-bomb, of which eventually found its mark in a sickening knockout for the ages, late in the second round.
Since then, The Count has earned two title eliminators against Chael Sonnen and then Vitor Belfort, dropping losses to both men. Will he become the Peyton Manning of the UFC? If that’s the case, then his time of suffering through title eliminator losses may have led to this moment of transcendence towards a shot at UFC gold.
Where he struggles to find consistency of late, his marketability due to his cultural roots will help his relevance in title talks. Since a Brit has never won a UFC title, he may always sit about two fights away from a title shot.
“First and foremost I’m thrilled to be back in England, it has been three long years since I last fought at home in front of the people who’ve supported me my entire career,” said Bisping to UFC.com. I’m really up for this challenge against Munoz. I wanted the best possible opponent and I got him. I respect Mark as an opponent and, on a personal level, he’s one of the nicest men you will ever meet, but he’s getting beat. I’m sending the British fans home very happy.”
Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Munoz has been hanging around the top for a much shorter time than Bisping. Where The Count may be slowing down, Munoz could be on the verge of picking up the most momentum in his career to date.
Then again, he was also on the brink of a shot against Anderson Silva, until Chris Weidman stole it from him with a beautiful downward swooping elbow that caught him flush on the forehead, dropping him in to a brutal ground-n-pound tko loss.
Since neither of these men have lost to fighters ranked lower than the top three spots in the last few years, it’s safe to say their relevance and current ranking in the sport (Bisping at 4, Munoz at 6) are warranted. Their game plans are very simple as well.
Munoz will look to grind out Bisping with his unique brand of smothering wrestling with promises of brutal ground-n-pound. Bisping will watch Mark Munoz vs. Yushin Okami and try to implement a crisp boxing clinic on The Filipino Wrecking Machine.
If Munoz can’t take Bisping down, this one could become a stand up war. On the other hand, if he takes Bisping down in the early minutes of their five rounder, it could foreshadow a long night for the Pride of England.
“I know Bisping has never lost in England,” said Munoz to UFC.com, “but he’s about to! I truly believe I will silence the crowd in Manchester. I’ve already fought in the UK, when I beat Chris Leben two years ago, so I’m familiar with the jet-lag, the time change, and everything else, so don’t feel I’m at any disadvantage. This is a pivotal fight for both of us. I see this fight as a contender fight. Anderson Silva is the No.1 contender but after he gets his rematch with Chris Weidman I think the winner of this fight with Bisping is next in line. I respect Bisping’s cardio and kickboxing, but I’m in great shape too and I think I’ll get him with a submission or ground and pound within three rounds.”
As far as who has the momentum, it’s safe to say that Bisping will be the closest to a title shot due to his longevity in the sport and obvious marketability that comes along with an established name. It will also help that he will be fighting in his own back yard for the first time since beating Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 120, back in 2010.
I would like to see Munoz string a couple wins together before throwing him in against the likes of Chris Weidman or Anderson Silva at this point. But I wouldn’t put it past him to take out Bisping. Either way, they will have it out at UFC FIGHT NIGHT 30 on October 26th in Manchester England.
“There’s a new ranking system, the rankings get pretty close to followed, anyone in to the top ten could become the #1 contender, but I think we can all agree that that’s fair,” said Sonnen to Fight Magazine. The top ten guys are fairly close, the top five guys are essentially interchangeable. You could mix and match the top five anyway you wanted and nobody would argue. There’d be some debate but nobody would argue.”