Event: UFC 204 – Bisping vs. Henderson 2 Date: October 8, 2016 Location: Manchester, England Venue: Manchester Arena Broadcast: Pay-Per-View UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping After winning ‘The Ultimate Fighter 3’ as a light heavyweight, Michael Bisping led the charge for the UFC’s international expansion, particularly in the United Kingdom. Over his 10-year UFC career, ‘The Count’ has fought more than 25 times inside the Octagon, put together several three- and four-fight winning streaks, but has always just fallen short of a title shot. One of Bisping’s best qualities outside of his fight ability is to make every fight of his feel like a big one, either due to his brash nature, or the support he receives from the local English crowds. Despite approaching his late 30s, 2015 seemed to mark a turning point for the Brit. Prior to that, the most memorable moments in his UFC career had been times he was on the receiving end of stoppages (Dan Henderson at UFC 100, Vitor Belfort landing a head kick on him, and Luke Rockhold guillotining him with one arm), controversial decisions (Matt Hamill), or just plain controversy (the Jorge Rivera fiasco, and Alan Belcher eye-poke). However, sentiment towards him seemed to become more favorable in 2015. Perhaps it was fans realizing he was approaching the end of his career and that he’ll be missed when he’s gone, but for the first time people started cheering for Bisping’s success. With victories over CB Dolloway and Thales Leites, Bisping had posted back-to-back top 15 wins for the first time in his career. That set up a showdown with Anderson Silva, the former champion Bisping had been lobbying to face for years. A wild 25 minutes later, Bisping had been knocked out at the end of a round, hurt badly in a couple of others, but emerged with a unanimous decision victory, his biggest yet. Then, when Chris Weidman pulled out of his UFC 199 title shot with a neck injury, ‘The Count’ was first in line asking to fill the spot. He took full advantage of the opportunity, knocking out Rockhold in the opening round to not only avenge that loss, but capture his long awaited UFC title. Revenge will also be a theme in Bisping’s first title defense, as UFC 204 will see him defend his belt against Dan Henderson in front of his hometown crowd in Manchester, England. UFC Middleweight Contender Dan Henderson One of the true legends of MMA, Dan Henderson has been competing since 1997. He started his career as something to do between Olympic wrestling cycles, and instantly had an aptitude for the sport. He’s also changed drastically as a fighter since his early days. In his early days, Henderson was little more than a wrestler with an iron chin, and over time he’s become perhaps the biggest power puncher in MMA history. After becoming a two-division champion in PRIDE, Henderson returned to the UFC to vie for both the middleweight and light heavyweight titles (unsuccessfully). After an up-and-down run in the UFC, Henderson left for Strikeforce in 2010, where he put on a remarkable run. Moving up to heavyweight and stopping Fedor Emelianenko punctuated his time in the promotion. Strikeforce’s demise meant Henderson would re-enter the UFC for a third stint, and it began with a bang, as he put on an MMA classic with ‘Shogun’ Rua. Going just 2-6 following that bout, it seemed that Henderson’s days as a relevant contender were through. However, fate would align to offer Henderson one last shot at glory. He faced former Bellator champion Hector Lombard at UFC 199 and scored another violent knockout to add to his highlight reel. On the same card, his old nemesis Bisping would defeat Rockhold for the middleweight title. With higher ranked middleweights in flux, Henderson would be chosen as the first to challenge Bisping for the middleweight title, giving him another chance, at 46 years old, to capture an elusive UFC title. UFC 204 Odds Analysis: MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened Bisping a -240 favorite (bet $240 to win $100) with the comeback on Henderson at +180 (bet $100 to win $180) at 5Dimes Sportsbook. This number was surprisingly low to me, as the only times in the past three years that Henderson has been less than a 2-to-1 dog were against gatekeeper Tim Boetsch, and a faded Rua. Since opening, the line margins have only gotten tighter, with action on both men. Bisping is now a -235 favorite, and Henderson a +195 underdog. Perhaps I’m selling the legend short, given how consistently his big right hand has been able to land even in his latter years, but he’s simply not a fighter who wins rounds at this point in his career. If he doesn’t score the knockout, he has no other means of victory. That will only be exacerbated against Bisping, whose volume helps him consistently score and make an impression with judges. On top of that, Henderson’s chin — which once seemed impervious to punishment — has begun to fail him more often than not. Due to that, Bisping scoring a TKO is an even more likely outcome in this fight than Henderson doing the same. That’s not to say Henderson pulling the upset here is impossible. Bisping has been dropped in three of his past five fights, and obviously Henderson has had a bit of success in this matchup in the past. Bisping is a far different fighter now than he was in 2009, however. He’s more technically and defensively sound, less prone to reacting negatively under pressure, and — perhaps the biggest difference — is now infinitely more confident, especially coming off of his title win. What that all adds up to in my eyes, is a Bisping who simply makes Henderson look old and slow early in this bout, avoids the inside leg kick-to-overhand right, jab-jab-overhand right, and leaves Henderson without a whole lot of effective weapons in this fight. Eventually, Bisping will catch Henderson clean, and I can’t imagine him letting his foe off the hook, especially given their history. There’s a few angles that work in this fight. First, Bisping at -235 in a parlay can be paired with anything -250 or less to get plus-money. Another angle you can take if you have a bit more faith in Henderson than I do is for this fight to not go the distance. That line is down to -265, and accounts for the possibility of a Henderson TKO as well. I’m not as fond of this play, because a wide Bisping decision here wouldn’t shock me either. Vitor Belfort and Gegard Mousasi are still the only fighters to stop Henderson with strikes, and I consider both more dangerous on the feet than Bisping. Finally, the line hasn’t been released yet, but the Bisping points handicap should be a steal. As mentioned earlier, Bisping is a round winner and Henderson isn’t, plus that play would also account for the possibility of a Bisping stoppage, all at a heavily discounted price from the moneyline.