Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson 2 Pre-Fight Analysis feat. Derek Brunson


After a mildly entertaining Fight Night from Portland, Oregon, the UFC returns to the United Kingdom for a Pay-Per-View event for the very first time since UFC 112.

UFC 204 will be taking place this Saturday evening, at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. To be completely honest, the promotion has put together a pretty fun set of fights. The Skyscraper, Stefan Struve, returns after recently finishing Big Foot in the first round (poor Big Foot). Coming off losses against top contenders, Ovince Saint Preux and Jimi Manuwa will go to war. Vitor Belfort and Gegard Mousasi are squaring off in a crucial fight for both men. However, the British fans who stay up until 3:00 am (local time) will get to cheer on their hero Michael Bisping as he attempts to avenge his infamous loss against Dan Henderson.

The victor's reward? The UFC Middleweight championship.


Before we dive into the breakdown, let's briefly talk about the matchup itself. Like most of the MMA community, I wasn't thrilled when the fight was announced. In a division packed with monsters like Chris Weidman, Jacare Souza, Yoel Romero, and Luke Rockhold, giving Dan Henderson a title shot didn't make a ton of sense. From a narrative perspective? I guess. But on the matchmaking side of things, it was an odd choice, to say the least. If a bout is bound to break multiple records, I'm okay with occasionally drifting away from the rankings in order to see a 'super' fight, e.g, Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez. However, I don't think 204's main event will do numbers big enough to justify the decision. Having said that, it is what it is.  I'm excited to see the action unfold, and there is a lot to unpack. Luckily, I will be helped by the eighth best Middleweight in the world, Derek Brunson. Let's get to it.

Whenever two fighters meet in the octagon for the second time, I like to return to their original encounter and ask myself: who improved the most since their last battle? Going back to their UFC 100 clash, we witnessed two warriors (with slightly sloppier styles) exchange blows until Hendo landed a flush right hand that turned Bisping's brain off. Fast forward seven years and the Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler hasn't really changed.


The uppermost feature that causes Henderson to stick out like a sore thumb is his inhuman power. If you're fighting Dan, all you're really worrying about is his right hand from hell. One touch and before you know it, you're regaining consciousness in the cold canvas after being knocked out. Having said that, the American brawler is in the closing chapter of his career. As crazy as it sounds, Hendo competed in UFC 17. 187 PPVs later, he's headlining the card. For all intents and purposes, this might truly be the last time we get to see him perform.

At 45 years of age, his vicious punch potency is alive and well. Nevertheless, his ability to land said blow is up in the air. When your entire 'game' is based around a single weapon, smart fighters are able to craft a gameplan that allows them to nullify that same specific tool. If executed right, the strategy will typically lead you to victory. That's where many people are underrating the current champion. Make no mistake about it, Michael Bisping is more than a smart fighter. He's one of the best in the organization's history.


Most wins in UFC history, most wins in Middleweight division, most significant strikes in UFC history, etc. You'd think these accolades belong to Anderson Silva or Vitor Belfort. They don't. The Count is unquestionably underrated. More importantly, he's gradually shown improvements from appearance to appearance. 2016 Bisping is not the same individual that was brutally finished by Dan at the historic event.

Technically, he's become more sound and disciplined. However, the biggest improvement has emerged from within. He's more humble, motivated, and calculated. After shocking the world by beating Silva and Rockhold within months, he's never been in a superior mental state.


Onto the breakdown itself, I believe Bisping is obviously the finer mixed martial artist. When standing, Hendo doesn't throw a lot of combinations, set-ups, or faints. It's all about the right haymaker. On the other side, The Count is very technique-oriented, with a real focus on fundamentals. That exact gap in abilities is present in virtually every aspect of the sport. Derek says: I think it's a very interesting fight. I have Bisping winning this one.

Finally, we reach the key of the fight. Without a shadow of a doubt, it's 'pace'. Whoever manages to impose his rhythm and dictate the range will leave Great Britain with the belt. Henderson probably understands that his chances decrease as the bout progresses. He will likely go for the early kill, attempting to corral Michael against the cage in order to unload with the dynamite stick (aka his fist). Conversely, Bisping will look to pick his opponent apart, efficiently throwing the correct shots while staying away from the bomb. Brunson agrees: "He'll be looking to keep the pace high and out-point Henderson." In my opinion, it's vital that he applies intelligent pressure. He must enforce his gameplan, slightly controlling the octagon in order to avoid getting confined in small, tight spaces. If he can weather the early storm, he should have no problem coming out with the gold around his waste. Who's leaving Manchester with the strap? I can't bloody wait to find out.


Personal Prediction: Michael Bisping
Derek Brunson Prediction: Bisping by TKO mid 1st or early 2nd

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