It's no secret that the UFC has been waiting for Michael Bisping to make the leap from top-tier middleweight to title challenger. The "Count" is one of the most popular fighters in the promotion and a title fight in England will help with European expansion.
Bisping's career in the UFC can best be described as unimpressive. That's not to say he's inconsistent or lacks talent. It's just that whenever he has been given the opportunity to pick up that career-defining "big win," he always finds a way to lose.
Whether it's on the receiving end of an H-Bomb courtesy of Dan Henderson or losing a close decision to Chael Sonnen, Bisping has failed against the elite. Yet, he continues to carry on about how he's close to a title fight and just needs that one win.
It's a statement that defines his career.
To his credit, Bisping has remained just outside of the inner circle of elite middleweights. He's always on the cusp but has never found a way to become one of those esteemed members. This weekend he has the opportunity to become peers with the Sonnen's and Chris Weidman's of the division.
Which is why he's in a must-win situation. This weekend against Brian Stann could very well be Bisping's last chance to secure his legacy as a fighter. He can either be the fighter who made the most of an opportunity or he can be the guy who just can't get there.
He's one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division and yet Bisping can't find it within himself to make the next step. Sure, he's talented, but he's essentially a British version of Chael Sonnen: a talented fighter whose biggest asset remains his gift of gab.
In the world of MMA, being able to talk the talk is just as important as being able to back it up. It's just another piece of becoming a complete fighter. But at the end of the day, in-cage performance is what separates the legitimate stars from the also-rans.
He can talk about how no one cares about the lighter weight fighters or how he and Stann are the true fight of the night. He can comment that Joe Silva has promised him a title shot if he picks up a win. He can even take potshots at Chris Weidman for not deserving a title shot because he's unknown.
He can talk about all of that. He just needs to back it up. And this Saturday may be his last opportunity to show that he belongs with the best the UFC has to offer.
A loss would surely send him to the back of the line, far away from UFC gold. A loss would also show that he's just not there, not good enough to carry the proverbial promotional flag. A talented fighter more known for his abilities on the microphone than in the cage.
UFC 152 is almost here. I hope that Bisping is prepared to show that he's ready to make the next big step in his career. If he can't, then he's just another fighter who can talk up a fight.