Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher both had the wind taken out of their sails the last time they competed.
At UFC on FX 7, Bisping missed out on earning a title shot when he was knocked down by a Vitor Belfort head kick. Weeks before then, Belcher had no answer for the wrestling of Yushin Okami and saw a four-fight winning streak ended.
On Saturday, Bisping and Belcher will try to right their ships in the UFC 159 co-main event.
As this important middleweight contest approaches, let's take a look at which fighter is more likely to come away with the victory.
Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher are both technical kickboxers.
Despite his recent knockout loss, Bisping has been excellent at avoiding strikes, eating only 30 percent of the ones his opponents have thrown at him. For comparison, Belcher has been hit by opponents at a 40 percent clip.
Against a common opponent in Yoshihiro Akiyama, Bisping was notably more effective than Belcher with his striking.
Bisping picked the Japanese fighter apart, landing 118 times and only being hit with 50 strikes. Belcher, meanwhile, only out-landed Akiyama by a 21-strike margin.
Belcher's ground-and-pound finish of Rousimar Palhares is still fresh in our minds, so the initial reaction is to give him an edge over Bisping when it comes to striking on the ground.
However, Bisping has also done his fair share of damage from the top position.
Though he's often criticized for lacking punching power, Bisping hurts opponents with an accumulation of strikes. The Englishman battered Denis Kang on the ground at UFC 105 and finished the fight with strikes late in the second round.
Power and Durability
Bisping doesn't carry a ton of one-strike knockout power, but he lands with enough volume to put opponents away with frequency. The British middleweight has quietly accumulated eight UFC knockout wins.
Coming off of his knockout loss to Vitor Belfort, questions about Bisping's chin are also likely to resurface heading into this bout. However, Bisping has only been knocked out twice in his long UFC career, and both of those stoppages were the result of brutal blows.
Belcher has a handful of knockouts inside the Octagon, but he also suffered a knockout loss to Jason Day earlier in his career.
Overall Striking Edge: Bisping
Takedowns and Takedown Defense
Michael Bisping isn't the best wrestler in the middleweight division, but his takedowns have been highly underrated.
Having recorded takedowns against Rashad Evans and Chael Sonnen, Bisping shouldn't have too much trouble taking Alan Belcher to the ground should he choose to do so.
Belcher has not recorded a takedown since meeting Patrick Cote in May 2010, and he was taken down himself multiple times in that matchup.
Control and Escapability
Neither coming from a wrestling background, Bisping and Belcher are not the best at maintaining positioning on the ground.
Although he had a clear advantage over Brian Stann in the takedown department at UFC 152, Bisping had trouble keeping his opponent's back on the canvas. That didn't end up coming back to bite Bisping in that matchup, but it could against a better grappler in Belcher.
Belcher is solid from the top, as he showed against Rousimar Palhares, but he makes questionable grappling decisions at times. Against Yushin Okami, Belcher put himself on his back multiple times with guillotine attempts, and that ended up costing him greatly on the scorecards.
Submissions and Submission Defense
Although he is still in search of his first UFC submission win, Bisping's jiu-jitsu game isn't lacking much. The TUF winner has never been forced to tap and shouldn't be expected to in this matchup.
Belcher does have a handful of submission victories inside the Octagon, but none have come against a highly ranked opponent like Bisping. While it'll be tough for Belcher to submit Bisping, "The Talent" will also be extremely hard to put away on the canvas.
At UFC on Fox 3, Belcher slipped out of Palhares' ultra-dangerous leg lock and went on to win on the ground against the top-notch submission artist.
Overall Grappling Edge: Bisping
Michael Bisping has stepped into the Octagon 18 times throughout his MMA career. Although he's never been in a UFC title fight, he's one of the most seasoned veterans in the middleweight division.
Likewise, Alan Belcher has competed in 14 UFC bouts and is used to appearing in contests at this level of importance.
Yeah, Bisping is slightly more experienced than Belcher, but it's not something that will make a difference in this matchup.
Bisping and Belcher bring very similar physical tools into this fight.
Both men stand 6'2" and have a negligible difference in reach.
While Belcher is a few years younger, Bisping still has the speed and strength to match up with elite UFC middleweights.
Rightly so, Bisping is widely recognized for having one of the best gas tanks in the middleweight class.
In his most recent three-round contest against Brian Stann, Bisping increased his rate of strikes attempted with each round that passed.
While few can carry the same pace as Bisping, Belcher is not one who usually fades either. In his three-round bout with Yoshihiro Akiyama, Belcher threw more strikes in the final stanza than he did in the first two combined.
Overall Intangibles Edge: Push
Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher have always responded well when coming off losses. Neither competitor has lost back-to-back fights in their UFC careers.
Expect Bisping to tighten up his striking defense to avoid another knockout loss. It also wouldn't be surprising to see the Englishman mix in some takedowns to score points in a fight that has a strong possibility of going to the scorecards.
Bisping's jab should work well for him in this matchup against an opponent who throws with more power than most. His edge in the wrestling department and strong submission defense will be what really makes the difference, though.
Bisping defeats Belcher by unanimous decision.