Michael Bisping is, quite simply, the 11th best middleweight in the world. For all his talent, all his hard work and dedication, the one thing he continually fails to accomplish is wins against Top-10 opponents.
It is no secret that The Count was the centerpiece of the UFC's push into the United Kingdom ever since he made his way onto the UFC stage in 2006 through the TUF reality show.
The Zuffa company has given him more than his fair share of opportunities to earn a title shot. Yet, every opportunity Bisping has been given to prove he is deserving of an A-List status, he has fallen short.
After winning his season of TUF, Bisping went on to win his first three fights before running into future champion Rashad Evans. 'Suga' Rashad took a split decision that placed him in the Top-10. Equally historically significant, Rashad was the first of five Top-10 fighters to put Bisping in his second-tier place.
Bisping came back from his first loss by notching successive wins over Charles McCarthy, Jason Day and Chris Leben. The three-fight win streak gave Bisping his own Top-10 position, and for the first time placed him in shouting distance of title talks.
The UFC was practically champing at the bit to find a way to give Bisping a title shot, but it was clear to all he needed a big-name victory. News in Bisping's hometown was priming the country for a local boy getting a title shot on Manchester Evening News.
Unfortunately for The Count, he was then was famously, and brutally, knocked out by Dan Henderson in his next match. The loss, and style of finish, plummeted his stock and removed him from the Top 10 just as quickly as he had arrived.
The Count's return to his winning ways was more shaky on his second rebound fight. He weathered the hyper aggression of Denis Kang at UFC 105 to earn a knockout victory in the second round.
Bisping's next loss would not even come from a Top-10 fighter, further hurting his legacy. Wanderlei Silva was dropping to 185 pounds for the first time, and he was considered a big enough name to at least push Bisping toward title contention.
The Axe Murderer dominated the Brit for three rounds in their bout, almost finishing him in twice. Once again, when faced with stiff competition, Bisping had wilted.
Following the loss to Silva, Bisping enjoyed a four-fight winning streak. He was able to best Dan Miller, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Jorge Rivera and Jason Miller. None of the opponents were above a Top-20 rating and essentially served as tune-ups for a contender fight for the Brit.
Bisping, who was becoming more desperate to prove he deserved contention consideration, then showed true gut and a heart of a true warrior by replacing Mark Munoz to fight Top-10 ranked Chael Sonnen. The Count fought hard but was unable to muster enough strength for the win.
Bisping was 22-4 in his career, and on the wrong side of 30. He had still not seen a title shot. To make matters worse, the British veteran was almost certain to get one if he could just muster up one dominant Top-10 performance.
On September 2012, Bisping was given his most winnable and controversial Top-10 opponent: Brian Stann. Rankings had Stann everywhere from No. 10 on Sherdog.com to No. 13 on the FightMatrix.com's list.
Bisping only needed to grab a decisive victory in order to be in the shortlist for a title shot. Unfortunately, the British veteran instead struggled to finish the former Marine, settling for a hard-fought and ultimately non-persuasive decision.
While Bisping was not granted an immediate shot following the Stann win, Dana White told reporters following the UFC 155 event that Bisping would be given a shot with a victory over Vitor Belfort at UFC on FX 7, according to MMAFighting.com.
Against the former UFC champion and recent light heavyweight contender, Bisping once again fell short. After controlling the majority of the first round, his opponent turned the tide suddenly with a swift head kick in the second round, and he finished Bisping via subsequent ground-and-pound.
The loss took Bisping out of the title picture yet again, and placed him at 0-4 against consensus Top-10 opponents, with a 1-5 record against noteworthy opponents.
Recent and Upcoming Bouts
In UFC 159, Bisping defeated Alan Belcher. Once again, Bisping was victorious over an opponent not ranked within the Top-10, and the pattern is more than pronounced in the 34-year-old's career. He seems to be a perennial Top-10 according to major MMA sites, and yet has forever failed to show he can defeat an truly elite fighter.
Recent reports from Yahoo! Sports have Bisping likely slated to take on Cung Le, who will be returning from a hiatus due to injury. Cung Le is currently ranked outside the Top-10 middleweights, sitting at No. 15 on FightMatrix.com and No. 13 on FightMagazine.com.
Bisping, currently at 24-5, is clearly a better fighter than anyone outside of the Top-10. He has solidified himself well beyond the top 1 percent of fighters who make up the middleweight division worldwide. However, until he can find a way to defeat a consensus Top-10 fighter, it appears he will never be more than a true No. 11.